Sometimes grocery shopping can be a frustrating thing.

Over the years, my wife and I have found that the whole “he buys it, she cooks it” arrangement works well in our house, so as a result I tend to spend a lot of time perusing the aisles of our local supermarkets.  Normally this isn’t a big deal to me because, well, anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that it’s usually pretty easy to amuse me when I’m walking around places like this…

On the other hand, though, some of said fun starts to dissipate when one’s aisle wandering takes a turn for the worse and you find yourself doing a lot less taking of hilarious photos and considerably more searching frantically for that last item on your wife’s meticulously-planned grocery list! Sure, sometimes it’s because at times your wife’s handwriting can be a little difficult to read, and there’s always the case where the store employees have chosen to hide items in the least sensical places around the store just for fun, but both of those situations are but mere blips on the frustration radar compared to the dilemma I found myself in on this particular venture.

You see, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that things are a lot easier to locate if you actually know what they are in the first place! Is it animal, vegetable, mineral, some freaky, science-fiction hybrid between them?  Will I find it in a box, carton, bin, barrel, or perhaps even be required to scoop it myself into some sort of special bag??  Is this something that normal people actually eat, or am I more likely to find it in one of the aisles alongside the canned octopus, the fish kabobs, or the chicken gizzards???

Is it bigger than a breadbox?  Could you use it in a sentence for me, preferably one a little more elaborate than, “Mmmmm – boy, do I love me some barley!”??  If I was under the age of 21 (18 in some of the more liberal countries), would I be committing a misdemeanor by being in possession of whatever barley might be???  Throw me a clue, a hint, a bone, even a mere morsel of information about this mystery ingredient at the bottom of your list because at the rate we’re going, this dish that you’re preparing is going to be severely barley-deficient if neither of us can actually figure out what it actually is!

I’d like to say that this story has a happy ending, and I suppose if by telling you that I did eventually find the barley brings a smile to your face, then woohoo for that!  Sure, with the help of three calls home to my wife, wikipedia, four different grocery store personnel, a couple of random strangers, and a healthy dose of total luck, the substance apparently known as barley did, in fact, finally make it into my shopping cart and subsequently into the meal that my wife had been planning, however I’ve got to tell you that even now after having actually eaten it, I honestly still don’t feel I’m any closer to knowing what barley actually is than I was when I first read it on the list!  Somewhat oaty, but also maybe a little ricey – you know, kind of like the byproduct of one of Conan’s old If They Mated… bits, but with food instead.

Of course, the idea of foods mating is a topic probably best left for another humor column, whether it be something as simple as pizza and General Tso’s Chicken or even something far more bizarre and mysterious like the edible enigma that is barley! The truth is, we may never actually know what barley really is, but just between you and me after all this, I think I’ll be ok with that if you’re ok with it…