Posts Tagged ‘Cabbage’

The modest Cabbage.

February 21, 2022

Anyone who resided in Europe during or after WW2 would know about the cabbage. I know. I still remember it well. It being the dominant smell wafting from every home. It was the odour of abating poverty but also of years of grinding hunger. The last year was the worst, at least in The Netherlands were I was born. Even years later, people that had migrated to Australia and went back for a Holiday remarked that some streets and old houses still had this cabbage smell. Some streets in Vienna reminded many still of war and poverty of a cabbage lingering. The soup kitchen that people queued at in my city of Rotterdam ladled out cabbage soup in enameled buckets. I remember holding my mothers hand.

This is why it is surprising that despite the knowledge gained during that dreadful period people today during the threat of a calamity or looming war are stampeding supermarkets to hoard toilet paper.

Toilet paper was the last item my parents worried about. People should be hoarding cabbages. The stampeding shoppers are concentrating on the wrong orifice. Of course, cabbages have a cruciferous quality the same as broccoli and beans and are known to rumble about a bit in the stomach, but who cares when you are hungry and in a war?

Anyway, I thought I would buy a cabbage after reading about a recipe that sounded very delicious. I am on the cusp of inviting friends over for lunch so did a trial lunch using the humble cabbage. It might be prudent for the guests to go hungry for a couple of days to get the full benefits of past history of this delicious and very nourishing meal.


The bacon and cabbage trial for guests.

It is very simple. You fry strips of bacon and after the bacon is crisp add a chopped onion and garlic. Fry till the onion is done and add whole cabbage sliced up. Stir frequently adding some garlic powder and a spoonful of black ground pepper and some paprika. Be careful with salt because the bacon is salty!

Cook for another 30 minutes with the lid on. Stir occasionally.

That’s it! Enjoy.

(I have three toilets and lots of loo paper)

The marvel of the life-giving cabbage roll.

June 6, 2017


It seems the privilege of the old to shamelessly bore endlessly the young with tales of the past. We already know of my parental desperations when claiming not to know ‘where on earth did Gerard come from?’ It is of little consolation now that my little boy search for my real parents by scanning sea’s horizon did not bear much results. No boat with my real parents ever appeared. I just had to reconcile myself with going home with wet shoes and accept the ones who at times seemed to disown me.

Another one of those memories refusing to lay down are those of a more edible kind. The war-time cabbage. I am here now because of the humble cabbage. Towards the end of the war it was the most covetous food item in my birth-city of Rotterdam. Even today, when I try and light the gas stove, the smell of the escaping unlit gas reminds me of war and my mother’s search for food. About the only food that could be had, if one was lucky, were cabbages.

It was during pensively resting in my fauteuil yesterday that one of those fleeting memories came to the befuddled fore. Heaven knows why they appear? I decided to try and make cabbage rolls. Helvi too became quite enthusiastic.  Some month ago there was a rather elaborate Baltic & Polish food sale on at Aldi’s. We discovered a huge jar of pickled cabbage leaves and a culinary inspiration got to us suddenly. We took it home and put the jar to rest amongst the Dutch Herrings and Italian tinned tomatoes. Occasionally I would stare at this jar of cabbage leaves and would proffer to make something of it, but both decided to relegate this delicacy for consumption to a future date. The cabbage leaves all looked so pale and withered all drowned in the vinegar.  I was happy to notice that the vinegar was an honest marinade and just that, and not the dreaded Balsamic version. The best thing it had going for it was the fact it was imported from Macedonia. Macedonia has such an exotic almost melodic ring to it. All those vowels.

Of course, cabbages is what used to make the world go round. From China through Russia and Europe, including Great Britain. What would England be without their beloved cold cabbage, consumed while standing up in a draft? The Koreans make the five-star Kimchee. A soul food if ever there was.

One only has to visit the old Eastern European towns and cities, where through the centuries of cabbage-food cooking, the very stucco, bricks and ancient cellars of the streets are impregnated with this pungent smell of the cabbage. Who has not walked through old Vienna or Budapest not to smell this delectable vegetable permeated into the very soul of these so musical societies. The very waltzes of Johann Strauss were  conceived after generous ingestion of cabbage.

So, yesterday I finally opened this large jar. Helvi remembered she made the humble cabbage roll many years ago. It is made from raw minced beef mixed with whatever one wants to mix together with a handful of boiled rice. She urged me not to overdo it with spices. ‘Just try and be a bit subtle this time, don’t muck it up,’ she urged kindly, but with some authority and deep husband knowledge.

I followed her urgings but when I momentarily and in a latent fit of wild adventurism thought of Kimchee I chucked in a small quantity of chilli flakes. The whole mixture was then kindly wrapped into the jar-released cabbage leaves. It filled the entire baking dish with two neat rows of nine each, totalling a rather large quantity of eighteen rolls.  With its red-coloured tomato marinade it looked very beautiful and enticing. Enough for an entire Austrian regiment.

After baking and allowed ‘to rest’ I made a nice dish of mashed potatoes and spinach. It was a nice dish but the chilli made the rolls too hot and spicy. I should not have added it. Helvi heartily agreed that I had mucked it up a bit.

‘When will you ever learn to contain yourself and not overdo things?‘ She said, adding. ‘Where do you come from?’