Monday, February 12, 2007

The Story of the Stuffed Cabbage

My mother was known far and wide, particularly within our immediate family, for her Stuffed Cabbage. She was an excellent cook of that genre of Eastern European dishes, but her cabbage was among the best. It was a meal she made to say 'I love you,' and no wonder since it requires a multitude of prep steps. Stuffed Cabbage is clearly a shetl food, made by women who (a) are making do with the end of the end cuts, and the dregs of the field, and (b) have nothing better to do with their time than peel apart a cabbage, cook the individual leaves to a softness suitable for folding, and then spoon stuffing into the leaves and roll them up, put them into a pot, and cook in a sauce, which has already been cooked for some time, for four or five hours. They are also called Pigs in the Blanket, but not by Jews who keep kosher.

I don't remember the last time I had my mother's Stuffed Cabbage, but back in '96, she gave me a casserole of them. Frozen. To keep on hand, should one want a taste of Mom.

I did just that, kept them on hand in my freezer, tucked away in the back in their celadon green ceramic dish for oh, I hate to tell you how long. Far past the point when they would have been tasty. Far past the point when they would have even been edible. After my mother died, I liked seeing that green dish in the freezer. It reminded me of her, and it spoke to the fact that I was still, even in absentia, being mothered. To anyone who dared to comment, I told them we were keeping it to send out and have its chemical makeup determined, since my mother left no written recipe for her famous Stuffed Cabbage.

The years passed, and still the green dish remained in the freezer. Then we were moving, and among the many decisions of what reminders of my parents to keep and what to throw (yes, to some stationary from my father's last business; no, to his household bills from 1983), I was faced with the Stuffed Cabbage. I regret to tell you, dear reader, that it was also 'no' to the Stuffed Cabbage. I don't think I did the actually handling of the bowl into the garbage; probably I got my friend Jimmie, who was doing most of the heavy work for us that week, to do it for me. Probably I just said with a wave of my hand, "Toss it." I doubt that I made much of what it was, since he was already overwhelmed with the Stuff My Family Thinks It Has To Keep.

So the Stuffed Cabbage is gone, and I confess, I haven't missed it much. Until last week, when Miss B, in a swoop of postpartum something or other, asked me if I'd gotten the recipe back from the chemist's as she was hankering after Mama's Stuffed Cabbage, and could I make it for her when I came to visit. I didn't have the heart to tell her I had never actually sent it to the chemist, and I rarely have the heart to say "no" to her requests, so I smiled and said, "I can do that. I can do that."

And tomorrow, I will tell you the story of how and why and whether I could or could not.


  1. Great story -

    I always find it interesting what people hold onto. At "crossroads" as they call them we often clean house. Sometimes we get rid of things we have been holding onto too long. It's a hard thing to do.

  2. Good luck with that, hope you are able to make a good one!


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