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September 17, 2007

The Peasant Spirit Leads Us to Cabbage


Ahhh, the cabbage. Does any other food awaken in us our old peasant roots in the same way?


It pops up in late summer and, treated well, lasts until spring, keeping alive the sweet flavor that evokes the sounds and feel of a French bistro, where the violins trill and the people wear berets and fantasize about what it would be like to scratch an existence from the living Earth.


It goes well with everything, doing well when slowed or chopped up and boiled with corned beef.


The first step is to chop it to pieces and cook it, for to eat an uncooked head of cabbage is like eating a bowling ball.


Cut it in half. There are the leaves and there is a white stem. Chop the stem out of the cabbage. If you don’t, you will regret it in very short order.


Now, cut the cabbage into ribbons, and cut the ribbons in half so that they are chunks. Keep in mind the kitchen law of proportion, which says that to mix food cut into big pieces with food that is cut into small pieces is a crime against your palate.


Cook your cabbage in butter until soft with half a chopped onion, two cloves of garlic run through a press and a teaspoon or two of dried thyme. This will take about 15 minutes. Also note that what started out as a pot full of food will become half full. Allow yourself to be amazed at this, for it is one of life’s rare little treasures.


While the cabbage cooks down, slice thickly a ring of smoked sausage. Now, ask yourself a question. What food groups are missing? We have the headed group and the heavily salted group. We are missing the tuber group and the root vegetable group. That is, carrots and potatoes to tie it all together.


Peel two or three large carrots and chop them into two-to-three-inch chunks and add them into the pot. Do the same with one or two good-sized potatoes, except put those in a pot of boiling water.


Reduce the heat on the pot containing the cabbage, sausage and carrots as the potatoes boil until the point where they are about to lose their sense of firmness. Transferring potatoes to the pot requires a bit of backbone. On the other hand, failure to cook potatoes all the way through is one of those insults that may never be forgiven. To give friends and family an undercooked potato is to forever risk their scorn.


Once you have transferred the potatoes, allow the contents of your pot to simmer for about 15 minutes. Time and heat will impart to your dish that necessary peasant flair that prompted you to first start thinking about cabbage. Salt, pepper, and allow the sweet, sweet strains of violins to fill your head as appropriate, but if you’re smart you’ll ignore the urge to don a beret.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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