In my ongoing quest to bring us all to the same table, I went looking for what I think is one of the oldest food items around: cabbage. It is one of the oldest cultivated plants. It has been used in salads, soups, noodle dishes and pastry fillings.

Before the potato (which was imported from Peru), cabbage was the only vegetable available, with the exception of the carrot. It was what poor villagers existed on.

Cabbage is recorded to have started life in Asia Minor. A quick check with Google told me that Asia Minor is a place where the continents of Asia and Europe meet. The southeastern and eastern borders are now Turkey with neighbors of Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Syria.

I found the word for cabbage in Russian, Turkish, Polish, Ukrainian, Romanian, German, Austrian, and Italian. Cabbage made its way to the Americas around 1541-1542 with the English. I don’t think that it was in the form of Bubble and squeak, but that is one of Britains contribution to the table. Add kimchi, pierogi, and sauerkraut, stuffed cabbage, and cole slaw and we can have a full dinner.

Stuffed cabbage originated in the Near East as a way of using the tough outer leaves by simmering them. I found recipes for stuffed cabbage that include: savory sauces, tart sauces, sweet and sour sauces, all spice and sweet paprika, cinnamon, dill, mint, and lots of garlic. In some cultures, stuffed cabbage symbolizes abundance.

Coming from New Orleans, besides eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day, we also had boiled cabbage to symbolize the green money that we hoped to have for the coming year. I don’t think that it helped much, but the cabbage was really good.

Leona Uchitelle writes a religious column for the Venice Gondolier Sun and a food column for the Jewish Congregation of Venice’s newsletter L’Chaim.^p

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