Cabbage makes rare appearances on my table. Every now and then, in the summertime, a cabbage salad sounds just right. In the winter, diced cabbage will enrich a broth. Once in a while, a sauteed wedge of cabbage, flavored with a little soy sauce will serve as the vegetable for my dinner. Cabbage is cheap, stores well, and has a reasonably mild flavor, but it’s not my favorite.
I love the cousins: Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and Swiss chard. They seem to have a little more personality than cabbage. It could be just because it was so often on our table when I was growing up, I’ve come to think of cabbage as ordinary.
I can remember at least three variations of cabbage salad that made regular appearances on our table. Dad’s coleslaw was finely grated cabbage and carrots doctored with mayonnaise and a little vinegar. Mom’s coleslaw was thinly shredded cabbage and a little grated carrot in a dressing of Miracle Whip thinned with milk. My favorite, though, was the salad Mom made with roughly chopped cabbage, slices of sweet onion, and diced tomatoes. It was dressed with a mayonnaise, milk and sugar combination.
Boiled dinner made regular appearances during harvest season. Pig hocks or a picnic ham would be the foundation, rounded out with potatoes, onions, carrots and cabbage from out garden. In the winter, we always had several large heads of cabbage in cold storage, and a big crock of sauerkraut fermenting somewhere. Jars of sauerkraut that my mother had canned shared shelf space with stewed tomatoes and other vegetables. They would be pulled out to cook with ribs, kielbasa, or a pork roast.
A couple years ago, when I was visiting family downstate, two sisters and I went to a Farmer’s Market. It was the perfect time of year for finding lots of treasures. Everything seemed plentiful and cheap. We bought a head of cabbage about the size of a bushel basket. I think it cost less than five dollars!
I was staying at my sister Brenda’s house, so she and I started incorporating that cabbage into meals. Shredded and sauteed, topped with cooked chicken pieces and shredded cheddar cheese. Diced and allowed to cook with burgers in the large frying pan. Cut in wedges and cooked with carrots as an accompaniment to meat cooked on the grill.
Everything tasted good. It didn’t seem overly repetitive. We didn’t get sick of the flavor, and were pretty proud of ourselves for working our way through that giant vegetable. The house though, noticeable only when you left and came in again, had picked up the distinct smell of cabbage over those few days!