My Grandmother’s hands were in my kitchen today, forming cabbage leaves into stuffed cabbage rolls.
Her hands. I can still see them as clearly as if I was in her kitchen yesterday. They were knobby with painful arthritis, the very same that I see forming on my pointer fingers. While I would love to emulate my Sophie, I can do without the arthritis fingers, please and thank you.
They hurt her a lot. But not enough to stop her from cooking. She made thousands of cabbage rolls in her lifetime.
My grandmother. I have a whisper of nostalgia today, Reader. Cooking family recipes tends to do that to me. My mother and my grandmother were always in the kitchen making something. I guess that’s why I feel closer to them when I’m making our family foods.
It’s not stuffed cabbage weather, at all. But I got a giant head of cabbage for 99cents at the farm market last night and that made it cabbage weather.
I’m proud of the way they looked. They rolled up just like I knew what I was doing. As I was tucking the ends in the way she taught me, I could see her right there, rolling and tucking with me.
They look almost just like hers, only bigger. My Sophie was the Cabbage Roll Queen, and made them tight and tiny, perfect little bundles of deliciousness.
I varied her recipe a bit this time, however. Last time I made them I did something seriously wrong and they were awful. Like, throw-them-out bad.
So I did a hybrid recipe of hers and my friend Joanne’s, who My Mister proclaimed makes better stuffed cabbages than his grandmother. I never got to taste them, because said Mister ate them all before I had a one of them.
I cooked the onions in a bit of butter to soften them. My grandmother never did that.
I added fresh garlic to the mixture. Joanne doesn’t add that.
Instead of my grandmother’s recipe of using Bob Evan pork sausage to mix with the ground beef, Joanne uses ground pork.
Reader. I’m going to be fifty, and I didn’t even know ground pork was a thing you could buy. I asked Joanne where this magical ingredient comes from and she looked at me a little like I was crazy and said, “Um, all the stores. Everywhere.”
Lo & behold, I found it right there at the ground meat counter at the grocery store. Hm. Who knew? Well, aside from Joanne, and probably millions of other people, too, except me.
The first batch is just finishing up in my Instant Pot, so there’s no word yet on the flavor. But they look good, Reader. ~pats self on back~
It’s also a little amazing that I can make a pot of cabbage rolls in about 30 minutes in that magical Instant Pot.
I’m lucky I had my grandmother for so many years, and she lived close and I spent time with her and can still see her kneading dough for bread, and putting on the kettle for tea, and adding a slice of bread and butter to the dinner plate for you, and chopping small and perfect vegetables for soups.
I see her hands when I cook. And it makes me yearn a bit, but it also gives me peace that I learned how to do things from years of watching, and spending time, all the while listening to stories about “the olden days.” While our traditional family foods will probably end with me as there is no one else who is interested in learning, they did get passed to at least one more generation. I guess things come to an end in small families.
In the meantime, come over for supper. I’m happy to set an extra plate at the table for friends, Reader. It’s how we were taught to do things here.
**Update: They are done. And they are damn delicious.