The first thing I thought when I saw this site was up as a finalist in the Weblog awards (please vote) was “Is this some kind of mistake?!” Then, I freaked out when I read the other finalists. I still feel like the indie film director at the Oscars tugging at the hem of my off-the-rack dress while I hear the whole crowd of beautiful people muttering “What was that film? Did you see that?”
The only comforting thought in my head is "Thank God I am not dressed in a giant, dead swan outfit."
Then, the dust settled a bit, and I remembered with panic, “Oh man, my newest recipe to post is cabbage rolls.” Not that there is anything wrong with Slavic comfort food. I grew up on the stuff. When the ginormous head of cabbage arrived in the CSA bag and the freezer is full of local, grassfed beef, I knew what to cook. I just didn’t know all of you would be coming for dinner.
Neither of my grandmothers was, as they say, a great cook. That stereotype is a myth in my family tree. But there was one thing my favorite grandmother could do better than anyone else: make the most out of a cheap piece of meat. Much of this skill came from being one of nine children in the house of a young widow. The rest of it surely came from having to leave school in the eighth grade and go work at a meat packing plant.
I can still hear her knife singing against the steel, flashing back and forth so fast it would make your head spin. She could put an edge on even the cheapest hunk of steel, too. When butchering time came for one of my great uncle’s beef, she would be standing at the side of the butcher making sure all the good cuts were there. At five-two, she was hardly a menacing presence, but, oh, mess with her family and look out.
She loved fiercely and completely, worked hard, survived much including the Depression, nearly dying in childbirth, and working and raising a child alone while her husband was at war. She knew loss and hard times, but she was the happiest person you could meet. Always singing as she worked, a flurry of perpetual motion and laughter.
To my grandmother, like so many who lived through the Great Depression, food was love. I remember us being kids at the table, giggling as she asked our father, “Want some ice cream, Joey?” We were never sure which was funnier, hearing our father called the “Joey” pet name or the heaping amount of ice cream she’d put in the bowl.
Next to her legendary root beer floats, also filled to the brim with ice cream, my favorite dish of hers was cabbage rolls. There is no recipe written and passed down. I pretty much had to do this one from research and memory. And what memories those are.
Holubki (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)
Looking for this recipe? It will be part of an upcoming book with Ali at Cleaner Plate Club.