To fall in love with cabbage, do this

If I look at other food writers and cooks, I’m certainly not the only one with a complex attitude towards cabbage. There aren’t many who would give their hearts in an unequivocal serenade of love to the ancestor of all brassicas. The only one I can think of is Nora Ephron, with her piece “The Lost Strudel” – admittedly less of a love song and more of an elegy.

Ephron’s strudel, a savory version stuffed with cabbage, was made at a Hungarian bakery on Third Avenue in Manhattan called Mrs. Herbst’s. It had a buttery, flaky, and crispy crust, “with a moist topping of sautéed cabbage that’s sweet, savory, and completely unexpected, like all good things”.

Alas, Mrs. Herbst closed around 1982 and Ephron, despite his best efforts, was unable to find an alternative or recreate the original. As she writes, “And so, in the beginning, you hope. And then you hope against hope. And then finally, you lose hope. There you have it: the three stages of grief when it comes to lost food.

Another author who seems to confuse humans and cabbage is English food writer Jane Grigson. “As a vegetable,” she writes, “it has original sin and needs improvement. He can smell bad in the pot, stubbornly linger around the house, and spoil a meal with his wet fat. Cabbage also has a bad history of being good for you.

So there you have it, all the defects of the cabbage, laid out on a platter, without chopped words.

Yet Grigson also begins to hint at solutions and extenuating circumstances. No. 1 is the type of cabbage used. She mentions John Evelyn, a 17th-century English writer and horticulturist who wrote about savoy cabbage, a relatively new variety at the time that was “not so commonplace, but pleasing to most palates.” If I were a Milan cabbage, I wouldn’t appreciate this compliment.


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