Friday, 27 August 2010

Exciting Ways with Cabbage

From Ethelind Fearon's The Reluctant Cook (1953)

One of the most gruesome memories of meals eaten in any but absolutely first-class English hotels and restaurants is the cabbage. The odour greets you as you enter and follows you as you leave. [The cabbage] is boiled in enough water to conduct a succcessful laundry ... moreover it is stewed so long with the lid on that it turns olive-colour. One then cuts it up and leaves it on the hot plate until the last one to dine has had his fill of it.

I wanted to quote that bit just to remember how ghastly it was. The smell of boiled cabbage followed one everywhere, sometimes mixed with the whiff of paraffin and Alsatians... Here is Ethelind's preferred cabbage method:

Choose a small green cabbage. Forget it until 10 minutes before the meal, then put on a pan with only just enough water to prevent it from burning. When the water boils, shred the washed cabbage into it, press down and boil as fast as you like for not more than 10 minutes, without a lid. Drain it, chop it and mix into it a bit of butter - you heard. I've told you before to put butter in the vegetables and use cream cheese on your bread. Eat it at once. You can even make a separate course of it, eaten with a fork.

In 1953, butter was in short supply and expensive. Those butterless vegetables - shudder! Now we shun butter because we think it's bad for us, but a little will do you no harm.

You can chop cabbage quite finely and stew it in butter with a few raisins and a sprinkling of salt. Or you can boil quickly as above and add butter and a dash of vinegar, or butter and a grating of nutmeg. (Thanks to my mother for the last two.)

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