It’s a post about what what to do when you want to help. When things happen in life and I feel like I want to hug and cry and help, I cook.
And often, because I feel such a connection with meals, the thing to be cooked just comes to me. This time it was the humble stuffed cabbage.
When I was little, stuffed cabbage was a comforting dish that my mom would make on Sundays. When I was newly married and a fish out of water in New Jersey, it was the dish my mother-in-law and I connected over at Paul’s Diner in Mountain Lakes. Turns out, she loved it, just like I did. She grew up with her mother making them, as well as serendipitously being at a diner on the rare day the kitchen made them. In Texas we don’t have much of a diner culture, but I really grew to love this aspect of New Jersey.
As she explained it, every diner had its own schedule of when things were made and you kind of needed to be a regular to figure it all out. We happened to be there on a Monday, during lunch and we both decided saw and decided immediately that we’d have the cabbage. She grew up with cabbage rolls being served with copious amounts of mashed potatoes.
This was not something my mother did.
I realized my mom’s error after having a plate the meaty little packages covered chunky tomato sauce pooling around buttery mashed potatoes.
Oh. Yes. This is how it should be done. The potatoes, it turned out, are critical.
So this past Sunday, I made stuffed cabbage. With lots of potatoes.
I called my mom, asked her for her recipe, and cooked it just like she did. Her trick is to cook it for much longer than traditional recipes call for, because it makes the cabbage and meat and rice stuffing extra tender. A few onions and a bit of garlic as well as salt and pepper complete the stuffing, which this time was based primarily on lovely grass-fed ground beef from Flying J Farm in Johnstown.
And of course, I made potatoes, with lots of butter and lots of cream and lots of salt. Because that’s what makes it really special.
Life is about caring for those we love.
The next time you feel at a loss for what to do when you don’t have words, search your cabinets for recipes that connect you. Recipes that have a virtual hug and kiss to them. Because it makes a difference.
I have to believe that it does.
Playlist included Social Development Dance, by New Jersey’s son, Pete Yorn.