I know it looks bad.
A pickled head of (sour) cabbage. Product of Ontario. This alone makes me happy, being as how there’s little at this time of year that’s from this part of the world. Still, I’ve never seen anything like it and have no idea what to do with it. I assume it’s a version of sauerkraut, which I happen to love but have only ever seen in a jar—I’m thinking I could cut it up and use it the same way. I don’t see a price but how much can it be? It’s cabbage.
I add it to the mesclun and mushrooms, the avocado, bananas and Canadian shallots in my basket and then at the check-out the cashier says, um, you know this stuff is very expensive, right?
What, the cabbage?
Yeah, she says and offers to weigh it and tell me the price before she rings it in.
Okay. Should I sit down? I ask.
Eight dollars and forty-seven cents, she says.
Eight dollars for a head of cabbage?
She smiles apologetically, nods. I can tell she’s been through this before; there have been unpleasant words uttered about the price of this cabbage in previous lines. She waits for me to utter a few myself but I’m completely intrigued by now—what is so magical about this cabbage that makes it this pricey? I have to taste it for myself.
I’ll take it, I say.
She looks concerned, but rings it in. Then: what are you going to do with it?
The question feels like a test, like if I get it wrong, a mechanical arm might descend and take it back.
Well, I tell her, hoping for the best… I thought I’d cut it up and saute it with onions and butter and bits of bacon. Like sauerkraut.
She tilts her head and politely refrains from saying what she’s so obviously thinking.
What, is that a bad idea? What should I do with it?
It’s for cabbage rolls, she says. That’s what people buy it for.
(Remember I’m very hungry.) I smile.
I love a chatty cashier. Love it when you get recipes while you’re looking for your Air Miles card. Cabbage rolls! Of course. I’ve never made them before but I get home, look up some recipes. Settle on the Yugoslavian version in my Old World Cookbook, only with a Moroccan twist that I’m leaving to Peter.
So, tomorrow (unless a probably necessary intervention takes place): Moroccan Yugoslavian cabbage rolls with Italian tomato sauce and Canadian shallots and mushrooms.
—To be continued.