Monday, May 14, 2012

An ode to cabbage roll lady of my youth

So I'm in Budapest. I'm not knowing much about the place because oblivion is how I roll. As I'm starting to take in the culture, I'm noticing something... familiar.

I grew up in Norfolk County in Ontario, Canada AKA the baked goods capital of the country. Oh yeah, you want a cookie? I'll make you a cookie that you'll never forget... or rather, I'll have one of my sisters bake you a cookie that you'll never forget, because delegation is also how I roll. The county, like the rest in Canada, is made up of immigrants. My community has a healthy mix of Belgians, Germans, Poles and Hungarians.

So at the cultural events of my youth, like my favorite social event of the season, the Catholic Woman's League Bazaar, there is a mash-up of the cuisines of various eastern-veering European countries. And that means a lot of savory (but slightly bland) food. So I generally gravitate toward one particular culinary delight: Cabbage rolls. 

Yumbo.
Long ago, my mom gave up making cabbage rolls. Thank goodness. Toothpicks don't taste good. She delegated the cabbage roll job to a lady named Liz who runs a cabbage roll making business. I suspect she makes nearly all the cabbage rolls in Norfolk County.

She's often seen sitting in her car in the church parking lot. Another car rolls up. They hand out cash. She hands back a bag wafting of cooked cabbage. On occasion, my mom has gotten a call from one of my aunts early on a Sunday morning, "You going to church today? Liz is ready with my order." And there I am, leaning into Liz' car like a seasoned traffiker, hauling out the loot and carrying it away under my arm. Salivating.

Back to Hungary. I tried an authentic cabbage roll to see how it measures up against those of my youth. And get this: They taste EXACTLY the SAME as the cabbage rolls of Norfolk County.

A world away. The same. Astonishing.

The mild tang of the cabbage, the savory meaty filling, the overall aroma of stewed tomatoes. And a mysterious concoction of spices. Bravo Hungary! Bravo Liz!

Liz and her cabbage rolling is... pure magic. She's got a gift. So while I was traipsing around Budapest with a cabbage roll sloshing around in my belly, I couldn't help but feel, that though I was half a world away, I was at home. 

36 comments:

  1. I love cabbage rolls, also a staple of my primarily Anglo Saxon culture (go figure). I once made them and by mistake used mint toothpicks. Not recommended.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. THAT is an unpleasant error. I'm thinking cabbage and toothpaste. Yucko.

      Delete
  2. Erica ZabowskiMay 14, 2012

    Go eat here! The menu has everything in the world. The ambiance is wonderful. The service is great. And if you eat breakfast outside when it's cold, they give you lovely blankets.

    http://www.gerloczy.hu/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The blankets are a nice touch. I wish they would incorporate blankets on patios everywhere.

      Delete
  3. AnonymousMay 14, 2012

    Thanks for writing that about my mom, Janice. It's nice to know she's appreciated! Happy travels! I can't wait to go to Hungary myself one day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder how many cabbage rolls you eat in a year.

      Delete
  4. I'm dying for a cabbage roll now. Never had one. Want one. 'sloshing around in my belly'. It's crazy how you roll, woman.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Get. Thee. To. A. Hungarian. Restaurant. STAT!

      Delete
  5. I love your stories Janice, but just can't relate to a cabbage roll.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Or Hungary. As the case may be.

    *Laughs at own joke*

    ReplyDelete
  7. AnonymousMay 15, 2012

    Janice,
    Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would become the subject of your blog let alone become known as the cabbage roll lady!!!. Thank you for all the wonderful compliments. It is good to know that my cabbage rolls taste just like the ones in Budapest.It means I have done my job well and would have made my grandmother proud. Now go and get yourself a bowl of Hungarian chicken soup (csiga leves) and some chicken paprikas with dumplings before you leave. I promise you it will be worth it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Holy moses! Liz is commenting on my blog. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a big moment. I LOVE your cabbage rolls. Love love love. I didn't find any soup in Budapest, but I had PLENTY of Chicken Paprikas... and will now incorporate it into my recipe rotation. So good! Thanks for commenting. Made my day.

      Delete
  8. LOVE CABBAGE ROLLS! Another thing that will always unite us Jan!

    ReplyDelete
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  10. I started this pair last year. Last October to be exact. Oy. I don't know what stalled me. Brain power, I assume. The kit is adorable available at Local Yarn Stores

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