When my mother heads back to New Jersey after visiting me in upstate New York, she generally gets up very early. She’s 81, but still works six or seven days a week in a bakery, and if she hits the road by 5AM, can be there before 8AM. She’s German, and for her generation at least, work WAS the culture.
The problem with this early departure is that I’m usually still asleep and unable to monitor what disappears from my vegetable garden. One year she took an entire 10-gallon can of tomatillos off my back porch after I suggested that she take “some.” Parsley, tomatoes, summer squash–she will grab a large knife and fill bags with whatever looks good. She used to do the same thing to my aunt the farmer, when she was alive. My mother is not interested in gardening, but harvesting? That’s an entirely different story.
I don’t really mind, and let’s give her points for an excellent palate that can tell the difference between homegrown and Whole Foods. But I struggle to get enough cabbages to maturity for both her and me. Cabbage seedlings are a favorite snack of many creatures around here. After my first group of seedlings was entirely eaten this summer, I planted another round of cabbages from seed and managed to get four red cabbages and two beautiful Italian pink-tinged green cabbages to a decent size. Enough for sauerkraut and maybe one big bowl of cole slaw, but that’s it.
But my mother LOVES red cabbage, which she calls blaukraut. (The Germans emphasize the blue in the purple, not the red.) She especially loves my red cabbage, which she feels has better flavor than anything she can buy in Jersey. She makes a really excellent dish of braised red cabbage with bacon, onions, apples, vinegar, and a little sugar that always appears beside the turkey on Thanksgiving.
She was here a month ago. I told her she could take a cabbage. She didn’t hear the article and took two. Now, I’ll be visiting her this weekend. Her one request? “Bring me a cabbage!” Hmmmm.