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To My Dear Departed Hungarian Grandmother: Screw the Stuffed Cabbage

Posted by on May. 13, 2013 at 1:02 AM
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I admit it. I am the granddaughter of garlic-growing, goulash-eating Hungarian grape farmers.

As I understand the story, my grandfather threw some guy off a Cunard ocean liner in an attempt to escape the country after serving in the Austro-Hungarian cavalry during WW I. To put it plainly, he wasn't one of the good guys.

In those days,  I guess you did what you had to do.

He entered the United States illegally through Canada, unlike my Hungarian grandmother, who he met some years later.  After they married and had children, the INS threatened the poor gravedigger with deportation.  He wrote a letter to FDR through a lawyer, pleading for amnesty for the sake of his children. I have a copy of the FDR's response. My grandfather got to stay.  

As soon as I came along, my grandmother taught me to say, "Don't do that, you naughty boy," in perfect Hungarian. And she taught me to cook - sour cream being one of the four basic food groups. One of her specialties was stuffed cabbage.

Stuffed cabbage, as you may know, can be a real pain in the Hungarian derriere. It takes coring and  steaming the whole cabbage for the perfect length of time in order to get the leaves just right for rolling. You don't want them turning puke green. And then paring down the vein of each leaf to make it pliable enough for rolling after adding the meat and rice mixture.

And finally, when everyone sits down to eat, what do they do? THEY CUT THE DAMN THINGS INTO LITTLE PIECES!!

I ended up wondering why I went to all the trouble.

Thus the reason for inventing stuffed cabbage soup.  No time is wasted, painstakingly rolling and tucking those delicate cabbage leaves. The soup starts out in little pieces - the way it ends up in the stomach.  Plus, it has far more fiber than the plain rice and meat mixture.  I add carrots, green beans, onions, canned tomatoes, and herbs. 

Who knows why the Hungarians make stuffed cabbage rolls. Maybe they were an early version of the sack lunch, so kids could take their meat and rice to school before Tupperware was invented. 

Anyway, here's my contribution to the legacy. May my dear grandmother rest in peace.


 

by on May. 13, 2013 at 1:02 AM
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Replies (1-10):
maryg38
by Sweet Mary <3 on May. 13, 2013 at 7:49 AM
Yum.... And a very interesting and intriguing family. It must have been fun growing up. My great grands came over from Germany not certain on the year.
Thank you for sharing this!
dana63
by Momma of 40ish on May. 13, 2013 at 7:52 AM
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 I will take a BIG bowl of that please!!! It looks so good!!

ashleighmama
by Ash on May. 13, 2013 at 11:20 AM
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My grandmother was Hungarian too, and my mom makes stuffed cabbage a lot, however, I could never develop a liking for it. But your soup sounds yummy!
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MentorMom1
by Silver sister on May. 13, 2013 at 2:11 PM

Does your mom make those little Hungarian Christmas cakes called pozsonyi kifli? I had to give them up when I went gluten-free :(


Quoting ashleighmama:

My grandmother was Hungarian too, and my mom makes stuffed cabbage a lot, however, I could never develop a liking for it. But your soup sounds yummy!



looneymom424
by on May. 13, 2013 at 3:13 PM

I have never had that would mind trying it.  We are german but I dont know the history

MentorMom1
by Silver sister on May. 13, 2013 at 3:58 PM

There are enough leftovers for everybody. Let's eat!


Quoting dana63:

 I will take a BIG bowl of that please!!! It looks so good!!



MentorMom1
by Silver sister on May. 13, 2013 at 4:17 PM

Actually, it was really boring growing up. I spent every Sunday afternoon, and I mean all afternoon and into the evening, at my grandparents' house - a semi-detached house in an "ethnic" part of the city. We kids couldn't do anything the entire time except sit and be quiet. My grandmother talked nonstop to my mother in Hungarian while my grandfather poured shots of vodka for my dad, who in turn poured them down the drain when my grandfather wasn't looking.  Occasionally we ate something, like slices of watermelon with rye bread. I don't know why we had the two together. I don't remember ever having an entire meal there, just little bits of this and that.

My grandfather filled the little house with cigarette and cigar smoke and put enough coal on the furnace to make you think you were in Hell. In the middle of winter, he kept it at around 82 degrees. If you went upstairs, it was probably close to 90.

In summer there was no air conditioning. No children's books, games, or anything to do for fun. And for some reason, it didn't occur to my parents that their children might need attention. The backyard, while impecably manicured, was the size of a postage stamp. You could not throw a ball or play tag in it. Sometimes they played Brahm's Hungarian Dances on their record player. So it was, putting it mildly, very, very dull. 


Quoting maryg38:

Yum.... And a very interesting and intriguing family. It must have been fun growing up. My great grands came over from Germany not certain on the year.
Thank you for sharing this!



jmlmomma
by Momma's new BFF on May. 13, 2013 at 4:37 PM
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I loved this story and you replies through out the post!! I giggled and read them to my daughter...  Funny how Grand parents can be...My grand father was one of the "kids are to be seen not heard" group! We hated going to their house as kids...I never had a conversation with him until I was 21 years old...I remember it like it was yesterday.....

Wonder what OUR grand kids will say about us!..

ALolies
by 'Lil Feather' H.A. on May. 13, 2013 at 4:58 PM
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Your soup looks fabulous!!!

MentorMom1
by Silver sister on May. 13, 2013 at 5:13 PM
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One of the highlights of my life was when my grandfather called me up out of the blue.  I lived 2000 miles away, and had never talked to him on the phone before.  I was in my late 30s maybe, or early 40s, and had four children of my own. I had not seen him in a very long time, and for the first time in his life he told me he loved me.  I did get to see him once more before he died at age 92.

Before that phone call, neither grandparent had every reached out to me. My relationship with them went through my mother and I never felt that I had permission to interact with them by myself. After that phone call, I knew that I had been "lied" to. I finally understood, and grieved that I might have had a relationship with them, as other children did with their grandparents. I had just always lived in fear instead of love. This was due perhaps to society's focus on adults at that time, and also, I think, to my parents. I think they occupied my grandparents' time and attention, and would not have wanted to share with us kids. 


Quoting jmlmomma:

I loved this story and you replies through out the post!! I giggled and read them to my daughter...  Funny how Grand parents can be...My grand father was one of the "kids are to be seen not heard" group! We hated going to their house as kids...I never had a conversation with him until I was 21 years old...I remember it like it was yesterday.....

Wonder what OUR grand kids will say about us!..



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