Suburban Chronicles: Next Level Cabbage Rolls, Courtesy of Sluggy

Suburban Chronicles: Next Level Cabbage Rolls, Courtesy of Sluggy

Cabbage rolls are historically a peasant food, something cobbled out of the leftovers for something edible and, if done right, delicious.

These are not the cabbage rolls. These are much better.

Every winter around the holidays, my friend makes Sluggy cabbage rolls with his dad following a proven family recipe. Last year he promised to give me a few, but when the time came he said no and claimed he did not have enough to walk around. Apparently he had to give some to his two sons and other family members.

When I was the good friend I am, I was sympathetic to his predicament – but I also beat his chops about it for a whole year. So when the cabbage roll time came in 2021, Sluggy made sure I got a few to try. I ate them on New Year’s Eve along with some sour cream and a nice glass of red.

Delicious, yes. Unambiguous, unapologetic, relentlessly delicious. Well made, the cabbage retains its structural integrity and deftly seasoned: There is a recipe for work, one that has been passed down through the generations.

But also… tons of meat. Not fine cuts, mind you – these are not stupid $ 24 craft bowl rolls – but more minced beef and pork than farmers probably could afford.

And so it should be. The peasants threw off their asses so that their descendants could have the opportunity to fill their cabbage rolls with better ingredients than they had. These cabbage rolls honor their humble beginnings, while also showing the relative wealth and scope of the current generation.

I loved them. They were, regardless of their history and how they were made, objectively delicious – my wife came back for another bite, which I reluctantly gave her. But that I know their origin story, my friend and his dad spent an afternoon drinking Manhattan and filling trays with roll after roll treats, yeah that just makes it so much better.

We also have a few traditional foods in our family. My grandmother used to make something called a Sunday morning cake, which is just a basic cake with the best icing I have ever tasted, brown sugar and butter creamed together and then melted on top. I have a copy of the recipe in her handwriting and I think of her every time we make it. I love it.

My mom has a fish soup that runs back to her Newfoundland roots, and my wife makes soda, a staple of her Irish heritage. The ability to connect generations through food fills both a physical and emotional appetite.

That made the cabbage rolls certain. I enjoyed not only the fine craftsmanship, but what they represented, a good friend who was willing to share the product of a family tradition. It is easy to understand and appreciate their value on so many levels.

And now they’re gone. Until next year, not Sluggy?


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