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Monday, 8 October 2012

What's so funny 'bout eats, love & understanding?

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of spending the day cooking with my mom. Did we make haggis?  Stovies?  Nope--cabbage rolls. Not terribly exotic at all, but it is for my mom.

To say that my mom is unadventurous in the world of cuisine is an understatement.  My mom grew up in World War II Britain in  small rural Kilsyth, near Glasgow.  She was two years old when Scotland entered the war and eight when it came to an end.  Her earliest memories include being awoken from her sleep and carried out of the house into an air raid shelter.  Air raid drills were part of her early school life and along with her school bag, she had to carry a gas mask--hers was shaped like Mickey Mouse.

In order to weaken the U.K., the Germans limited the supplies going into the British Isles. Every household was issued a ration book to ensure each person received their fair share of the available supplies. I believe it was growing up on rations with a limited breadth of food that has made my mom a picky eater.  The trend now is to eat locally and think locally.   My mom, her parents, and everyone else in the country had to adopt this lifestyle out of necessity.

Living in Kilsythe with the proximity of small farms meant that there was never a shortage of meat and milk.  My grandfather, a miner who was never drafted as his job was considered an essential service, also had a chicken coop which allowed for a steady supply of chicken and eggs. 

Although the war ended in 1945, rationing did not stop until 1954. My mom finished school in 1952 and started working at Mateer's Grocery Store.  Mrs. Mateer was often able to source luxuries for her best customers.  She would somehow be able to procure tinned goods such as salmon, pineapple rings and ham. These goods would be hidden under the shop counter and only sold to the special customers of her choice.   She would however make these luxuries available to her staff and my gran would always be thrilled to have access to these treats.

My mom & her parents came to Canada in December 1956. They were awestruck by the Canadian grocery stores and the selection available. They were also slowly introduced to new & very different cuisines.   Although she did try all sorts of new food, mom never really developed a palate for them.
The year I was born, my parents lived in a small three story walk up that was owned by a Ukrainian lady. It was this woman who introduced mom to perogies and cabbage rolls to which she developed a taste for.  I enjoy making cabbage rolls with my mom every fall.

Two heads of cabbage
1 package of ground beef
1 package of ground veal
1 package of ground pork
1 cup of brown rice (cooked in beef broth)
2 cloves garlic
1 large onion chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large jar of sauerkraut
2 large cans of tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Core cabbage and boil one head at a time.  Peel full leaves off as they soften.  Put aside and let cool.

Meanwhile, mix the beef, veal & pork together by hand in a large bowl.  Cook the rice according to the package directions using beef broth instead of water.  Allow to cool and set aside.  Heat the vegetable oil and add the chopped onion and garlic.  Cook until translucent and allow to cool. 

Add the cooked rice and onion/garlic mixture to the meat and work slowly and gently through the mixture by hand.  Scoop 1/4 cup of mixture and place in the centre of the cooked cabbage leaves.  Roll and place by row into a roasting pan.  Continue to bottom of ban is covered with cabbage rolls.  Cover layer with tomato sauce and a layer of sauerkraut.  Continue layering ensuring that last layer is covered with tomato sauce and sauerkraut.

Cook for 2 hours and 20 minutes.


Enjoy with this light and refreshing Ukrainian beer - Lvivske 1715 (LCBO $2.50/500ml bottle).


  1. Being married to a Ukrainian boy, I will tell you that cabbage rolls are lovely served with sour cream.....yum. I can also tell you that you must never, ever get cabbage rolls from Denningers - they will put you right off cabbage rolls. They are horrid.
    Also, I have my Dad's ration books and all the chocolate coupons are Mom won't eat margarine to this day because she is reminded of the margarine you got with your ration coupons. She affectionately (not) calls margarine "axle grease"....v