As a child, I always requested “Cabbage and Meatballs” for my birthday dinner. It was one of the staple dishes my mother made. She learned to make the dish from my dad’s mother who was German by lineage. My grandmother’s grandparents immigrated to America from Germany and her father and mother were both of German lineage.

Actually, both of my grandmothers had German ancestry and both were good cooks, but “Cabbage and Meatballs” was a dish no doubt, made of necessity. I say that because the ingredients were all some of the most inexpensive and available ingredients my grandmother would have been able to possess.

The meatballs were make of ground beef with barley in them for texture and to help fill the stomach. The cabbage was the main ingredient of the dish; readily available from the garden and all of the ingredients were cooked in a tomato juice base; also from the garden.

So, you have some meatballs, made of nothing but ground beef and a little barley, a head of cabbage, cut in strips, cooked in tomato juice. Now, to stretch the meal, you put this soup type concoction over mashed potatoes in your bowl because potatoes were also readily available from the garden and very filling.

Recently, I thought to myself, I’ll make the meatballs the way I make other meatballs. So, I soaked my bread in milk, whipped an egg, added a chopped scallion, salt and pepper, mixed it all together, formed my rich, delicious meatballs, dropped them into the boiling tomato juice, cut up a head of cabbage, added it and an hour later was ready to enjoy.

Matthew was the first one to say anything. “These are the best Cabbage and Meatballs you’ve ever made!” I really couldn’t respond because I was spitting out a meatball into the trash. Unbelievably, rich meatballs in this basic, down to earth, “just getting by” recipe were the absolute worst mix I can ever imagine.

When you grow up tasting grandma’s recipe, don’t try to improve it with better ingredients.

If you lack what you need, use what you have
— i don’t know who said that

Comments (27):

  1. Michael Rawluk

    Mar 13, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    I always wanted macaroni and cheese when I was young. Still do now that I am not so young.

  2. B. thomas

    Mar 13, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    Please, no cabbage for this picky-eater. I’m with Michael Rawluk – give me mac and cheese!

  3. Harry

    Mar 13, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    Grandma always made the best. My Midwestern farm wife grandma made the best pies ever.

  4. Ginnie

    Mar 14, 2018 at 1:13 am

    You’ve just reminded me of the chicken paprikash recipe I saved from my ex-husband’s mother’s family (Hungarian heritage). It was considered a poor man’s meal but my kids loved it for the Christmas meal in their later years after leaving home. Comfort food? And the potato-sausage soup I also made had to have the exact right Polish sausage or it didn’t taste right! I know what you mean.

  5. Tatar@Y

    Mar 14, 2018 at 1:20 am

    De bons souvenirs t’acompagnent.
    Les boulettes c’est délicieux. )

  6. lisl

    Mar 14, 2018 at 2:09 am

    How disappointing for you, after going to so much trouble, sherri

  7. Elaine-

    Mar 14, 2018 at 2:27 am

    hey sister, you should post the recipe for us! or maybe my husband (the cook) can glean it from what you have said… i loved the story, thank you for sharing… was germany in trouble? is that the bad times that hitler promised to solve? why is it that hope can get us into so much trouble?

  8. JMS*

    Mar 14, 2018 at 3:11 am

    Des bons souvenirs culinaires de l’enfance.

  9. Lewis

    Mar 14, 2018 at 4:47 am

    Beautiful focus on the roots and ‘paper layers’
    Cabbage dishes are delicious,

  10. Franz

    Mar 14, 2018 at 4:53 am

    An excellent and ‘artsy’ image to go with words coming from the heart!
    I suppose everyone has a dish from their younger days that they cherish (and unfortunately are often unable to prepare themselves, so that the memory becomes even more important …)

  11. grouser

    Mar 14, 2018 at 5:29 am

    Excellent back story

  12. Willem

    Mar 14, 2018 at 5:38 am

    Fine focus work here.

  13. Maria-lina

    Mar 14, 2018 at 6:29 am

    Superbe, que ta photo est belle!!! De mon côté c’était de la lasagne et, encore et toujours hihihi j’adore! Bise, bon mercredi dans la joie!

  14. ruthiebear

    Mar 14, 2018 at 9:07 am

    I enjoy your memories as much as I do your photos. The images evoke a dreamlike memory.

  15. mhelene

    Mar 14, 2018 at 9:58 am

    Splendid macro ! Meatballs…I agree but cabbage …not sure !!

  16. Steve

    Mar 14, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    The cabbage and meatballs sound a lot like cabbage rolls I remember. Mostly, the same ingredients presented a little differently. The soupy tomato sauce, they cooked in on mashed potatoes, just the same. Good stuff I enjoy still.

  17. Steven

    Mar 14, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    A great storyline that you’ve shared with us!! So do you think Matthew was telling the truth or just making someone happy? 🙂 Cabbage will be plenty on St. Patty’s Day!

  18. Claudio

    Mar 14, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Fine image, well played on white, it is not easy to make art with an onion or garlic.


  19. Elaine Hancock

    Mar 14, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    My mother’s father immigrated from Germany. When I was a small child, we lived with him and my aunt and uncle. My grandfather had his own kitchen in the basement of their house. He made his own sausage and bread. I remember sitting on a chair and watching him. My favorite was “black bread and stinky cheese” which was German dark rye and limburger cheese.

  20. Diane

    Mar 14, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    Fabulous. I love stories.

  21. Nicou

    Mar 14, 2018 at 10:14 pm

    Quel rendu quels détails fins et vue sueprbe macro.


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