Wednesday, July 20, 2005

cabbage, ham and potatoes

i'm in the middle of reading angela's ashes by frank mccourt and i had to try cooking this because of the following excerpt:

Every morning Grandma cooks Bill's dinner and takes it to him at the lime kiln. Mam wonders why he can't take it with him in the morning and Grandma says, Do you expect me to get up at dawn and boil cabbage and pig's toes for his lordship to take in his dinner can?
Mam tells her, in another week school will be over and if you give Frank sixpence a week he'll surely be glad to take Bill Galvin his dinner.
I don't want to go to Grandma's every day. I don't want to take Bill Galvin his dinner all the way down the Dock Road, but Mam says that's sixpence we could use and if I don't do it I'm going nowhere else.
You're staying in the house, she says. You're not playing with your pals.
Grandma warns me to take the dinner can directly and not be meandering, looking this way and that, kicking canisters and ruining the toes of my shoes. This dinner is hot and that's the way Bill Galvin wants it.
There's a lovely smell from the dinner can, boiled bacon and cabbage and two big floury white potatoes. Surely he won't notice if I try half a potato. He won't complain to Grandma because he hardly ever talks outside of a snuffle or two.
It's better if I eat the other half-potato so that he won't be asking why he got a half. I might as well try the bacon and cabbage too and if I eat the other potato he'll surely think she didn't send one at all.
The second potato melts in my mouth and I'll have to try another bit of cabbage, another morsel of bacon. There isn't much left now and he'll be very suspicious so I might as well finish off the rest.
What am I going to do now? Grandma will destroy me, Mam will keep me in for a year. Bill Galvin will bury me in lime. I'll tell him I was attacked by a dog on the Dock Road and he ate the whole dinner and I'm lucky I escaped with being eaten myself.
Oh, is that so? says Bill Galvin. And what's that bit of cabbage hanging on your gansey? Did the dog lick you with his cabbagey gob? Go home and tell your grandmother you ate me whole dinner and I'm falling down with the hunger here in the line kiln.
She'll kill me.
Tell he don't kill you till she sends me some class of a dinner and if you don't go to her now and get me a dinner I'll kill you and throw your body into the lime there and there won't be much left for your mother to moan over.
Grandma says, What are you doin' back with that can? He could bring that back by himself.
He wants more dinner.What do you mean more dinner? Jesus above, is it a hole he has in his leg?
He's falling down with hunger below in the lime kiln.
Is it coddin' me you are? He says send him any class of a dinner. I will not. I sent him his dinner.
He didn't get it. He didn't?
Why not?
I ate it.
I was hungry and I tasted it and I couldn't stop.
Jesus, Mary and holy St. Joseph.
She gives me a clout on the head that brings tears to my eyes. She screams at me like a banshee and jumps around the kitchen and threatens to drag me to the priest, the bishop, the Pope himself if he lived around the corner. She cuts bread and waves the knife at me and makes sandwiches of brawn and cold potatoes.
Take these sandwiches to Bill Galvin and if you even look cross-eyed at them I'll skin your hide.
Of course she runs to Mam and they agree the only way I can make up for my terrible sin is to deliver Bill Galvin's dinner for a fortnight without pay. I'm to bring back the can every day and that means I have to sit watching him stuff the food into his gob and he's not one that would ever ask you if you had a mouth in your head.
Every day I take the can back Grandma makes me kneel to the statue of the Sacred Heart and tell Him I'm sorry and all this over Bill Galvin, a Protestant.

i don't know about you, but i love reading books which refer in some way to food; they add some reality and human aspects. in angela's ashes, the references are there because they're starving and too poor to buy food (but not a pint), and the dish frank describes here is basic, not fancy in any way. we aren't starving, maybe sometimes hungry because it's close to mealtime, and we still find the appeal of this dish. it is comfort food in the truest sense. i cannot imagine what torture frank must have had to endure on the days following the first delivery of bill's lunch. he couldn't resist the smell the first day, what happened on the days following? he had had a taste already. if you do get a chance to try this, i'm sure your heart will go out to frank and be grateful for never knowing what it must be like to go through what he did as a child.

i used a ham bone, sliced carrots, whole potatoes and shredded cabbage, added just enough water to cover the potatoes and left it to simmer until the potatoes and carrots were cooked through.
miss c and miss k thought it was delicious, and considering the ease of getting the whole thing together, i thought it was excellent winter fare. told them that traditionally the leftovers were used to make bubble and squeak and they thought that that sounded pretty good, having heard of it before, but never having tried it. next time, they want me to make more so there'll be there'll be bubble and squeak! i can't wait.

just think. we thought this was delicious. frank must have felt like he died and went to heaven when he ate bill's dinner....

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