battle 23–day 2–cabbage

I was feeling a little more optimistic about January when I didn’t keel over after cabbage stew, so I decided to briefly set aside my unnecessarily ambitious plan to conquer the whole month in one week and dedicate the next few days to cabbage. Plain ole cabbage.

I fear and have avoided eating cabbage for a lot of reasons. For one thing, it’s a vegetable. For another, it has a stupid, jarring name. I am not a fan. And also, I definitely discriminate against it for being grown in a patch with orphan babies. That just doesn’t seem right. So it’s taken me a while to overcome these ingrained biases and get to the point where I understand that cabbage is just another leafy green, like arugula, or something else lovely I already love. I can love cabbage, too, I can love cabbage, too, I can love cabbage, too.

When I was complaining about cabbage to JVV’s friends on facebook (I don’t know why y’all are still my friends, I am so cranky), lots of folks offered up some really great ideas, but most of them involved cooking it in ways that would make the cabbage too closely resemble my nemesis, the onion. To me, cooked cabbage looks like onion’s red-headed stepsister, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t woman enough to take her on. Then I remembered rhu-Barb saying somewhere, sometime, something like, “You could always just add shredded cabbage to shrimp tacos.” Mmmm. Tacos. Voila. Thank you, rhu-Barb.

To make shrimp tacos, I took a little bit of my awesomeness, added a tad of my greatness, mixed it together with my brilliance and topped it with cabbage. Twenty-some odd weeks ago if I’d tried to make this meal, I would have had to track down and compare 15 different recipes, consult with the Google on everything from the origins of cabbage to the history of the taco, and spend countless hours wandering grocery aisles looking for the abundance of ingredients I still hadn’t decided on for gourmet tacos that would probably still be a bust.

But now I’m a pro, so here’s what I did instead. I combined the top notch culinary skills we’ve all taught me throughout the course of this project with some very important life skills I’ve spent years honing, i.e., a little bit-o-kitchen know-how plus a lot of laziness equals one fantastic taco.

After Terrible Vegetable Smorgasbord Sunday, Melissa sent me home with the leftover cabbage she’d picked up at Trader Joe’s while I was napping. Cabbage, check. Then I started pulling out some of my favorites, spectacular standbys like avocadoes, tomatoes and cheese, all items I always have in the house. Favorites, check. Then I got fancy, zeroing in on Elwood’s seriously good homemade hot sauce and ranch dressing to cool my mouth from Elwood’s seriously hot homemade hot sauce. Fanciness, check.

Now I just needed the shrimp. And I was so close to putting this whole meal together without wandering any aisles.

David and I have never been very smart about our freezer. We don’t know how to buy frozen food, we don’t know how to eat the frozen food we do buy, and we don’t know how to freeze food if it’s not already frozen.  I don’t necessarily hold this against us because I’m happy to eat fresh food, but in the case of fish, frozen is probably the safest route for me, except for the part about not knowing how to buy frozen food. The one reliable frozen fish item David and I have purchased consistently over the years is breaded, popcorn shrimp, which is probably really processed pig parts in the shape of tiny shrimp, but we like it. And we always get the same kind: Kroger brand. So last week, pre-tacos, we were thinking about having shrimp and potatoes and David said he would pick up the shrimp on the way home, but when he got home he had in hand a different brand of frozen shrimp because he couldn’t find the kind we normally eat. It turns out we really liked the new brand, not least because the shrimp were definitely real and were supposedly caught near St. Simon’s Island, which is nearby (I dig local) and my family is from there, so I felt good about supporting folks from home. Mmm shrimp. But this week, shrimp taco week, when I asked David to pick up the same shrimp for shrimp tacos he could not remember where he got it. This was cause for minor panic at our house. For me. Before either of us embarked on an all-out shrimp hunt in the frozen aisles of all the grocery stores we frequent, I made him retrace his steps in his mind.

“Try to picture the aisle where you got the shrimp. Were there high ceilings (which could be Kroger on Edgewood or Publix on Glenwood) or lower-ish ceilings (Publix on Ponce)? Was it bright-ish (Publix) or darkish (Kroger)? Were you sort of near the front or the back of the store?”

Then I realized I was describing our grocery stores, in detail, to determine on which aisle he had been standing when he plucked the shrimp from its case, and I began to feel reasonably confident that I probably won’t ever get lost in my grocery stores again. I’m having kind of a big head about this right now.

We were able to conclude from this little exercise that he got the shrimp at the Publix on Ponce and the reason he got the new brand in the first place was because he was at Publix and we usually get Kroger brand, so it stands to reason he wouldn’t have been able to find our usual brand at Publix. I’m like a food sleuth. I amaze me. Big head getting bigger.

On taco night, I tossed the shrimp in the hot sauce, made a pico out of the tomatoes, avocado and cheese, then tossed that in the ranch dressing, put them all in fancy pants pretty little flour tortillas and topped those babies with some shredded cabbage. Holy best taco ever. Big head explodes.

battle 20, 22, 23–artichokes, parsnips, cabbage

The second friend to offer to hoist me out of the slump was my neighbor, Melissa R. It’s not unusual for Melissa to offer to cook for me under normal circumstances, but circumstances have changed in the last year and keeping me alive no longer tops her list of priorities. I suppose suggesting that I topped her list of priorities previously is a stretch, but now I’m really way down on the list. I’m like…third.

So here are the new circumstances: first, Melissa had a baby and the way that goes is he needs to be fed more often and my guess is more nutritiously than I do; and second, because my food preferences are changing, it’s not as easy to feed me as it used to be when her husband and I both refused all the same foods and she could make the same bland, colorless, tasteless meal for everyone.

But she perseveres.

So last week I was whining and complaining about all the terrible vegetables in January and how I really didn’t know if I could stomach them. Turnips. Bleck. Parsnips. Bleck. Even Melissa, who comes from farm people and will eat anything that grows out of the ground or off a tree or otherwise tastes like dirt, said the snips are good for nothing vegetables. But she was not about to let something as banal as cabbage get the best of me. (Cabbage, of course, is what I was the most afraid of. Gross. I hate the way it looks all slimy and translucent when it’s cooked. Like an onion. I seriously want to vomit right now just thinking of it.) We came up with this grand plan to knock out as many of January’s vegetables as possible the next day, then Melissa went grocery shopping and I took a nap.

Terrible Vegetable Smorgasbord Sunday included the following:

Trader Joe’s spinach artichoke dip—Heavenly. I ate so much of this I didn’t want to eat anything else, but in the spirit of TVSS, I eventually had to turn my attention to…

Mashed potatoes with parsnips—Less exciting, but not unmanageable. My beef with potatoes and parsnips is similar to kohlrabi trying to act like a potato, except this really is a potato…with parsnips. It was hard to evaluate the parsnips because of the awesomeness of the potatoes, except the potatoes were ever so slightly less awesome than usual, and obviously parsnips were the culprit. However, it didn’t make me want to cut my arm off or anything, so if faced with another mashed parsnip Christmas situation, I would probably be able to handle my shit.

Beef stew with cabbage (and no onions)—Surprisingly delicious (the cabbage, I mean…obviously Melissa’s stew was going to be good).  I got text updates all day on the progress of the cabbage stew, which Melissa thinks she burned at the last minute, but since we’re  a bunch of amateurs and we were preoccupied by rooting out slimy cabbage bits, we totally didn’t notice, and we ate it anyway, happily. Then we discovered, with lots of joy and exultation, that we like cabbage.

Terrible Vegetable Smorgasbord Sunday was like winter’s answer to summer’s fried food night. We accomplished a lot easily and deliciously with not a lot of effort. I still wasn’t done with artichokes (spinach artichoke dip seemed so good it felt like cheating, I needed to eat an artichoke) and I felt like I had one more cabbage demon to slay (cole slaw), but I went ahead and considered myself done with parsnips. Good enough.