Storytelling

The Revenge of the Cabbage Rolls

I never got around to telling this story about the cabbage rolls and my father’s intestines. As I’ve said earlier, for family events, my mother would prepare cabbage rolls by the dozen. It was usually a major production for her, but she never asked for help. She prepared it all herself, creating dozens of them at a time.

Great big bowls of ground meat were mixed with rice and paprika. A large pot boiled heads of cabbage to loosen the leaves. And an over-sized roaster sat waiting to accept the cabbage rolls. She usually do all of this in our basement, where we had a second kitchen. She’d descend for an afternoon or evening, and not surface again until it was complete.

I don’t recall the specific occasion, but my father felt ill late at night, after the event. The next day he checked himself into a hospital. Back in those days, if you got into the hospital, they kept you a while to run tests. Now you spend far more time waiting in the Emergency Room lobby than you do in a hospital bed (if you’re lucky), but back then, they admitted you to run tests, and strictly enforced the visiting room hours.

He was in there a couple of days, having complained about chest pains. He was in his late forties, so the assumption was a heart attack, and that’s what the tests were trying to determine. But test after test came back negative, and so they reviewed other factors. The truth finally came out that he had consumed an inordinate amount of cabbage rolls; the doctor immediately went with a diagnosis of indigestion. He probably prescribed an enema, but I don’t know if it was ever administered.

I never really worked with my mother on those cabbage rolls, and I don’t know if I have the recipe, so I’ll be trying various combinations until I hit on something pleasing to my taste buds and my memory. I just hope I don’t kill myself trying.