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Apr 25, 2007 01:52 PM

Stuffed cabbage--country of origin

I always thought stuffed cabbage was Italian? Mario Batali has a great recipe for it that I make often. If anyone can recommend any Italian restaurants that have stuffed cabbage on the menu I'd love to try it out...

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  1. My grandmother is rolling over in her grave.
    Not Italian.
    Eastern European.

    18 Replies
    1. re: perk

      Tell granny to relax, food borders often extend far beyond our families' understanding of them.

      Mario frequently prepares dishes from those borderland regions between Italian-German (Austrian)-Slavic cultures -- stews and other things that seem far more Central European than Italian.

      1. re: gido

        That wasn't my point. There are certainly many interpretations and varieties of dishes.
        They may all be interesting and tasty. But it doesn't change the history of the dish.
        The history of a dish is just that--its history, its origin.
        I'm sure there's a tv chef somewhere in Hungary who is making a lasagne with Polish sausage and cabbage. That doesn't mean that lasagne a dish that originated in Hungary.

        1. re: perk

          So, you think stuffed cabbage "originated" in Hungary?

          Hmmm. stuffed cabbage resembles Balkan dishes where cabbage leaves are wrapped around ground meats, which look a lot like similar dishes which use grape leaves instead of cabbage. Such dishes stretch to Turkey, and to Armenia... .And keep going.

          Think a little broader than your family to understand that dishes aren't limited to what your grandma made. As I said, the northeast of Italy butts up against other cultures, but anything that's traditionally prepared there is Italian in the broadest sense. Cabbage is grown in the region, after all.

          If you limit your understanding of food culture, than Italian cuisine shouldn't include tomatoes -- they're a relatively recent addition in historical terms. And Eastern European dishes with potatoes aren't really Eastern European. They're South American.

          Food culture isn't monolithic.

          1. re: gido

            "Food culture isn't monolithic." Exactly!

            By the way, in addition to stuffed grapeleaves, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, onions, zucchini and zucchini flowers, the Greeks stuff cabbage.

            But anyone who has watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding knows that the Greeks invented everything ;) (Including stuffed cabbage)

            1. re: gido

              NO, it was all stolen from my Armenian Grandmother she was really old. LOL
              We like stuffing grape leaves with lamb and bulgar wheat instead of rice. I think it comes out meatier, and most ppl don't know it has a filler in it

            2. re: perk

              A substantial part of today's northern Italy was part of Yugoslavia as recently as the 1940s. Look at a map. Quite a bit of "Northern Italian" cooking is synonymous with "Northern Croatian" cooking and it's not because one ripped the other off but rather because they were one and the same until around 1948. Heck, the notion of a unitary "Italy" is a fairly modern development.

              In Bosnia, stuffed cabbage is small rolls that resemble the dish as it's sometimes made in Turkey and Greece. Where Turks might use ground beef, Bosnians spike it with basturma -- smoked beef -- which is a halal analog to the smoked pork Poles and Ukrainians flavor theirs with. In between lies Romania, where the tangy, tomato/paprika base for a gravy is more in line with Balkan practice but the size of the rolls and the filling might more closely resemble the Polish and Ukrainian versions.

              Even this is deceptively generalized. Distinct ethnic groupings like Ukrainians and Poles, or Yugoslavs and Bulgarians are blurrier than that. In the rural areas, the spoken languages are much more fluid and the transition from one to the other is gradual. Much of today's Ukraine itself was in Poland 70 years ago and in Austira-Hungary before that. You get in a car in the morning and drive from Ukraine's cultural heart around L'viv (formerly Lwow, formerly Lemberg) to Hungary, Slovakia or Romania in time for lunch.

              Erase those northern/southern/eastern/western distinctions. Europe is complicated and fluid.

              1. re: hatless

                "A substantial part of today's northern Italy was part of Yugoslavia as recently as the 1940s."

                Actually, the other way around.

                But, at times in the 19th century, much of it all was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

                1. re: hatless

                  Tell me about it, hatless.

                  My family (on both sides) is Carpatho-Rusyn from modern-day Eastern Slovakia. Ukrainians say we're Ukrainian, Slovaks say we're Slovaks.

                  We know we're something a bit different. Central Europe is incredibly complicated and unbelievably fluid,

                  But stuffed cabbage (halupky) is ours I tell you -- all ours. Along with pirohy (Poles mistakenly call it pierogy), and halushky (Austrians mistakenly call it spaetzle and those Italians mistakenly call it gnocchi.

                  1. re: gido

                    No, no, no! They're not halushky, they're kopytka! :)


                    1. re: hatless

                      I think the "halushky" correspond to Polish "golabki" (pronounced "gowompki"). The kopytka (little hooves in translation) are gnocchi, or "nockerl" to German-speakers.

                    2. re: gido

                      nope, wrong. polish stuffed cabbage are golumpki. our dumpling type dishes are pirohy.

                      1. re: gido

                        ours were ground beef with long grain rice, rolled in green cabbage and baked in a thin tomato sauce, love the golumpki!!

                        1. re: gido

                          Hello from from a fellow Rusyn in PA!! Christos Voskrese!

                          1. re: shellster

                            you're two day early, but voistino voskerese at midnight tomorrow!

                            1. re: justanotherpenguin

                              Voieschena voskress! Holy Trinity, McAdoo. Making Paska?

                        2. re: hatless

                          Slovenian ones are holubky, Russian I think are galushki, I have one Polish recipe that calls them goluptsi, and SOMEWHERE I have a recipe and name for the Hungarian ones, but I can't find it. Look, if cabbage is the ONE green vegetable you can eat year 'round, sooner or later you're going to do whatever you can think of to make it interesting, and ground or chopped meat and maybe some rice or barley rolled up in there is one of the more obvious variations. Especially since it's so freakin' good. I have elsewhere documented my inclusion of holubky into my traditional New Year's Choucroute Garni, and the squeals of pleasure it brought forth from all who tasted it (including me).

                          Look, damn few of our ancestors' families have lived in just one place over the last several thousand years, and hardly any of them occupied an area that was called what it's called now. Eastern Europe has been especially fluid, what with one invasion after another, and given the inherent limitations on what grows well and what keeps well they've all been using essentially the same foodstuffs. In other words, the only reasonable answer to "did the ––– s invent stuffed cabbage?" is "Yes and no."

                          1. re: Will Owen

                            russian: golubets - singular; golubtsy - plural.

                            l think that this is a great is a great discussion. living in the melting pot of the us, being of russian/ukrainian heritage, married to a lebanese christian, growing up in east la - i am convinced that stuffed cabbage, just like stuffed dough, probably has many origins. and i love them all! (but, my ukrainian grandmother - born in the 1880's - would have killed anyone who said that stuffed cabbage wasn't ukrainian!)

                      2. re: gido

                        GOD, I THINK.
                        HA, HA,

                    3. There are very old versions of stuffed Brassicas (and of bitter gourd, bell pepppers, you name it) in East and SE Asia. Independent invention may have produced stuffed cabbage around the globe from early times.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Sam Fujisaka...rrrrigghht! I agree about that, brother.

                        That's the way I feel about a great many things in the food world.

                        1. Hopefully the gido-perk-o war is now in a truce.

                          I think the point of both Hungary and Balkan is a geographic depiction of a broader "eastern europe." I am not sure people would say stuffed cabbage is asian, african, south american or middle eastern in geneology, but eastern europe is generally considered the genesis point of stuffed cabbage. If mario, gordan, jean-claude or anyone else wants to derivate for a new twist that's great, but when the dots connect back in time i think you will find eastern europe on most of the dots.

                          1. Would you like a few French recipes for stuffed cabbage? Chou vert farci? Chou vert farci en ballotine? Gateau au chou vert gets fancy, adding a pastry crust because we French always like that kinda thing...

                            1. Just as a side note, stuffed cabbage is actually a popular dish in Japan as well. They call it "roll cabbage." Fresh cabbage is a big deal in Japan; they grow it very sweet and crunchy over there, and it's perfect for stuffing.