NO. 6: CABBAGE
Cabbage? Yes, cabbage. Loathed by millions, ignored by billions, the densely-packed, heavy-headed Orbness of Wonderment remains a vegetable champion, a wealth of culinary riches. The reasons are manifold and the recipes are boundless, but seven will suffice:
1. Cabbage soup. In its eastern European incarnation, made famous in Melbourne at the late Scheherezade restaurant, fragrant paprika-stung folds of wilted cabbage in a flavour-filled broth that you soaked up with dark rye bread smeared with butter, the soup topped with a mound of peppery mashed potato. Possibly the finest soup on the face of the Earth (although I've said that before).
2. Take two slices of white bread. Butter both generously. On one, lay a half-inch-thick slice of home-made meatloaf, still warm from the oven. Top the meatloaf with a thick layer of traditional freshly made coleslaw dripping with mayonnaise. Close the sandwich. Eat. The experience is other-worldly, perhaps even other-universely.
3. Cabbage adds a little je ne sais quoi (except I do) to gado-gado, that quintessential expression of the East, a flavour eruption of peanuts, chili, lemon and soy. And then there's kim chi. Heaven, if you live in Asia or can replicate it anywhere else in the world.
4. Cabbage without the flavour eruption (possibly without the flavour full stop): how my mother used to cook it – boiled in a very large pot (seven children) to be served alongside corned beef with white sauce. The cabbage was so well-boiled, it squeaked when you ate it. It might have lacked flavour then, but it now holds a certain nostalgic retro appeal for me. (1960s food fad fact: cabbage water was as hyped then as the paleo diet is now. Drink cabbage water and live forever!)
5. And while fads come and go like a foodie's instagrammed meal, some things remain the same. It is estimated that since the 1950s, Marathon Foods has turned 75 billion heads of cabbage into 300 million Chiko rolls and six billion dim sims. These incredible numbers prove that six million bogans can't be wrong: if you've never grabbed a hot Chiko roll or a fried dim sim drowned in soy sauce from a fish and chip shop run by Greek immigrants you either don't live in Melbourne or you're a foodie. In which case, enjoy your amaranth.
7. Traditional fat pork sausages gently fried to a turn are nothing without a side of shredded red cabbage gently cooked with vinegar, apple, spices, garlic, salt and pepper. Sweet, sour, bitter – and all in one dish.