Curried Cabbage and Whipped Skim Milk

I’m embracing my kitchen ineptitude with undaunted optimism. My expectations are low so when an experiment emerges not only edible, but really good, I’m more surprised than anyone.

I’ve had a few successes lately, but there’s no danger of big-headedness. My domestic inadequacies go way back.

I spent my sixteenth summer walking in circles. Grandma B was the accountant for a company in Minneapolis that sent out promotional packets to their customers. All that summer I walked around and around a long table with five others collating napkins. Each one had a different picture and inscription signifying a special day: Happy Easter, Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary…you get the idea.

If you think isolation is boring, try walking around a table eight hours a day five days a week for three months.

Grandma liked to put her feet up when we got home and I was thrilled to be allowed free reign in her tiny kitchen. All through June, July, and August that year, as temperatures hugged 100 degrees (37.7 celsius) I baked potatoes, lasagna, apple pie – that oven ran from 6 p.m. onward and Grandma never questioned my judgment. Until one night…

I’ve long forgotten what dessert I made, but I do remember wanting to serve it with whipped cream. All we had in the fridge was skim milk. I was convinced if I just beat it long enough and added enough powdered sugar, I could turn that bluish liquid into a fluffy white miracle.

Gram was stretched out on the couch. A fan droned monotonously and did little more than give slight movement to the blistering air. I’d had the good sense to chill the milk in a stainless steel bowl to give myself every advantage. I pulled it out of the fridge and revved up the hand mixer. Five minutes passed, then ten as the beaters ground away.

Grandma lay peacefully, eyes closed, a slight smile on her lips, Fifteen minutes. Twenty. There was hot-engine smell coming from the mixer. The milk was still milk. I’d been steadying the bowl with my left hand but let go to wipe sweat out of my eyes.

The bowl shimmied to the edge of the counter. I jerked my left arm down to catch it and my right arm up. Whirling blades spattered milk on the ceiling. With the clatter of metal against floor tile, I burst into tears. Grandma’s hand flew to her mouth but her shaking shoulders gave her away. She was laughing.

That was fifty-four years ago.

Yesterday I decided to do something with the cabbage I’d blanched and frozen two weeks ago. Suspicious brown spots were appearing. How about creamed cabbage? Never mind I had no cream. No milk either. I had butter. Maybe a white sauce – throw in a little curry powder… There you go – creamed cabbage curry!

I melted the butter, mixed flour with water and poured it in. In no time I had dumplings, great lumps of pasty goop floating in a greasy sea. Unfazed by this minor setback, I let it cool, put the mixture in a blender, and turned it into the smoothest, satiny-est gravy you’ve ever seen. Back in the pan. Add chopped cabbage and throw in a few red pepper flakes and – oh yes – the curry powder.

I sat down to enjoy the feast. The first bite hit my tongue. Odd flavor. Dust?

It didn’t occur to me until later – after I’d visited the compost pile with all but the first two bites of my grand experiment – to check the expiration date on the curry. You don’t want to know but I’ll tell you anyway.

February 28, 2016.

I was right.

Dust.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shanemac
    Apr 22, 2020 @ 20:34:36

    That’s too bad about the dust. I was looking forward to hearing how the cabbage and gravy turned out.

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  2. sageblessings
    Apr 22, 2020 @ 23:19:56

    I totally LOVE how you brought me (us) into your grandma’s kitchen……delightful. It reminded me of my mother’s presssure cooker exploding beans all over the ceiling or the homemade root beer exploding in the basement🤣. All great cooks have great stories. Sorry about the curried cabbage.

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Apr 23, 2020 @ 18:06:52

      Sharon, that was one of my worst nightmares – a pressure cooker exploding. I never trusted them . Mom used them for canning every fall – I’ve never touched one! In our basement we had crocks of cabbage fermenting into sauerkraut! Root beer sounds much more delicious!

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  3. stevecastley
    Apr 23, 2020 @ 00:41:05

    I hope you have a list of places that deliver meals. Sounds like you need it. Stay safe.

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  4. judybali
    Apr 23, 2020 @ 08:27:25

    Hi Sherry, Sounds like you are having fun in the kitchen. I am also cooking a lot. Yesterday I bought a really old freezer to go in my garage because The freezer part of my fridge is already full and I have to rummage around all the time to find things in there and try and stuff more things in there. I also like to bulk cook so I don’t have to cook every day and freeze some of it as well. So my task today is to go and disinfect the Very useful monster that now resides In My garage And go through all my food and apportion it accordingly. I’m tending not to go out to shop because online shopping and deliveries of groceries here is available and so I am doing that to limit my exposure. When the shopping arrives I get it delivered to the garage and I disinfect the outside packaging. I then bring it into the house and wash all the fruit and vegetables before I put them in the fridge. So between waiting for the delivery and then disinfecting it and then getting into the house shopping has become a very lengthy process for me.

    I’m wearing different shoes in and outside of the house. Anyway as you can imagine it’s all very time-consuming and exhausting but necessary because of my age and my existing health issues.

    Other than that I am really enjoying the cooking and I’m very lucky to have a dog and a cat to keep me company and my house backs onto a parkland. So I can just open the back gate and take my dog for walk. I haven’t really started wearing masks yet but I’m certainly washing my hands a lot and using hand sanitiser.

    Anyway I hope you’re keeping well with the rats for monkeys and your cooking. I love reading your stories Sherry.

    Judy x

    >

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Apr 23, 2020 @ 18:11:51

      It sounds like you’re doing everything right, Judy. Excellent. And a house with parkland behind it – how ideal is that! Plus furry bodies for companionship…lucky you. They are unlikely to get crotchety with too much togetherness! Take good care – it sounds like you are.

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  5. Diane Struble
    Apr 23, 2020 @ 13:36:41

    My curry powder is probably older than that.  I will have to check it out now that you have brought it to mind.  I did clean out my spice drawer about 10 years ago, but it definitely needs an up-date.  I did think that you were doing well with your inventive recipe up to that point, though.  I am not a fan of creamed cabbage, but love cooked cabbage in a New England Boiled dinner, Cedric’s Casserole with tomato sauce, onions and butter and hamburger, and a few others.  Anyway, congratulations on creativity in the kitchen.  Good fun.

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