Red Cabbage, why bother?
Why red cabbage? It demands explanation, because my people have a cabbage of their own, Savoy, and my mother knows how to make it very delicious. At the grocery store, Savoy beckons with its glowing visage of chartreuse undulating to creamy white over a voile of curly ripples. When you get it home and cut it open, a hundred giggles break out from its twin amphitheaters of nooks and crannies. Vouchsafe it much onion, a little tomato pulp and broth, and this genial cabbage rejoices to return you steamy savory comfort. (So different, the leathery grey-green cannon-ball sitting beside it in the market, best fit for boiling with corned beef and potatoes one day a year, in honor of a saint.)
So, I think an apology for my willingness to cook red cabbage is called for—an apology not in the colloquial sense of an admission of guilt, but rather in the classical (and paradoxically opposite) sense of self-defense. To begin, you must grant me that the RED of red cabbage arrests the attention. That granted, if one takes as one’s major premise, that the universal imperative of Nature is to paint the dinner plate GREEN, WHITE, and RED (and the red cabbage looked great on the plate last week with beef cutlets breaded and fried and broccoli lemony); and, further, cognizant of how difficult a RED for one's plate can be to come by at times in the market, one grants, for the minor premise, that this food is RED as RED can be; how can one not draw the conclusion, It must be cooked?
Alas, logical necessity is one thing, and practicability another. No genial cabbage, this. It is armored against assault by storm, paw, and tooth. It is contracted as densely as a rock, as if for indefinite siege, and when with a great knife and strain you cut it open, it seems to draw itself in yet tighter against your mortal stroke, its arteries looking readier to pour blood than surrender. In cooking, it begrudges you its flavor and color, turning grey and bland, to render your victory over it Pyrrhic. It is stubborn, tight‑fisted, and diffident. It is northern. Why bother with it?