Well, if you’ve not guessed it by now, I am an American. I descend (by family tradition, no genetic testing) from Southern and Eastern European peoples. The U.S., being a relatively youthful nation, places great stock in one’s previous non-American heritage. Notwithstanding that heritage, I am profoundly proud to be an American and of America’s melting pot of so many different ethnicities and cultures.
A recent experience reminded me of how fun the American melting pot can be. I decided to prepare one of the traditional foods that Polish people (my Eastern European heritage) revel in. I had never prepared it before and had never bothered to ask any of my relatives for a recipe. So, I turned to that American social invention: the Internet.
I searched for golombki recipes (this is just one of many spellings for Polish stuffed cabbage). Generally, golombki is rice and ground beef, slightly seasoned, rolled into a cabbage leaf. Sometimes little cubes of rendered pork fatback, (which I called “spitka” but I can’t find any reference to that word), are drizzled over the top. So, I had a general idea of what it was and could have tried to wing it, but searched the ‘net instead.
I reviewed several recipes. The one that I thought worked best was for something called “halupkys”, the Slovak version of the same thing. I did have a substitution, however. The recipe called for ground beef. Based on my Doctor’s urging, I have been trying to rely chiefly on poultry and fish, so I decided to substitute that all-American bird, ground turkey. That wasn’t the only change I made. Since ground turkey can be a little bland, I also mixed in a little bit of hot Italian pork sausage (begging my Doctor’s allowance for this little deviation and swear-to-God I wouldn’t make the spitka).
Interestingly, my family’s tradition as well as this recipe called for tomato sauce. Tomatoes are from the Americas and were not known in Europe before the 1500s. That this American fruit somehow became part of this traditional dish is intriguing. As I also have Italian heritage, I definitely opted to include the tomato sauce.
Lastly, came the preparation. Besides telling me how to soften the cabbage leaves, the proportion of rice to meat, and how much stuffing to use for each one, the instructions directed me to roll the cabbage leaf around the turkey and rice mixture “like a fajita.” How much fun!
As comedian Yakov Smirnoff used to say, “What a Country!” I made a Polish traditional food using a Slovak recipe with a ground meat and a vegetable native to America, added Italian sausage, and used a Latino preparation technique. With the help of all these ethnicities who are a part of my America, I made a wonderful and satisfying dish! You are a tasty place, America!