Cultures and Traditions in Food

The Captain will tell you he went two years in our married life without a repeat meal. I’d have to say he’s probably right. I had someone to cook for who liked to eat and I loved to experiment with new recipes. Besides, I love variety. I still do, our resources are a bit hit and miss. What I do get however, is variety in a new and different way. I get to experience cultures and food I’d never thought to try.

For example: Grits. No way, no how was I going to eat grits. If I’d tried them on someone’s table in the Midwest, it wasn’t pleasant. So now I’m older and wiser and we pass through Charleston, SC, home of grits, well, maybe not home of grits, but they sure are served a lot. O.M.G. I had no idea, what a culinary feast. The smooth texture, the flavors that meld to tickle your tongue. Doesn’t matter what they’re served with, they enhance the flavors of seafood, beef and even chicken. It’s all in the fixing.

I have yet to try this delicacy in my own galley for fear of botching a perfect culinary feast. I am from the Midwest and it might be something in the genes. I’ll let you know when I’m brave enough to try them.

Back to our early married life, however. “My mother makes the best Kapusta. It tastes a little like this split pea soup you’ve made, but better.” Ouch. The captain’s mother has a secret I have yet to master. What the heck is Kapusta? Apparently, my captain grew up in a polish neighborhood and it consists of split peas, cabbage AND sauerkraut. Eeww.

Okay, so we’re visiting the in-laws and guess what dish my captain requests? Yep, Kapusta. So I assist the master in her kitchen and I’m trying desperately to write down the facts, but you know how it is trying to get a secret recipe. I received a scratch paper from my dear mother-in-law that I have since experimented with. What follows is my captains approved recipe, I’m willing to share so others experience a different culinary feast you would normally not try at home.

I’ve researched other Kapusta recipes and some are made meatless, with sausage, or Kielbasa. Some are more casserole in natures but ours is more soup form. The secret is a big pot and days of re-heating. It’s great the first day, but by day three, if there’s any left, O.M.G., something akin to my grits experience. Give it a try, you’ll be glad you did.


Mother Nicholson’s Kapusta

Cabbage 1/2-1 head – shredded (Can also use package of shredded cabbage from the store)
Salt (if desired)
4-8 slices bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2-1 pound split peas
1 package sauerkraut (meat department, bag)15 oz. can or large jar
Ham bone or ham slice from the Super Market
1 heaping teaspoon flour for thickening (only if too much liquid, make a paste before adding to soup.)
Daughter-in-Laws additions
32 oz. low sodium chicken broth
Additional water

Mother Nicholson used many pots, one to boil the cabbage, one to brown the bacon and sauté the onion, and one to cook the peas. Given a pressure cooker or slow cooker, here’s what I do.

Add peas and chicken broth to pot. (Pressure cooker or slow cooker.) Bring up to pressure 30 minutes, or over night in slow cooker.

Brown bacon and when almost done add onions until translucent.

Add bacon, onion mixture and addditional ingredients to the original pot. Pressure for one hour on very low setting or slow cook 6-8 hours. Serve with bread and cheese or as a side dish. Add more water if necessary. Enjoy!

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About Nancy J Nicholson

Nancy J. Nicholson is a wife, mother, writer, and full-time sailor, writing of her adventures and creating contemporary mysteries along the shores of the eastern United States and Caribbean. She fills her time with new friends, exploration, food, knitting and reading.
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8 Responses to Cultures and Traditions in Food

  1. syndianne says:

    Sounds delicious! I’m going to try adding the cabbage and sauerkraut to my usual meatless pea soup. I usually take the one-pot mantra a bit farther and brown the onions in the pressure cooker first, then add my peas and broth for their pressure experience. To give my basic pea soup more flavor (since it doesn’t have any ham), I add carrots also.

    • Absolutely, the only caution I would make is if you’re using a pressure cooker, salt can make whatever you’re cooking tougher. Since your’s is meatless, it should be fine. If you use the pre-shredded cabbage, it usually comes with carrots. Nice touch.

  2. Carol Roe says:

    Sounds delicious! I might even be able to sneak some saurkraut into DH’s meal! TFS, hugs…

  3. I am so impressed! Two years without the same meal twice! The captain is a fortunate man in so many ways. Your recipe for the kapusta sounds wonderful, and I may have the courage to try it!

  4. Natalie says:

    Sounds heavenly! I am not a big cook, unfortunately. I find it very frustrating and I can never seem to master it (although I know it takes practice). So…anytime you are cruising the waters of New Brunswick, be sure to let me know cause I LOVE to eat!! LOL!! Great post – made my mouth water.

  5. Dannie Hill says:

    I’ve got to try this, Nancy! I live in thailand and love the food. My wife is a great cook and keeps me happy with spicy food– she does grits too!

    As we say in the south, “Grits are good!” My Mom alway made stuffed cabbage and not until I was older id I find out it was Polish food. I even lived in Budapest for a few months and fell in love with the hearty food.

    I’ll let you know how the kapusta goes.

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