Dish 26: Stuffed Cabbage at Famous 4th St. Delicatessen, 19th and Market, http://famous4thstreetdelicatessen.com/
Several years ago, when my family was divvying up the cooking duties for Christmas, Daddo announced that he was going to bring his famous Swedish meatballs. Which caused quite a stir, because a) we are clearly not Swedish, and b) nobody had ever heard of these meatballs. You could overhear Mom on the phone almost every night for weeks with one aunt or another, organizing the holiday, and always the meatballs came up. Where did they come from? What was he talking about? Why Swedish meatballs?
The tension was so high Christmas Day when Daddo came padding through our door with a crock pot full of meatballs floating in some sketchy liquid that no one spoke. Until, nervously, the first bite was taken. A small nod of assent. Another relative tentatively picked up a meatball with a toothpick and took a bite. Another nod. Within minutes it was clear that Daddo had established a family classic, from a bag of meatballs, a jar of grape jelly, and a can of chili. The gross factor wears off after a couple of years, really.
Our traditions may be different from yours. (Do you force the talented cousin to play the fiddle every time there’s a family gathering? We do. We do it until we think his hands might bleed. Hey, he got all the talent in the family.) But the indescribable joy of sweet meat crosses every culture; be it the simple joys of barbecue, the addictiveness of Greek lasagna, Daddo’s meatballs, or Famous 4th St.’s stuffed cabbage, everyone has a sweet meat they can’t turn down.
Kate and I tramped through the snow to get to the Famous 4th on 19th today, and chowed down on matzo ball soup before tackling the football-sized stuffed cabbage drowning in red sauce. We were both unable to describe it in words beyond “Mmmm!” and “Sweet!”, but we loved the meat-stuffed cabbage—Kate drew a parallel to the Greek lasagna, and I to the meatballs. I have introduced her to the joys of going out for lunch and taking a break from work, which was my favorite part of interning with Colleen and CJ. After all, Colleen and I never would have realized that CJ was just being sarcastic if we hadn’t had lunch together every day, and the three of us would not have ended up being friends. The moral of the story, I told Kate, is that lunch is sacred, and best eaten away from one’s desk, with friends and friends-to-be.