Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Bubble 'n' Squeak

Bubble ‘n’ Squeak—it’s a book, right? 


And a dish? 



And this web post? 


A recipe. 




Indulge me in some context…


Way before “A long, long, time ago,” Don McLean’s immortal lyrics, forever imprinted in our collective ’70s song canon—18th-century American colonialists made a dish called “bubble ‘n’ squeak.”


Ingredients: 1 cabbage, white onions, fatty slice of beef, salt, pepper, vinegar, gravy.


1. Prepare the vegetables: chop up a cabbage; chop up white onion(s).


I acknowledge and thank my daughter Raewyn for putting me on to Townsends, a company that through an extensive catalogue of merchandise and YouTube videos encourages its audience, patrons, and consumers (myself included) to “live history”—specifically 18th-century colonial American history.


2. Place the cabbage in a pot of boiling water until it’s almost cooked.


When I was a lad growing up in Auckland, New Zealand, my dad would make a British-inspired version of this recipe on a Sunday morning from the leftovers of the previous evening's roast dinner.


3. Cut up a piece of fatty beef. Season with salt and pepper and sear in a skillet containing melted butter.


A glaring absence in the colonial recipe from the concoction my father prepared is mashed potatoes.


4. Strain cabbage and simmer with beef and onions.


Now that I lived in “these United States of America,” I was intrigued and motivated to try an American version of this beloved and simple meal.


5. Add/stir in vinegar and gravy.


Historical documents—letters, books, speeches, constitutions, recipes—do offer some restraint from the churning effects of time. However, often the meaning of words change: gravy in colonial America was the juices and drippings from meat being roasted in front of a fire.


6. Serve once cooked.


Our 21st-century palate is a sophisticated one. Every major city of the world offers cuisine from literally all over the globe. This simple colonial American recipe cannot compete with the international buffet that is our contemporary diet.


But it can offer a bubbling and squeaking culinary passage to times gone by.




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