Of boiled school cabbages, kings and boot polish!

For all you quizzers out there – Billy Bunter and Jennings – what do they have in common?
Other than the obvious British schoolboy storybook characters?
A: Both famous for dissing school dinners at which boiled cabbage featured prominently!
Strangely, the girls’ school stories – Mallory Towers and St.Clare’s – don’t mention this at all – either they didn’t cook it at girls’ schools or Enid Blyton glossed over something so sulphurous in favour of potted meat sandwiches – the latter seems more likely!!  
The time has come…
To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.
Thus spake the Walrus through Lewis Carroll. And thus echoes this blog too… Strangely, I’ve never encountered dislike for cabbages in India – I think maybe we just cook it better?? 😉
Whether it is the South Indian “cabbage koora/palya/poriyal” “aloo patta gobi”, the Bengali “bandh gobi tarkari” or the humble cabbage elevated into a kofta, I haven’t heard many complaints either from children or adults about eating it. N.B: My older daughter has just informed me that she is going to develop ‘food preferences’ from now on and cabbage is ‘off the list’!!
Remember ye olde Greek dude called Diogenes? The guy who spent his life searching for an honest man? (He should have searched amongst Indian politicians -he’d have given it up sooner and devoted his life to something more fruitful – like growing cabbages or something! Well, anyway, our chappie believed in the goodness of cabbages and ate them everyday (bit much, don’t you agree?) for his health. The story goes that D ran into a young man of the Hedonist school (pleasure-seeking fellas much given to polishing the shoes of the rich with their ahem… salivary emissions) and told him (as though he couldn’t leave the poor fellow alone – he might actually have had a thing for Cherry Blossom shoe polish!) that if he lived on cabbages, he wouldn’t have to flatter the rich and powerful. Now the young man was anything but a cabbagehead; pat came the reply “If  YOU, Mr. D, flattered the powerful, YOU wouldn’t be obliged to live on cabbage either!!”
Whatever the rival merits of cabbage and shoe polish, it must be noted that ole’ Diogenes lived to the ripe age of ninety while our hedonist pal departed to seek a better brand boot polish in the Hades at forty!
So therefore, daughter dear, heed the lesson taught – the worm that eats cabbage is safe, the non-cabbage worm gets caught!
And now for our daily cabbage koora:
Cabbage – shredded finely – 1/2 kg
Onion – chopped – 1 small
Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Sesame oil – 2 tsp
Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida – 1 large pinch
Coriander – 2 tbsp
Grated fresh coconut – 1/2 cup
Green chilies – 2-3
Pulse the coconut and green chilies together in the mixer till the chili is just minced. Set aside. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the urad dal and asafoetida. Add the curry leaves and the onions and saute till slightly discoloured. Add the cabbage, sprinkle a couple of tbsp of water over the top. Cover and cook on a low heat for 6-7 minutes till almost done. Add the salt, mix well and continue to cook on a low heat for a couple of minutes more. The cabbage must still have a bit of resistance when you bite it. Switch off, sprinkle the coconut -chili mixture ad coriander on top and mix well. Rest for a few minutes before serving  with rice / rotis or who am i to judge? – shoe polish!