How could you like a dish that promised to put ‘hairs on yer chest’? I hated the smell of Bacon and Cabbage. Nasty green curly leaves soaking in ugly water, a dish for men. Cork city on Sundays after mass reeked of the stuff, city mothers everywhere plaumausing their spouses and sons (a bonus if your daughter liked it) with bacon that knew certain death by boiling.
It was a dish I had banished to the recesses never to be cooked by my fair hand, not in my kitchen, not at my dinner table. When I was single. Then comes the handsome lump of a husband who loves bacon and cabbage and you ignore him for the first couple of months. He’ll have to be satisfied with the memory of the smell of it from his youth. Not in my kitchen, not by my fair hand. You know what’s coming, resignation.
So, darling like, I asked my husband’s mother how he liked his bacon and cabbage. I might have been gushing, it was the honeymoon period. ‘I was thinking of making him bacon and cabbage, how does he like it?’ My first mistake was asking her how he liked it instead of how to make it. It was like I had just declared my undying love for her son at her threshold, Oprah style. Not very North Kerry this heart on your sleeve lark I can tell you. The poor woman wasn’t prepared for it, she was indignant, I was mortified, she rattled something about bay leaves and onions to get rid of me and I, pretending to listen, skulked as fast as I could out of the kitchen, red faced and none the wiser on the boiled bacon front.
It took a while to get the hang of it but I think I might have perfected it to the point of cheering him up on a cold March day when he’s had little sleep and in need of a restoring bowl of his favourite dish. I realize that on reading this, you’re thinking I’m a 1950’s housewife daring you to make your husband happy and you could be right that I’m be putting the woman’s liberation moment back a hundred years or so but I’ll take my chances;
Bacon and Cabbage; Love on a plate.
This is one of those dishes that looks after itself. Technically, you should boil the bacon alone first and pour the first boiling of water away to take away the first blast of salt. I put carrots and onions roughly chopped into a big pot along with the lump of bacon and cover it with water. Add in a half handful of black pepper corns and two bay leaves. Leave it boil away, largely ignored until it starts to smell nice and it feels like a cooked slice of bacon when you insert the knife. (It could take from 40 minutes to an hour. You know yourself). For the last twenty minutes, add in the cabbage leaves and a good knob of butter. Why not? The bacon is served sliced hiding under cabbage, delicate onions and carrots alongside a heap of buttery potato mash with juice poured on top. Oh and don’t throw away the ugly water, you can use it as stock in tomorrow’s soup.
It’s boiling away here and it smells less like Sunday after Mass and more like a Kerry farmhouse on a Spring day, delicious. So there you are, that will put hairs on yer chest and may I add, it might just put a pep in your step.