Ethical Eating

I'm Eating What?! Stuffed Cabbage in a Can

When I was a kid, I remember my mother packing lunches in a brown paper bag and throwing in a little note on my napkin throughout grade school. As I complained of embarrassment, the notes disappeared, as did the carefully prepared cream cheese and sliced green olive sandwiches. They were replaced by Lunchables, prepackaged slices of cheese, meat, and crackers that were as easy to pack in my backpack as they were to open and devour. After middle school, though, I pretty much made it a point to avoid prepackaged meals for lunch, but I always get a bit nostalgic when I see them on the grocery shelves. Not nostalgic enough to submit my intestines to what's behind the cute and convenient packaging, mind you, but nostalgic nonetheless. When I saw the Sera branded Stuffed Cabbage Leaves sitting on my desk, it really took me back.

The packaging on the cabbage leaves is bright, colorful, and inviting. Four translucent white leaves sit in a row with lemon slices between them and a mint leaf in the foreground. Just above this picture is a scene of a babbling brook running through a little valley village. I'm not sure what this has to do with cabbage, but it plays right to that whole nostalgia factor, as if by opening this can, you'll be transported to a simpler time. Or perhaps it's an omen of what my intestines will experience a few hours after consuming the can's contents.

Cuter still than the scene of village life is the little spork placed

underneath the plastic lid, just above the metal pop-top. This is

certainly made for a person on the go, which is good in the convenience

arena but raises some serious questions about the quality of the food

underneath that metal tab.

I pop open the plastic lid, remove

the little spork, and pry back the top of the can. It opens with a hiss,

and the smell of onions and cabbage pours out. It's not an unpleasant

smell; in fact, it's quite inviting. Hints of tomato and sugar mix with

the onion and cabbage. Not wanting to wait any longer, I plunge the

spork into one of the light-brown cylinders and try to cut it in half.

Unfortunately, the spork isn't made for cutting of any kind, and I

mutilate the roll as I try to saw it in half. Once I'm finally able to

sever the little roll, the stuffing begins to pour out: lots of rice,

some bits of tomato, and a few onions. I pop a big chunk in my mouth and

begin chewing.

The texture is a bit off; it's kind of rubbery

and slimy, most likely because it's been stewing in oil and

water for God knows how long. But that's the only real complaint about

the stuffed cabbage. The flavor of the onions and tomatoes doesn't

overwhelm a sweet brown-sugar or cinnamon undertone. The rice is tender

and plump, and there's a spicy kick of black pepper. I can't help but

think this would be a great meal if only it were heated up or perhaps

pan-seared to toughen up the cabbage itself. I also can't help but

think if I had a little hipster child too good for sandwiches, I'd pack

this in the lunch bag and feel confident it wouldn't be traded for

fruit snacks and cold French fries.

This was purchased from Al-Salam Middle East Restaurant and Grocery Store at 1816 North University Dr. in Sunrise. Call 954-916-5193 or visit their website.

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Brett Gillin