Google had never heard of Cabbage Strudel. It knows of apple strudels galore. The search engine has spit back enough cabbage recipes for me to wonder if Slavic languages have as many words for boiled cabbage as the Eskimos do for snow. But, for years I could not find a recipe for cabbage strudel. The closest I got was Nora Ephron’s The Lost Strudel – the title gives away the fact that a decade ago she had already concluded that cabbage strudel was lost to us.
I actually have a recipe for cabbage strudel. Bubby gave me the recipe, but like most recipes she gave me, the directions were vague. When I told her it didn’t work out, she made me read the recipe back to her. She confirmed it, and I could hear her shrug over the phone line. Sometimes, things just don’t work. But most of the time, I just didn’t use enough shmaltz and she couldn’t help me with that.
My dad couldn’t help me either, except to tell me that I probably wasn’t using enough shmaltz – a fair assumption since I wasn’t using any. However, he did mention that the recipe was unique. My Zaidy’s mother was the one in the family who had made cabbage strudel. But Bubby never met her, never had the strudel – and unlike her mother in law, she was not Polish. Rather, her family was from further east. So,when Zayde asked her to make his mother’s dish, she made a cabbage strudel of her own invention.
With that clue, I tried a few new search terms. In return, Google gave me Hungarian Cabbage Strudel. The countries aren’t far apart on the map, but something clearly is lost in translation.
While my grandmother’s recipe called for soft dough, which could be pulled to translucence, it wasn’t flaky. The Hungarian recipes call for phyllo dough. The Hungarian recipes sometimes call for sugar. Bubby’s called for salt, with more salt if needed.
Then again, Bubby made the recipe up. So, I guess I’ll try the same – на здоровье or zdrowie – either way, it’ll hopefully be delicious.