A Grandmother’s Cabbage Soup Starts with Vegetable Scraps

Apparently, the internet wants more content from grandmothers

Photo was taken by the author

One of my granddaughters remarked she had been reading recently that the internet needs more content from grandmothers. She heard this comment regarding Tiktok but felt it generally applied to the internet. She said that people in her generation would benefit from mature, grounded, wholesome grandmother — wisdom. Especially grandmothers’ cooking. After that discussion, I found several articles in the New York Times about it, too. So, I said to myself, I can fill that need.

I’m not sure what it means, though. For my grandchildren, it would have to be something vanilla, definitely without mention of my sex life or any kinky habits. They probably don’t want me spouting poetry, either. So, what to do? For starters, I will talk about cabbage soup—a nice, warm, good-for-you thing to talk about. Kind of like grandmothers, right?

And I suppose that a picture of vegetable scraps is appropriate, as well. Grandmothers can be scrappy and diverse and maybe fragmented, but they make good stock? I might be reaching here.

So I want to tell you about the cabbage soup I made this morning because I was feeling a bit miserable with a sore throat and after-effects of Covid (‘under the weather’ is one grandmotherly phrase). When I think about making cabbage soup these days, I think about making some vegetable broth first. The vegetable broth has just the right flavor to highlight the other ingredients. When craving cabbage soup, I am looking for vegetables — the colors, flavors, and nutrients in a whole bunch of vegetables. Right away, I head for the freezer and the big container where I keep my stash of veggie scraps. My husband asks, did my mother do that? Well, I don’t know that she did, but she saved scraps of gravy and leftover vegetable juices to make her unrivaled gravy, which is the same idea. Grandmothers do this kind of thing, saving little bits and pieces instead of throwing them out. We try to make something from nearly nothing.

I collect carrot peels, celery scraps, mushroom stems, parsley stems, and bits of trimmings from tomatoes or anything that would go into a vegetable broth. Not cabbage family scraps, as they would be too overpowering. I am creative and find all sorts of useful things when I clean my refrigerator. I collect these scraps and, once they are frozen, press them down with my hand to compact them and repeat until I fill my container. Then it’s time to make broth. First, check the refrigerator, the onion bin, and the garden for fresh things that need using up. Half an onion, some wilted celery, or mushrooms. I saute them in the big soup pot in a little olive oil until they wilt a bit. Then add the whole container of frozen scraps, some peppercorns, a bay leaf, and some dried thyme or rosemary. Sometimes I add dried mushrooms, whole garlic cloves, and a little salt. Fill the pan with water to cover the vegetables. Bring this to a boil, cover, turn the heat down and simmer for 30 mins. At this point, I might add a half cup of white wine and cook another fifteen minutes. Then cool and strain. With all the different ingredients, this broth has a rich complex flavor that is hard to describe. But it is delicious. Most importantly, only add enough water to cover the vegetables available, or the broth will not be flavorful enough.

Now to make the soup. First, I chop a large onion and saute it in olive oil. Then add a chopped carrot or two, a few stalks of celery chopped, and several chopped garlic cloves, and cook for a few minutes. I do most of this chopping in the processor, so it is easy. Now, cut a small cabbage into rough cubes with a large knife(I find the texture better if it is chopped instead of shredded — fits on your spoon neatly). Add to the pot and stir for a few minutes to wilt. Then add 8 cups of vegetable broth, some celery salt, ground black pepper, and a sprinkle of thyme or other herbs you like or have on hand. Bring all this to a boil, cover, and turn the heat down to keep it simmering for about 40 mins or until the vegetables are soft. It will be delicious this way. Taste it to correct the seasoning.

Yesterday I also added a can of chopped tomatoes and some small white beans I had cooked separately. If you have a family that needs meat, add some cooked sausage, pieces of ham, or small meatballs. And I recommend serving it with toasted baguette slices and grated Parmesan cheese. This soup is a good choice when you need something hot and full of nourishing ingredients and savory flavors. I must have been craving vegetables while I was cooking. Over and over again, I filled a small cup with a sample and slurped it down. (Another thing some grandmothers do — we flaunt proper table manners.) I hope you will make yourself some cabbage soup this week. If you want to start small, buy some vegetable or chicken broth and use that. Just doing a little something good for yourself will improve the day.

So, that’s it for today, folks. Tune in here for more mature, wholesome grandmotherly wisdom. I will do my best to keep it clean.

Jean Anne Feldeisen is a practicing psychotherapist, a grandmother, and a writer.  Her poetry has been published in “The Hopper” and “Spank the Carp.”  Her first poetry chapbook, Not All Are Weeping, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag Publishing Company in the spring of 2023.   Follow her at jeanfeldeisen.com

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Published by Jean Anne Feldeisen

I was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey to Mildred Shropshire and Theodore Felsberg Jr. I was raised in Galloway Township and graduated from Oakcrest High School in southern New Jersey in the Sigma 67 Class in 1967. I attended Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA, and graduated from Stockton University in Galloway, NJ, in 1974 with degrees in Philosophy, English Literature, and (almost) music. After that, I taught piano to local children and adults in the 70s and 80s, had a catering business, "Jean's in the Kitchen," from 1980 to 1992, then went to graduate school at Rutgers Camden to obtain my Masters's Degree in Social Work. Since 1996 I have worked as a therapist and counselor, first in New Jersey for five years and then, when our family moved to Maine, in Augusta, Maine, for five years. For the past 17 years, I have had a private psychotherapy practice in Gardiner, Maine, During the pandemic, I packed up and moved my office home to Washington, Maine. On the year of my seventieth birthday, I decided to write and self-publish a memoir about our parents' World War II romance, Dear Milly. I began blogging on Medium in earnest in 2020 and have posted more than 265 stories, including a block of stories about my catering career which I hope to turn into a book in the next year. I have been writing and collecting poetry since childhood but never showed it to anyone. Recently, I learned how valuable it could be to join a group for feedback and support for my writing. I have taken several courses and written many poems, and recently had several poems accepted for publication. Off in a new direction, again.

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