Cabbage Is Having a Moment

Cabbage Is Having a Moment

In a world in which it’s hard for a vegetable to get a break, cabbage is winning.

Cabbage has been a global culinary workhorse for centuries. (China grows the most; Russia eats the most.) It has fed generations of American immigrants. But now, a vegetable that can make your house smell like a 19th-century tenement has become the darling of the culinary crowd.

In the words of my mother-in-law: Cabbage, who knew?

Like so many American food trends, fancy cabbage dishes first started turning up in restaurants on the coasts a few years ago. But they are fast spreading across the country. One chef has compared this cabbage mania to the hoopla over bacon in the 1990s.

In Denver, Sap Sua sprinkles a charred cabbage wedge with anchovy breadcrumbs. Cabbage is bathed in brown-butter hollandaise at Gigi’s Italian Kitchen in Atlanta. At Good Hot Fish in Asheville, N.C., shredded green cabbage stars in a pancake punched up with sorghum hot sauce.

For a story in The Times, I spoke with farmers, chefs and food critics and ate cabbage in three cities, seeking to understand how the vegetable earned this moment in the spotlight. In today’s newsletter, I’ll explain what I found.

The trajectory of a food trend in the United States can sometimes be easy to trace. A French chef introduces the heavily salted butter caramels of Brittany to the elite of the American food world, pastry chefs at expensive restaurants start to play with the idea, and before you know it, you’re ordering a salted caramel cold brew from Dunkin’.

But tracking down Cabbage Zero, the one that started the current cruciferous renaissance, is not as easy as tipping a hat to Roy Choi for wrapping kimchi and bulgogi in a corn tortilla, thus kicking off the Korean taco craze.

Kimchi, whose main ingredient is cabbage, has helped the cause. Its meteoric rise among cooks and diners who weren’t raised in Korean households has been buoyed by the interest in all things fermented and gut-friendly (much to the chagrin of some purists, who hate what they refer to as “hipster kimchi”). There was even a spike in sauerkraut and kimchi sales when people thought fermented cabbage might ward off Covid.

Cabbage can also thank brussels sprouts, the gateway Brassica that worked its way onto menus after the chef David Chang started pan roasting it with bacon at Momofuku Noodle Bar in 2004.

None of this would be happening without farmers, of course. A decade or so ago, farmers who sell largely to restaurants began to grow more specialty cabbages, like the small, tender Caraflex, often called the conehead or arrowhead because of its pointy tip.

Chefs looking to create dishes for a new, plant-forward world discovered that coneheads looked gorgeous when quartered and sauced on a plate, and were easy to braise, roast or char.

The trend is still going strong. Leaves of purple cabbage are enlisted to swaddle mapo tofu at Poltergeist, the current culinary fascination in Los Angeles. At Superiority Burger in New York City, cabbage is gently enrobing sticky rice studded with tofu and braised mushrooms.

Of course, most of the cabbage Americans eat is still in the form of coleslaw or, to a lesser degree, sauerkraut. And the Department of Agriculture notes that the amount of cabbage Americans eat measured per capita is about six pounds. In 2000, it was closer to nine.

Still, among the food-forward, cabbage fever is rising.

“I think 2024 is going to be a really exciting year in cabbage,” the celebrity farmer Lee Jones, of the Chef’s Garden in Huron, Ohio, predicted.

Did Biden’s State of the Union address make the case to re-elect him?

Yes. Announcing his plan for a temporary pier in Gaza to deliver aid and reiterating the need for a two-state solution “may go a long way to alleviate the hesitation many voters feel about supporting Biden in November,” Roxanne Jones writes for CNN.

No. Biden’s address catered mostly to Democrats and antagonized Republicans, including some Supreme Court justices. “There was nothing here for Nikki Haley voters, or Republicans who don’t want a second Trump term,” The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board writes.

Emmanuel Todd is a celebrated academic who predicted the fall of the Soviet Union. Now he foresees the defeat of the Western order, Christopher Caldwell explains.

“Manifesting,” or the art of willing what you want into existence, deludes believers into thinking poverty is a choice, Tara Isabella Burton writes.

To reduce car accidents and protect deer, daylight saving time should become permanent, Laura Prugh writes.

Investment: Single women are buying houses — and learning how to profit more from them.

Thailand: Visit Lampang, which is off the normal tourism circuit.

Work Friend: Don’t drown in a dead-end job.

Vows: Their first attempt at a wedding was interrupted by the groom’s torn aorta, followed by open-heart surgery. So they tried again.

Lives Lived: Dr. Anthony Epstein’s research alongside his doctoral student Yvonne Barr uncovered the first virus found capable of causing cancer in humans, now known as Epstein-Barr. Epstein died at 102.

I spoke with the actor Jeremy Strong about life after HBO’s hit series “Succession” and his role in a new Broadway adaptation of playwright Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People.”

Now that you’ve had the experience of being in a zeitgeist-y show with “Succession,” how are you thinking about the balance between what you want to achieve artistically and moving forward careerwise?

I’ve always been interested in stories that are rooted in our world and the times we live in. Not necessarily because I’m the most conscientious citizen; it’s because that is the terrain where the greatest stakes are and the greatest drama is. Maybe those things will be good for my career.

May I ask a broader question about actors? I’ve done these interviews with Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman. I often ask about how they manage their career.

Do you find that people give a disingenuous answer?

I don’t know if I would say disingenuous, but almost everybody gives a version of an answer that is similar to the one you gave: I want to do the work I feel good about, and if there’s overlap between that and the career goals, then that’s great. But you don’t Forrest Gump your way into a degree of success that puts you in the 1 percent of actors.

That’s true. It’s very intentional.

So then why do actors seem to not want to talk about that? Is it gauche?

Can I give you a very Jeremy Strong answer?

Aren’t all the answers Jeremy Strong answers?

They are. There’s this wonderful book by Alma Mahler Werfel. She was with Mahler and Klimt. She wrote that she observed this ongoing tension between what she called the loving soul and the calculating soul. The calculating soul only led so far. So there’s a desire in me and maybe in others to align with only that other part of myself.

Slowing down: Cal Newport offers life hacks for producing high-quality work while working less.

“3 Shades of Blue”: A new book examines the lives of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Bill Evans — and the album they made.

Our editors’ picks: “Ordinary Human Failings,” about an ambitious London tabloid reporter and a murdered child, and eight other books.

Times best sellers: “Burn Book,” Kara Swisher’s look at the tech industry, debuts on our hardcover nonfiction best-seller list.

Grow citrus indoors.

Learn how to photograph a solar eclipse. (There’s one on April 8.)

Try a juicer.

  • Daylight Saving Time started today.

  • The Academy Awards ceremony is this evening.

  • Ramadan is expected to begin this evening.

  • Georgia, Mississippi and Washington have primary elections on Tuesday. Hawaii’s Republican caucus is also on Tuesday.

  • The European Union is expected to vote on A.I. regulations on Wednesday.

  • Russia’s presidential election begins on Friday. Vladimir Putin is running as an independent, instead of as the leader of his party, United Russia. He’s still expected to win.

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