Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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She knew from the smell when she opened the front door that her mother was cooking cabbage rolls again. The hallway and the stairwell smelled heavily of cabbage when she came home from school. For her it was the reassurance of a meal to eat, but for others who visited her after school it was foreign. They always asked when they arrived at the landing in front of her upstairs apartment, “What is that smell?” Her parents were both from Poland, and her mother was an excellent cook. She used cabbage almost every day because it was cheap and healthy. Audrey was both proud and ashamed of her heritage and her ethnic diet at home. She wanted to blend in with kids at school who ate much differently than her family. Her mom was really the one with the mad chef skills, but she was ashamed of that cuciferous odor coming from the kitchen all the time.
Her home and the family income were average for the time and the place. Audrey felt that she and almost everyone she knew in school would be classified as “middle class”. There were fewer class distinctions in elementary school than there would be later in life. She had friends, boyfriends, and was popular. In the 1950’s in our tiny town the children were given relative freedom to do as we pleased until dinner time. Friendships that began on the whiffle ball field or in a snow fort would often conclude with an invitation to eat dinner at another kid’s home. Most mothers would consent if an extra child was brought home, but permission had to be granted from the visitor’s parents. In this way we checked out each other’s family dining habits and parental norms. It was a very common practice. She held back from accepting invitations because she did not want to reciprocate. This was the beginning of her social withdrawal.
Now that she is back at home taking care of her parents in their home she wishes she had learned to make stuffed cabbage the way her mom did. She is an adequate cook, but does not know any of her grandparents’ traditional recipes from the old country. She buys frozen foods and prepared packaged meals. A certain amount of guilt consumes her as she spoon feeds frozen corndogs to her mom. She does not understand what her mother is telling her in Polish, and she feels a loss that cannot be recovered.
The famous British naval captain James Cook lived from 1728-1779. He was in command of the HMS Endeavor sailing in 1768 to Tahiti to investigate the Venus transit and explore. On board he stocked 7,860 pounds of sauerkraut for the voyage. He devised a system to keep the crew healthy that promoted new practices on board ship for the British Navy. The crew was required to exercise on deck in the fresh air daily, and wash themselves and their property. In addition to the hygiene regulations Captain Cook fed the entire crew sauerkraut and lime juice regularly. Those serving in The Royal Navy are still known today by the nickname Limeys because of the Cook cure for scurvy. He stopped at any port where he could purchase fruits and vegetables to include in the crew’s diet. Since his voyages were much longer than any that had been attempted he brought sauerkraut to fill the long gaps without fresh produce. At first the sailors were refusing to eat the kraut, so he used an old trick. He served the sauerkraut only to officers until the sailors saw it as a desirable addition to the diet. The ship’s medical doctor used cabbage as a poultice on wounds to avoid gangrene. Cabbage truly saved the day.
Although the discovery and isolation of vitamin C as a nutrient was not made until 1932 sea captains had been experimenting with dietary changes to avoid the dreaded problem of scurvy at sea for many years. Cabbage contains vitamin C but the fermentation process releases extra C, creating a true superfood. Sauerkraut made long voyages at sea possible without risking the lives of the crew and passengers. This regimen changed the world and man’s ability to explore it. Today there is a renewed interest in raw fermented foods. The health benefits of eating probiotic foods are becoming more widely known. There are many people interested in reviving this valuable art of food preservation. In the 1700’s sauerkraut made the world smaller. Today the same fermented cabbage has the potential to make the world much healthier.