Sheep In Cabbage


I am making fårikål, a dish whose name has a kind of brutal literality, meaning "sheep in cabbage". It doesn't ring quite so harshly in Swedish, as we have no separate word for mutton, using the same word for the animal as for its meat. I'm making fårikål because I had it in Oslo a few weeks back when I happened to visit that city on the day following the great Sheep In Cabbage Day, which has been celebrated on the last Thursday of September since 1997. (Here's a basic recipe. Opinions differ as to whether you should use black pepper or allspice, and possibly add bay leaves and thyme.)


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I enjoyed trying to puzzle out that recipe! I suppose hodekål is cabbage? I'll bet it would be good with kale -- been eating a lot of kale lately. The inclusion of "kal" in both words intrigues me.

Well done! Norwegian hodekål means "head cabbage". The vegetable is called vitkål in Swedish, "white cabbage", while a head of cabbage is called ett kålhuvud. Sw. huvud = No. hode.

Hmm, seems to be cabbage season, so my version of Gruenkohl mit Wurst" was probably non-traditional due to the homemade smoked elk sausages.

Just had fårikål, the allspice variety. Surprisingly tasty, considering its rather bland looks. I could live without the ensuing flatulence, however.

*speechless with laughter*

I was going to make some innocuous remark about how delicious that looks, but #4 has just totally wiped out my thought process.

It seems quite a large quantity for 4 people, but maybe I'm not well calibrated. Or maybe that much cabbage explains the postprandial problem.

By John Massey (not verified) on 23 Oct 2011 #permalink

This dish seems to be identical to "Mutton" which can be found on all the Nort Atlantic Isles (and AUS/NZ).

Why, to make them fart?

By John Massey (not verified) on 23 Oct 2011 #permalink

Infidels! Fårikål has only salt and pepper in it, with a few good layers of cabbage and mutton. And salt. And a bit more salt. Boil for a couple of hours, until cabbage turns yellow. Drop in a few potatoes half-way through. Turn the weather down a notch (or four), and enjoy with some dark ale / lager. Oh, and fresh crusty bread with butter.

And to people like me, the flatulence doesn't become *more* of a problem ... :)

Here is the Norwegian who invented fårikål!
"Face-to-face with an ancient human"
And with a very low population density, flatulence was probably not seen as a problem. Wait, now I understand why some regions saw a dely in embracing farming as the main strategy: with these recipes anything that increased population density would be unwelcome.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 23 Oct 2011 #permalink

Ah, but that is the panadaptationist fallacy. Culture is in fact random. Nature selects.

Regarding flatulence: almost the only literary evidence for how ancient Greek triremes (warships with three levels of oars to a side) were built is a single mention in a comedy to the effect that when rowing a trireme, you would often get farted in the face by the guy on the bench above and in front of you.

Birger, they ate cormorants? I imagine the taste would be pretty strong and repugnant. Does anyone eat cormorants now, do you know?

By John Massey (not verified) on 24 Oct 2011 #permalink

Plus the height of the boy - he seems very short for 15 at 4'1", and these were hunter-gatherers. I was always short for my age until I was 16, and when I was 15 I was 5'4".

Something strange, unless the skull deformity was associated with some developmental problem, but it doesn't say so.

By John Massey (not verified) on 24 Oct 2011 #permalink

This is from research in "western Baltic" (Germany and Denmark)
"Ancient cooking pots reveal gradual transition to agriculture"…

--- --- --- ---
The Norwegian child was supposed to have been sickly, explaining his short stature. Cormorants? I suppose people will get used to anything if they are hungry.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 25 Oct 2011 #permalink

Yes, but later in the article it is questioned whether he could have been sickly because he was so physically robust. It puzzled me, that's all. It's a very small height for 15. I couldn't detect the reason they were assuming initially that he was sickly, or just assuming that because of his height. It becomes a circular problem - he was short because he was short. He got protein enough, I suppose, with that diet, which I presume was augmented with vegetable matter, nuts, fruit, berries, seeds, etc.

My daughter keeps asking me if you can eat penguins. But that's not because she is starving, she just thinks they look like they should taste nice. The advice I have received from a friendly marine biologist is "No!" He thinks they would be so foul and oily as to be inedible. Mind you I have heard of people eating raw seagulls, so I guess your point is the correct one.

By John Massey (not verified) on 25 Oct 2011 #permalink

Cormorants? Penguins? I'll fetch me plate! Well the Great Auk was hunted out for food round here in early modern times (the last one was beaten to death with a stick in 1842, by Hebrideans, who took it for a witch!), and there's moves afoot to suppress the immemorial hunting of fledgling gannets by the natives, out on the Isles.
Both prized for their fat content, a must in our vile climate. In the C16th "solan geese" (S. bassana again) from the Bass were a big treat for the Scottish Monarch and his toadies.They used to tuck the table-cloth into their collars, to catch the yummy grease.
If you go on Youtube you can find Hebridean wifies demonstrating the recipe for the guga. A lot of boiling, it seems ..

The sheepy-cabbage thing looks like standard peasant fare, in a kind of gourmet, high-density version. Round here it was what people ate day-in, day-out, as well as bere-bannocks and oatmeal porridge. Called "kale", as being I suppose slightly more impoverished than even their Scandy contemporaries, it was a soupier and more Brassica-heavy dish, kept almost permanently on the pot-hanger and adjuncts (braxy mutton, barley, (thieved) rabbits and birds) chucked in as available.

There's IIRC a good description in John Buchan's weird novel "Witch Wood". Welshies call it "cawl", same thing, despite the name it's got leeks in it nowadays, though. There's posh! Substitute pig for sheep and you're into French/German/Iberian trad. dishes. Swap out the cabbage for lentils, or millet, and we're off to similarly prehistoric stuff like Petit Salé or Ritschert.

Oooh. What've you done to me Martin?. Feeling right peckish now ..

By dustbubble (not verified) on 26 Oct 2011 #permalink

I think Viste boy had kin who seem to have bred and thrived.
As Barber said " .. he must have been muscular, quite simply a robust person,".
Members of the jury, on the basis of that reconstruction, I draw your attention to .. Wayne Rooney :P

By dustbubble (not verified) on 26 Oct 2011 #permalink

Thanks dustbubble - I'll tell my daughter, although they're notably bereft of gannets around her way. Plenty of black swans though...

Can't find much on Scaphocephaly, but it looks possible the boy could have been both robust and developmentally disabled in some way.

By John Massey (not verified) on 27 Oct 2011 #permalink