I told my dad I am gonna make sauerkraut and my dad, who is Lithuanian like me, said you mean fermented cabbage and I said yeah to which he said your cabbage might not speak German, keep it simple. I said ok, I will.
The first important thing in making fermented cabbage is to choose a good cabbage head. My dad said go to the shop, look at them, go to the other shop, look at them, perhaps go to the third shop before you come back to the first one just to look at them again. Inspect the colour, the weight and finally knock on the heads, see if they make a good sound. I asked what’s the good sound and my dad said it sounds good, you know. I said I know.
I called my dad again a couple of days later and said I found my cabbage head, it sounds beautiful. To which my dad said, wait, what’s the moon now? I said it’s cloudy in Glasgow, I can’t see it. He said wait.
A week later, when the moon was right I got around to making my fermented cabbage. Firstly I cut my cabbage head in half and it finally revealed itself. There was more cabbage inside. I took one half and sliced it thinly as I was told. I added one grated carrot as I was told. I sprinkled some caraway seeds, added some sugar, added some salt and massaged my cabbage thoroughly, again as I was told. I put all that in a two litre jar and placed it in a dark cupboard.
I called my dad and asked what now. My dad said it is going to come alive. I didn’t know what to expect. The next day I opened the cupboard while I was doing dishes, I thought the sound of running water would be soothing for the occasion of becoming alive.
Part of the process of making fermented cabbage is stabbing it with a stick to release the gas which accumulates in the process of fermentation. For my jar I used a chopstick to do the job. My dad uses the other end of the broom for his barrel of fermented cabbage.
My fermented cabbage was ready a few weeks later . It was crunchy and not too sour. I called my dad to say thank you, it is delicious, he said thank your cabbage head. And I said thank you to the cabbage head too. I wanted to share the funny story a Bavarian man told me last year, but all I could remember was that there were cabbage heads and a farmers’ protest in the 70s, so I didn’t tell him that, instead I said speak to you soon.
Ieva Grigelionyte is Lithuanian artist currently living and working in Glasgow, UK. She is intrigued by the meal as a complete social phenomenon which links nature, culture and the human body. To unfold these ideas further Ieva employs taste as her artistic medium. Her research includes studies on eating, appetite, disgust and other ideas which tap into the magical realness of food.