As the pandemic wears on, many housebound cooks are preparing favorite recipes that their mothers and grandmothers lovingly made for them – the very definition of comfort food.

Online examples abound. Mainers are re-discovering pea wiggle, shrimp wiggle and salmon wiggle – a regional favorite many moms in the Northeast once fed to small children. Home bakers are making stained glass cookies, usually a Christmastime treat.

For Laura Marie Chiavoli, one go-to pandemic dish is her eastern European grandmother’s golomkies, or cabbage rolls. One evening, when the stay-at-home orders were still new, she and her husband, Adam, were trying to decide what to cook for the week. She thought of the cabbage rolls because the dish leaves plenty of leftovers.

“It takes a while to cook them,” said Chiavoli, a Cambridge, Massachusetts resident and IT manager who normally spends weekends at her family’s home in York. Not these days, though. “It takes a couple of hours in the oven, but now that we’re home (in Massachusetts) and quarantined, there’s plenty of time to do that.”

Viola Wasel, Chiavoli’s paternal grandmother, was of Polish and Lithuanian descent; she came to America from Poland with her parents when she was “very, very young,” Chiavoli said. When Chiavoli was a girl, Wasel would make the cabbage rolls, pierogis, and other traditional Polish dishes for her. “She was so funny,” Chiavoli recalled. “She would shop around town for a ‘good’ cabbage. I always think of that when I’m looking at the cabbage in the supermarket.”

Just what was a good cabbage to her? “I don’t know,” Chiavoli said. “Maybe it had to be the right size.”


For Chiavoli, that translates into buying a big cabbage – one with leaves big enough to firmly encase the filling.

Serves 4-6

1 large cabbage
1 small onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 pound hamburger meat
1 egg, beaten
½ cup of cooked rice
1 can tomato soup

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Core the cabbage and add it to a pot of boiling water. Boil until almost soft. Remove the cabbage leaves and let cool. To make the filling, saute the onion in 1 tablespoon of butter until it softens but does not brown, then add the salt and pepper. Mix the raw hamburger meat, egg, cooked rice and sauteed onion together in a large bowl. One by one, fill the cabbage leaves with the mixture and roll them up. Place the rolls in a 13 X 9-inch glass baking dish. Pour the tomato soup over the rolls. Fill the can half way up with water, and pour that over the rolls, too. Cut up the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and dot them across the top. Bake the cabbage rolls for 2 hours.

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