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The Peacemaker

(by Jane Heller)

Mom wasn’t a cook—she had help for that, and she had her hands full trying to mother six kids–two from her marriage to my father, four with my stepfather. We were not a Brady Bunch-style sitcom, and the dinner hour often descended into arguments during which plates were left untouched and doors were slammed. Better to have Mom at the table mediating than in the kitchen frying, roasting, or baking.

But there was one dish she did make, on special occasions, and it was so delicious that it shut us up, tranquilized us, turned us all into compliant, grateful children. It was her stuffed cabbage, which was made with low-rent ingredients like Campbell’s tomato soup and Uncle Ben’s white rice; she was a product of the Depression who grew up in the Bronx, and she didn’t care about fancy, expensive foods.

She’d make it during the winter when we were craving hearty, comforting, stick-to-our-ribs dishes, and she’d plan ahead–cooking loads of it in a giant pot on