The problem with liking cabbage so much is that I often smell of it. Not the most charismatic way to start a column, I know, especially the first of the year – happy new year! – but it is the truth, and a significant part of my eating life. As a child, I discovered that liking cabbage carried a risk: that of being called smelly, although this didn’t stop me eating all my school lunch, then offering to finish my friend’s. Young trauma faded into twentysomething worries about my sulphurous hair, although this didn’t stop me eating the cabbage soup I prescribed myself. But then, in my early 30s, I found myself living in a building that, thanks to a trattoria serving a typically Roman and therefore cruciferous menu, smelled more strongly of cabbage (also of broccoli, chicory and spinach) than I did. It was like meeting a kindred spirit, only made of bricks and cement; I fitted right in.
I am exaggerating, of course – but only slightly. Our building is a cabbage and broccoli bong much of the time; the sulphurous scent hanging around the courtyard and communal stairwells like fruit flies around half a melon in high summer. The smell is not alone: the bread shop, the bar dispatching espressos, bins and various degrees of home cooking all compete for airspace. But the scent of cabbage prevails. And I like the pong as much as the flavour of this great, green vegetable named after a head, especially deep-green savoy, with its blasted leaves and tree-like rib that taste like chlorophyll, iron, mustard and nutty butter.