The Literary Cabbage

comments (7) July 29th, 2008

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Click To Enlarge Photo: Bill Tarpenning, U.S. Department of Agriculture

by Michele Anna Jordan
October 1997
from issue #11

From philosophy to fantasy to film, the humble cabbage appears in literature more often than in many kitchens. For two 16th century writers—François Rabelais, the satirist, and Michel de Montaigne, the first essayist—cabbages and contentment went hand in hand: Rabelais observing in Gargantua and Pantagruel, “Oh thrice and four times happy those who plant cabbages!” and Montaigne musing in Essays, “I want death to find me planting my cabbages.”

Probably the most quoted literary cabbage is from 1872 in Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter”:

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”


A few years later, in Pudd’nhead Wilson, Mark Twain made the trenchant observation that “Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.”

But it’s in our own century that cabbage enjoyed its true 15 minutes of fame, winning an Oscar! Well, sort of. In The Best Years of Our Lives—the best picture of 1946—a young World War II sailor who lost both hands in battle and had them replaced with hooks, cheerily counts the money in his wallet, “Two hundred leaves of cabbage—that’s what I get every month from old Mr. Whiskers from now on.” How curious, the Walrus might’ve said, that a 16th century symbol of happiness turned into a 20th century metaphor for money.


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Comments (7)

AlvinTaylor writes: Superbbbbbb..
Posted: 1:36 am on March 23rd
DawnWarner writes: Really nice
Posted: 5:51 am on March 8th
RaulBurke writes: Love it
Posted: 3:13 am on March 7th
perryjames writes: awesome...
Posted: 12:44 am on February 2nd
Hettieroche writes: Well done mate
Posted: 5:30 am on January 13th
jackiewatson writes: impressive work mate
Posted: 6:34 am on December 29th
johanstill writes: this is good for health.....
Posted: 1:21 am on September 21st
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