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Cabbage Rolls • Allison Goodings

Brett Rawson


From Curator Rozanne Gold: My assistant, Allison Radecki, was kind enough to share this wonderful handwritten story from her friend Allison Goodings. (Coincidentally, they have the same first name and spell it the same way, too.) They met each other in 2004 at Slow Food's first Terra Madre world conference of farmers and food communities in Turin, where 5,000 delegates from over 130 nations gathered. Allison R. was a first year student at Slow Food’s University of Gastronomic Sciences, which had just opened in the Piedmont region. Goodings was traveling around Europe and volunteered with the Canadian delegation at the Slow Food conference. Her recipe is authentically incomplete; it makes no mention of cabbage except in the title and is bereft of methodology. It is so succinct, it almost reads like a tweet! Here is where instinct and experience come into play. Thank you to both Allisons.    

Cabbage Rolls by Allison Goodings

I never planned to be a migrant. In early spring 2006, I packed my bags and headed to London "for six months," I told myself, my friends, my family, especially my mom. "I'll be back." I really believed that.

It'll be 10 years this April that I bid farewell to my beloved Canada. Now I am a Londoner, and I suppose, an immigrant. Historically, the story of immigrants was based on political unrest, poverty, and a chance for a better life. I could list none of these reasons as my own. My story is a privileged one.  Unlike many others, I was able to return to my homeland, to visit often, and to bring, over the years, the things I missed - a favorite book, a framed photograph, Grandma's crocheted cream blanket, a family recipe - to enjoy in my London home.  

On my mother's side, our family immigrated to Canada from Ukraine four or five generations before me which made us pretty darn Canadian. I wonder, what must my ancestors thought to bring on this journey. Very little I imagine. Of course there were memories, hopes, faith, traditions, and recipes to pack.

I have a little yellow spiral notebook that I have filled over the years with recipes, mostly copied from my own mother's notebooks, although not as neatly. As a teacher, her words were written precisely on lined pages, while mine are scrawled haphazardly, probably done in minutes before rushing to catch a flight back to London, or over the phone during one of our marathon mother-daughter conversations. These handwritten recipes would have been collected by my mother over the years, before the days of emails, iPad cooking apps and the Food Network. Likely, many of them copied from her own mother or one of my talented great aunts. 

The first third of my notebook is wildly optimistic and shows my youth, filled with carefully cut out recipes that I would never cook, from magazines and lifestyles I aspired to embrace. I flip through the book and recognize the early periods of cooking and eating in my life trials of vegetarianism and veganism, an early interest in dim sum and sushi, and myriad protein-rich recipes cut from fitness magazines. 

The latter pages are far less prescriptive, filled with my own handwriting; recipes I grew to miss the longer I lived away from Canada, family recipes I never knew I wanted to make. Many of them are Ukrainian dishes, made from ingredients I didn't see regularly in my new country.  These foods were still very foreign and strange to England, and I felt how my ancestors must have felt when they came to their new land.  

The recipes are mostly just lists of ingredients, with little explanation or instruction. The cabbage roll recipe makes no mention of cabbage except in the title, too obvious to be written down I suppose. These family classics, perohy, headcheese, dill pickles, kutia, borscht and cabbage rolls, are likely the same recipes that my Baba, three aunties and mother prepared for us at Christmas and Easter. I hope that others in my family, like me, have these recipes written down and kept somewhere safe, on pages filled not only with handwritten words but with stains of vinegar, smears of tomato juice, and dusty with flour from years of use.


Cabbage Rolls

1.5 c. rice (arborio)
2 c water 1 tsp salt

Cook 7-8 mins then add 1/2 c tomato juice & fried onions & bacon & pepper & paprika (1/2 thyme). Cook another 7-8 mins

Pack in casserole with 1/2 tin tomato soup.
Use extra leaves under & on top. Add a bit of water, cover with foil for 1.5 - 2 hrs 325F.