artratcafe CAFE – Potatoes and Cabbage and Beets, Oh My…

artratcafe CAFE concludes our celebration of the vegetable with potatoes, cabbage and beetroot. In my British childhood my mum always made ‘Bubble and Squeak’ as  a Monday (laundry day) dinner. It used the leftovers from Sunday – spuds, cabbage and sometimes beets – whatever we hadn’t eaten from Sunday dinner – (Recipe at very end if you make it that far).  This post is again inspired by poets and writers, including: Leonard E. Nathan, Charles Dickens, Alexandra Paul, Carl Sandburg, Charles Simic and Tom Robbins; and also by visual artists who are given due credit at the bottom.

The Potato Eaters. Poem by Leonard E. Nathan.

Sometimes, the naked taste of potato / reminds me of being poor. / The first bites are gratitude, / the rest, contented boredom.

The little kitchen still flickers / like a candle-lit room in a folktale. / Never again was my father so angry, / my mother so still as she set the table, / or I so much at home.

“Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism, are all very good words for the lips”.   Charles Dickens.

“Meat is an inefficient way to eat. An acre of land can yield 20,000 pounds of potatoes, but that same acre would only graze enough cows to get 165 pounds of meat”.
Alexandra Paul.

Nocturne Cabbage by Carl Sandburg:

Cabbages catch at the moon.
It is late summer, no rain, the pack of the soil
cracks open, it is a hard summer.
In the night the cabbages catch at the moon, the
leaves drip silver, the rows of cabbages are
series of little silver waterfalls in the moon.

Cabbage by Charles Simic:

She was about to chop the head
In half,
But I made her reconsider
By telling her:
“Cabbage symbolizes mysterious love.”

Or so said one Charles Fourier,
Who said many other strange and wonderful things,
So that people called him mad behind his back,

Whereupon I kissed the back of her neck,
Ever so gently,

Whereupon she cut the cabbage in two
With a single stroke of her knife.

From Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins:

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.

Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.  The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip…  The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.  The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.”

“Nothing like a nice beetroot sandwich and a cuppa”  My Dad.


Artist Credits from top to bottom:

Potato Art by Giorgina Choueiri – / The Potato Eaters. 1885. by Vincent Van Gogh. – Van Gogh Museum. Amsterdam. / A Child Peeling Potatoes by Evert Pieters – / Cabbage Leaf. 1931. by Edward Weston. Silver gelatin photograph – / Bowler Cabbage – / Beetroot Print by Blaxill – / Beet Print by Ian Carr – / Beet Sandwich –

Phew! If you’ve made it this far you are a dedicated reader and are justly rewarded by this classic British BUBBLE AND SQUEAK RECIPE (named after the sound it makes while cooking). There is actually no specific recipe – it is simply a way of creatively using up whatever you have left from dinner. The major components are usually mashed potatoes (the glue holding all the other vegetables together) and cabbage.


  • 4 tbsp butter
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped
  • Leftover mashed potato
  • Any leftover vegetables, cabbage, swede, carrots, peas, Brussels Sprouts, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • In a large frying pan melt the butter, add the chopped onion and fry gently for 3 mins or until soft.
  • Turn the heat up slightly and add the mashed potato and vegetables. Fry for 10 mins turning over in the melted butter two or three times ensuring the potato and vegetables are thoroughly reheated plus you are aiming to brown the outside edges but not to burn the bubble and squeak.
  • Press the potato mixture on to the base of the pan with a spatula and leave to cook for 1 min. Flip over and repeat.
  • Serve.

An alternative is to mix the potato and vegetables and form into small patties then fry as above.

Bubble and squeak makes a lovely lunch with a fried egg on top.

34 thoughts on “artratcafe CAFE – Potatoes and Cabbage and Beets, Oh My…

    1. Hi Robin, nice to hear from you again. Have you been posting or have I somehow missed out? I need to explore what you’ve been up to. I’m sure that your visit to England filled you with more than Bubble and Squeak…


  1. A beetroot sandwich? Maybe I just have a hard time downing beets anyway but I will eat them for health’s sake.

    I recently told a few women that I ate potatoes and eggs for breakfast. They weren’t impressed and if only I could show you the expressions they gave me. But I have to say, I don’t think I’d try it again. I ate the potatoes for the iodine. Never been much of a potato eater unless it was sweet.

    I’d be willing to try Bubble and Squeak.


    1. Spuds and eggs are brilliant for breakfast, especially before a day of hard labour (not maternal!)- B and S is very British – consider the climate! When I lived in UK and played rugby against the Welsh on their home turf, I would home-stay with one of their team members. The Welsh family ate huge breakfasts consisting of spuds, meat, greens and gravy – it was a traditional and necessary prelude to another day down the coal mine…


  2. sounds a lot nicer than I remember! The Choueiri image of the spuds is a good one – we call them eyes after all. also love that cabbage leaf like gorgeous hair. I have enjoyed most of your veggies! great series of art and verse clinock.


  3. “The beet is the melancholy vegetable.” Beautiful. Also the observations about the sources of Slavic temperment. Re: Dickens and the “p-words”: sound techs have pop-screens they use with microphones, made specifically to lessen the impact of vocalizations made to pronounce the letter “p.” It’s kind of weird the first time they put this mesh screen in front of your mouth, but apparently articulated “p”s ruined a lot of recordings before they figured it out.


  4. Interesting post. Here in Ireland we have a variation of ‘Bubble and Squeak’. Flour is added to the mix to make it stick into cakes. We call them Potato Cakes and very nice they are too.


  5. I think my favourite was ““Nothing like a nice beetroot sandwich and a cuppa” My Dad.” 🙂 And I just love bubble and squeak – one of those dishes we don’t make often enough!


  6. I love beets. Never eat them. Don’t know why. Maybe time to start again. We had them from the garden in childhood. Loved your page of images and words. The Simic poem was stunning and Tom Wolfe’s paragraph equally rich. Well worth the read, look, listen. Thank you so much.


    1. Ah Steven, you are missing out on one of the most delicious treats the earth can provide – and so many ways to enjoy them – my favorite is pickled. Glad you enjoyed the post – you are most welcome – I have a lot of fun creating the artratcafe CAFE miscellanies…


    1. I have left a longer message on your blog but just to say again here that I am warmed and flattered by your words and am so happy that you have accepted the award…


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