Munching raw cabbage was a part of my childhood and my children’s childhood. The mother or aunt or elder cousin would be sitting with a large thaal and a sharp knife, and the all important cabbage. I was fascinated by an aunt’s technique. She used to cut a whole cabbage into really fine shreds using the edge of a steel tumbler. (I digress: ‘steel ka gilaas’ as opposed to ‘kaanch ka gilaas-a glass made of steel, not a glass glass! Sounds pretty mad). Chopping boards were not part of the kitchen scene in those days. All good housewives in our community at least had knife scars on their cutting thumbs!
Whatever the chopping technique used, begging for raw cabbage or swiping it from the person cutting it was an integral part of childhood. (My younger son would add salt, chilli powder and lime juice, concocting his own version of kimchi). If one was feeling particularly civilized, a small bowl or katori was brought from the kitchen for the shredded cabbage. If one was a more normal kid, the preferred technique consisted of swiping a handful and running off, and getting yelled at in the process. It was part of the fun.
But, now that our world has become even filthier than it used to be, raw cabbage is no longer safe to eat. I personally know of two people who have had tape worm larva infestation in the brain, brought on by eating raw cabbage. Vegetarians are no longer immune. The gory details are in the excerpt below. I do the cooking in my house, and find it so difficult to shred a cabbage without keeping some aside to eat raw. Another one of life's simple pleasures bites the dust.....
This article is from The Tribune, Chandigarh, May 2006
Cases of tapeworm infection on rise
By Rashmi Talwar
There has been an alarming rise in the number of tapeworm infection cases in the city in the recent months.
The disease manifests itself in epilepsy-like seizures when the worm settled in the brain releases certain toxins, causing severe trauma to the patient.
According to Dr Prabjit Singh, a neurologist with Escorts Multi-Speciality Hospital and Adlakha Hospital, 2-3 cases were being reported in both these hospitals daily.
The neurologist said he had treated almost 100 cases in the last six months. The medication for the disease needed to continue for two years to eradicate the worm from the body, he added.
The worm completes its cycle in the pig. The faecal matter or stool of pork/ pig-meat consumer carries the worm to the sewerage. The water contaminated by this kind of sewerage disposal is mostly used to irrigate fields. The worm then settles in vegetable leaves.
The neurologist, who had undertaken research in this field in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, says, “Cabbage is the most vulnerable to house this worm. Since the vegetable is used in raw in salads and fast foods much washing, the worm continues to subsist in its womb.
The consumer of the infected cabbage thus gets infected when the worm lodges itself in the intestines, he adds.
“The worm can also affect any and multiple muscles in the body and cause seizures, frequent headaches and loss of vision when lodged in the eye. The disease is referred to as Nuero-Cysti-Cercosis (NCC) in medical terms, which also manifests itself as frequent body aches and swellings under the skin.”
The life cycle of the worm can only be cut by controlling the population of pigs, hygienic disposal of faecal waste and checking samples of pork sellers, say experts.
The farmers too need to be made aware of not irrigating their fields with untreated water, they add.