My hands are in it, squeezing the salt into the cabbage, crushing the squeaky shredds to start the fermentation process when my mind takes a wander. . .or is it my body? I become aware in that moment, watching the muscles in my own fingers working in the worn stone crock, of the many hands that must have prepared the kapusta for winter storage over the generations of my mother's maternal side of the family. I can almost picture the hands, all shapes and sizes, working just as I am now. I enjoy bread making in much the same way, kneading the product with strong hands and love and knowing I am making something that will nourish family.
My grandmother was born in America, of Polish immigrants, farmers, and squeezing cabbage was surely not the hardest work any of those hands had seen. I wonder for a moment about the generations of family who I will never meet and if they enjoyed this process as a tradition, a promise of a winter feast, or if it was merely a chore, with a 'Cabbage is better than none.' mentality, but that thought passes and I sink back into the work, and press the cabbage firmly, now packing it tight and watching the water rise to the top. It has begun. I tuck large clean leaves on top, weight them down and cover the crock with a cloth.
Then, I wait. My hands no longer in the crock, but still in the family.