this cabbage needs a dress

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thédechine

Senior Member
Italiano
Does the cabbage need a dressing?
The speaker is a maid and she is cooking, of course.

‘You’ve got dried bread and herring until I've finished all my dishes - Madame Marin
insists. This cabbage needs a dress.’

Source: The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton
 
  • Sparky Malarky

    Moderator
    English - US
    Yes. I will admit that I've never heard it phrased this way before, but maybe it's more common in British English. However, "this cabbage needs to have a dressing made for it" is the only possible interpretation.
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    Hello thedechine, enough of the text is available on the internet - seek, and ye shall find ;) - to see the wider context, but even so, I'm none the wiser. We don't usually put "a dressing" on cabbage, though that could depend on how the cabbage is presented and on local culinary custom.

    It could be understood loosely to mean that the cabbage needs to be prepared in such a way as to make it presentable or appetising or appealing, in the same way that when a woman puts a dress on, it is often considered that her appearance is more presentable.
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    Yes we do, but that usually contains more than cabbage alone - maybe carrot, onion, anything else loitering in the salad compartment of the fridge. I must say I - probably erroneously - jumped to the conclusion that the cabbage was going to be cooked. :eek:
     

    thédechine

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    Hello thedechine, enough of the text is available on the internet - seek, and ye shall find ;) - to see the wider context, but even so, I'm none the wiser. We don't usually put "a dressing" on cabbage, though that could depend on how the cabbage is presented and on local culinary custom.

    It could be understood loosely to mean that the cabbage needs to be prepared in such a way as to make it presentable or appetising or appealing, in the same way that when a woman puts a dress on, it is often considered that her appearance is more presentable.
    That is what I originally thought… :) :(
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The novel is set in the seventeenth century, in Amsterdam.
    The author is seeking to represent the period by using out-dated English.
    Although there is a relevant meaning in the OED for "dress" (verb), there is no mention of an equivalent "dress" (noun).
    To prepare for use as food, by making ready to cook, or by cooking (also intr. = passive); also, to season (food, esp. a salad).

    So I suggest that the cabbage needs to be dressed, with the above meaning, and that the original usage is a mistaken attempt to sound like seventeenth century Dutch by way of English :)
     
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