Meatballs - American Style

Vol. 7 No. 1 - 1995

Tales from Kinnego

Meatballs - American style

by Leslie Grayson

During World War II American troops came to Northern Ireland and some were stationed at Woodville Camp on the Lough Road in Lurgan. An advance party preceded the main contingent.

They had only been there a few days when a large American army lorry stopped at our yard gate. Two soldiers alighted, entered the yard and headed straight for our back door. They knocked and my mother who had observed them approaching as the dogs had barked the minute they set foot on our property, went to the door.

One said, "Ma'am, have you any cabbages?" Mother replied, "We have -but only enough for our own use." "But, Ma'am, we only want the outside leaves of the cabbages."

So, my mother took them round to the vegetable patch in the back garden where the two Americans showed her that indeed they only wanted the outer leaves of the cabbage plants. She told them to take whatever leaves they wanted and all told they took some-thing over one hundred leaves, leaving healthy, hearted, usable cabbages still growing.


It was then that Mother, out of curiosity, asked what they did with the leaves and they explained the procedure in the cook house. The cabbages were first of all steamed to make them pliable. Minced meat, mixed with seasoning was prepared and shaped into balls, each one of which was then wrapped in a soft cabbage leaf. A large pan was prepared. Vegetables were put in the bottom, then a layer of the wrapped meat balls came next and lastly a layer of sliced raw potato. It was cooked slowly in the oven. The soldiers said it was delicious and a favourite meal of the troops, as well as being easy to serve since each meat ball was an individual helping.

When the two had collected and bagged their leaves they wanted to pay for them but Mother would not accept anything and said that she was glad to be of help. So off they went.

About twenty minutes later the same lorry returned and stopped at the yard gate again. One of the two soldiers got out carrying a large brown paper bag in his arms and again came to the back door. Mother came out, wondering why he had returned. He presented her with the large, heavy parcel he was carrying and said, "Please accept this as a thank-you Ma'am''.

Nearly forgotten fruits

He disappeared quickly and it was only when she set the bag on the kitchen table and looked inside that she discovered it was full of all kinds of nearly forgotten fruits - bananas, oranges, grapefruit, red apples; things we hadn't seen since the war began. It was a real treat for the whole family.

That was the only occasion that those two Americans came to Kinnego, but in the following months we often had groups of two or three Americans visiting us for supper in the evenings. They would tell about life in their part of America and about their families. At times some of them sat quietly at the big dining room table writing letters home.

The D Day invasion of Europe by the Allies brought all of this to an end of course. One evening as I was cycling home to Kinnego I saw American vehicles - Lorries, jeeps etc., parked along the length of Lough Road and by the next morning, they, with their American soldiers had left Lurgan.