Berkeley resident Phil Narodick is seeking the person responsible for a familiar-smelling cabbage soup. (Courtesy photo)

I was far from the only one amused by a recent post I spotted on Nextdoor. On a site where my East Bay neighbors usually report and complain about crime, this particular post last month got people’s attention.

It began with all caps: “STOP STEALING MY CABBAGE SOUP RECIPE.” It went on to say, “Listen, my family claims cabbage. We’ve claimed cabbage since the shtetl in the old country — fermented cabbage, stuffed cabbage, cabbage soup, you name it, we f***in crush. My great-grandma crushed. My bubbie crushed. My father crushed. And among all that greatness, I may be the high water mark.”

The issue? While out walking his dog near his Berkeley home one night, Phil Narodick picked up on the scent of a cabbage soup that smelled just like his family’s. His post goes on to accuse a neighbor of stealing the recipe. “My nose doesn’t lie. You have my secret. I don’t know how.” To date, he hasn’t found the culprit.

At last count, the post got nearly 500 reactions and 176 comments. “Have mercy on those of us who didn’t have a bubbie!” one wrote. Others got nostalgic. “I haven’t made cabbage soup or stuffed cabbage in just about forever. Now, could you or your recipe thief please replicate the aroma in the elevator going up to my grandparents’ apartment in Stuyvesant Town?”

I knew I had to learn more about the man behind the post, so I asked Narodick if he’d speak to me. And as it turns out, this is not the first time he’s taken to Nextdoor to exhibit his quirky sense of humor.

“I have found the bar for people finding something funny on Nextdoor is the lowest of anywhere in the world,” he said.

Nor is it the first time the media has come calling as a result. In March 2020, Fox News saw his post asking meat-eaters to be more considerate and only grill vegetables so as not to upset the stomachs of vegan runners. That post, too, was meant as a joke, but you wouldn’t guess it from how the conservative website reported his post.

Originally from Seattle, Narodick, 36, works in the solar business and lives near the Ashby BART station. He is a vegan himself.

This is also not the first time he’s been interviewed about his food preferences. Last year he was interviewed by the popular food blog The Kitchn about how the residents of Fallopia, the cooperative household he lives in with his wife (a midwife) and several other adults, eat and live. They raise their own chickens and grow some of their own food, and he also forages for mushrooms.

Clearly, his feelings about cabbage run deep.

“Cabbage soup was one of those foods where, before you can really handle sharp-smelling things, I would walk into the kitchen and get hit with this wall of smell,” he recalled. “It would make me want to run the other way because it smelled so awful. But I’ve found that it’s generally those things I hated then that are now my favorite foods.”

Cabbage is indeed on his favorites list now.

“I’m always fermenting things and making stuffed cabbage,” he said.

When asked whether he was surprised by the lively debate that ensued from the recent post, given that the last post caused Fox News to come calling, he said he wasn’t. But what did surprise him was how many people sounded excited to try cabbage soup, or loved it as well.

“So many people said ‘I want that recipe’ or ‘We should have a cookoff,’” he said. “I would like to taste everyone in the East Bay’s cabbage soup.”

Narodick said he’d love to hear from other cabbage soup lovers. He can be found on Instagram.

A version of this story first appeared on J., the Jewish News of Northern California. Reprinted with permission.  

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Alix Wall is an Oakland-based freelance writer. She is contributing editor of J., The Jewish News of Northern California, for which she has a food column and writes other features. In addition to Berkeleyside’s...