Thursday, July 18, 2019

Word of the day: coleslaw

Is it one word, or two? Is cole a kind of slaw? Merriam-Webster has the word solid. The OED uses a hyphen. M-W’s recipe definition is a bit vague: “a salad made of raw sliced or chopped cabbage.” Lots of room for invention there. The OED is more definite: “sliced cabbage dressed with salt, pepper, vinegar, etc., eaten either raw or slightly cooked.” The word first appears in 1794, in the United States: “a piece of sliced cabbage, by Dutchmen ycleped cold slaw.” Yes, coleslaw comes to us from the Dutch koolsla, a reduced form of kool-salade. Kool is cabbage; salade is, well, obvious. The OED notes that “cold-slaw is a result of popular etymology.”

My definition of coleslaw: shredded cabbage, thin strips of carrot (cut with a peeler), red wine vinegar, mayonnaise, salt, cane sugar, and celery seed. There must be celery seed.

[Citation and etymology from the OED.]

comments: 5

MK said...

In German, cabbage is "Kohl." I don't know whether there is a Mennonite connection. They speak "Dutch" which actually means "Deutsch," i.e. German.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for that, Manfred.

I remember as a kid being intensely puzzled by the term “Pennsylvania Dutch.”

shallnot said...

How timely. I was cleaning out a bookshelf and stopped to browse:

Edna Staeber’s book, with the wonderfully Daniel Defoe-esque title, "Food That Really Schmecks; Mennonite Country Cooking as Prepared by My Mennonite Friend, Bevvy Martin; My Mother; and Other Fine Cooks" (1968)

Here’s what she, or the Kitchener, Ontario Mennoite community of the 1960s, has say on the matter:


"Not at all like the wretched sour stuff you get in most Canadian restaurants."

4 cups cabbage (after putting it through the food chopper)
1 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 cup thick sour cream
Salt and pepper

Put cabbage cabbage and onion through the food chopper, using a medium blade that won't extract the juice. [i.e. Shred the cabbage; don't grate it.] Mix the other ingredients together, pour the mixture over the cabbage and onion and combine them. Sprinkle with pepper. If you want more nip add a pinch of mustard [powder] or a teaspoon of horse-radish.

This salad goes quite a long way and is best eaten with a dinner.


Elaine said...

COLE crops are often referred to in gardening circles. Cruciferous vegetables seem to inspire both love and hate. As do celery seeds. My slaw has no sugar, no celery seeds, but some lime zest is a plus in this and other dishes!

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Steve and Elaine, for the coleslaw thoughts. If I were reading these comments and hadn’t just dispatched a head of cabbage, I’d make some coleslaw right now.