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An Old Time Comfort Food- Slaw

We all know sauerkraut’s a German food, and frankfurters, wieners and hamburgers are named for German and Austrian cities, but what about sauerkraut’s cousin, cole slaw?

You’ll find cabbage salads wherever cabbage is grown, but English actually gets the name from the Dutch, who took the words from Latin.

Cole slaw is the anglicized version of the Dutch term koolsla, ‘cabbage salad’. Dutch tends to drop d’s between vowels, so ‘salada’ cooked down to sla, and kool is the Dutch version of the Latin word for cabbage. You may have seen the German version of the word in the department store name, Kohl’s, or the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The Germans just have to be different, and call such salads Krautsalat, even though Kraut refers to any leafy edible plant.

The word ‘salad’ goes back to Vulgar Latin salata, meaning ‘salted’. I myself don’t salt my lettuce, but what the Romans were referring to was veggies in general seasoned with brine or salty oil and vinegar. Whew! My lettuce is safe- although actually, cabbage salted and cooked with caraway seed’s pretty tasty too.

The Swedes often refer to theirs as pizzasallad - their pizzarias often serve it as a side with pizza, and voila, ‘pizza salad’. Which is not lettuce or cabbage (or mayonnaise) pizza, thank heavens.

The Poles have their own variety, suówka (‘raw’); they call the Anglo cole slaw with mayonnaise colesław, pronounced “ko-LEH-swaf” - and all thanks to the Dutch.


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