Grandma’s Coleslaw

In the post-parental-divorce aftermath, my father (with whom I lived) felt it important that my maternal grandparents remain a presence in my life, and as such, they were frequent guests in our home. I may well have seen Grandma and Pop-Pop in the company of my father as much as in the company of my mother (although I didn’t live with mom, I spent at least one day a week with her).

In any case, it must not have been easy to host your former in-laws in your home, so making conversation, I’m sure, was quite an art. Grandma and Pop-Pop probably felt equally unsure, so there was a lot of talk of weather, traffic, and of course, food. Never one to go to someone else’s house empty-handed (something ingrained in me and foreign to my husband, but that’s another subject), Grandma would usually bring a side dish or a dessert with her when they came for dinner.

About 17 years ago, when I moved into my first apartment, Grandma gave me a pad of hand-written recipes. Included was (and I quote) “Grandma’s Coleslaw.” I’m sure she included this because my father had raved about this coleslaw so often and so loudly. I mentioned this to my father recently and he said “I sure got a lot of mileage out of liking that coleslaw.”


So, for your info and entertainment, I bring to you this recipe as written by Grandma, who left us in 2007 at the age of 90.  I make this several times every summer, tweaking each time, mostly in preparation methods, not in ingredients.  It was written in all caps – not all of her recipes were, so I bring it to you as intended:




That’s it. No measurements, no portions, no real advice. So, I have, over time, learned some things about preparation through trial and error.

For the veggies

First, I use the food processor to prepare the cabbage, carrot, and onion. I use slicing discs for the cabbage and carrot, and then just chop the onion using the blade. you may also use a grater to grate the onion – the point is you don’t want to get a bite-sized piece of onion. I have also used green shallots instead of onion just for grins because my local produce market has them.

Next, Cook’s Illustrated has developed a method of salting, draining, and rinsing the cabbage/carrot/onion so that the slaw is less watery. I will not include those directions here, because I didn’t develop them and don’t own them. I recommend you join and search on “coleslaw.”

For the dressing

I use apple cider vinegar instead of plain ole white distilled to take some edge off. Also, I mix all the dressing ingredients separately to taste before adding to the veggies. As to proportion, depending on how much cabbage we’re talking about, I’d say between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of mayo, and then between 1.5 tsp and 1 tbs of vinegar (again, to taste). Oh, and I shouldn’t have to say this, but unless you make your own mayo, the only mayonnaise to use is Best Foods/Hellmann’s; don’t even think about that Miracle Whip crap. Grandma herself will come back to haunt you.

Finish off with the celery seed and celery salt in the dressing before you mix w/cabbage. Because you are using celery salt, there is no need for regular salt, and it’s these two ingredients that make the difference, in my opinion. Also, you’ll note there’s no sugar! I cannot tell you how disappointed I am when I eat coleslaw that’s been sweetened. YUCK!


1 thought on “Grandma’s Coleslaw

  1. Pingback: Grandma’s Zucchini Rounds | Allegro Con Brio

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