Slovenian Coleslaw

Were you born in a barn?

No, seriously… were you?  If so, I’d love to talk with you and learn more about the lives of people who were born in barns.  In my very suburban upbringing, I did not have much of a frame of reference for barns, and I was raised with a very one-dimensional view of people who were born in them. According to my Grandma, they all adhere to the same three stereotypes.

People who were born in barns:

  1. Don’t pull sliding glass doors closed all the way when entering or exiting the house.
  2. Don’t care about or understand the cost of air conditioning.
  3. Don’t mind insects flying around their homes.

Imagine being an eight year-old girl, struggling to wrangle two Cabbage Patch kids and your sweaty can of off-brand diet cream soda, sliding open the glass door to Grandma’s kitchen on a steamy July day, only to be greeted by a cacophony of adults screaming “were you born in a barn?” My Grandma had several weird catchphrases that she used regularly, but none was as frequently invoked and borrowed by as many family members as this one.  It is a really weird and inefficient way to tell a kid that they forgot to pull the door shut behind them.

But you know what?  Just like kids that are bullied sometimes grow up to bully other kids, and freshman who were hazed by their fraternity brothers age into people who haze underclassmen, I turned into someone that at some point asked my younger siblings and cousins if they were born in a barn.  I’m ashamed to admit this, but these very words were on the tip of my tongue when my five year-old nephew recently left a sliding glass door open.  BUT I TOOK A SECOND TO THINK ABOUT IT AND KNEW THAT A KINDERGARTNER WOULD NOT UNDERSTAND THE POINT OF MY QUESTION.  I am not going to be responsible for subjecting another generation to strange rhetorical questions when I could instead just remind them to please pull the door shut.  Sorry Grandma, but IT STOPS HERE.

All this to say: it is still really, really insufferably muggy outside.  In trying to simply survive the humidity I’ve run out of good summer memories and instead, things like this one are popping into my mind.  Whether you were born in a barn or not, I figured you could use another tasty no-cook, no-mayo summer dish, this one courtesy of The Slovenian-American Table, published in 2015 by the Slovenian Union of America and available for purchase here.

The Slovenian-American Table

I enjoy the organization of this cookbook, because it is structured based on the seasons and holidays throughout the year.  This recipe is from the “Family Picnic” section.  I made a few changes based on what ingredients I had on hand, and have noted those below.  I strongly recommend making this in advance and letting it sit in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours or longer, as the flavor and texture improve with time!

Coleslaw (Zeljeva solata)

*Google tells me that the word for cabbage is “zelje,” so I assume this to mean “cabbage salad”)

I used half a head of cabbage that I sliced very thinly by hand, which yielded about double what this recipe indicates (6 cups vs. 3), so I doubled everything listed below.

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pimento (I omitted this)
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated onion (I love onions so instead used half an onion, sliced thin)
  • 3 tablespoons oil (I used olive oil; the original calls for Mazola Salad Oil)
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • 3 cups cabbage
  • 1/4 cup green pepper, chopped (I used a banana pepper, sliced thinly, since it’s what I had.  It added a nice kick!)
  • Sliced olives, optional

Place all but the cabbage and pepper in a large bowl and whisk together.  Add cabbage and pepper and mix well.  Chill thoroughly.  Garnish with sliced olives (which I also omitted).

The seasonings in the dressing (and my addition of a banana pepper) give this a slightly spicy kick, which we really enjoyed in my house.  Perfect for an end-of-summer picnic or cookout, or to just enjoy in the air-conditioned comfort of your home this weekend.  Whatever you do, be sure to pull the door closed behind you, okay?

slovenian coleslaw

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