From 1855: Cold Slaw


Okay, so remember back when I made cherry jam and I told you we’d talk about 1855 another day? No? That’s okay. But, let’s talk about 1855 now!

I think it’s important when talking about history to understand that remembering the bad things is just as important as remembering the good. Sometimes, people or cultures or countries don’t want to remember the bad parts of their histories. Maybe there was a lot of violence. Maybe there is embarrassment over how and why horrible things were allowed to happen. Maybe people just feel like forgetting is the best way to move on. It’s so important, though, to learn about, discuss, and debate about the bad parts of history so we can understand how to keep them from happening again.

That being said, you can probably surmise that a lot of negative things happened in 1855. Yes. For starters, a number of wars were underway between American settlers and Native Americans. For some reason, in learning about American history, what happened to Native Americans is always glossed over, it seems. But, from the beginning of European settlement on the North American continent, Native Americans were persecuted and fought to the death for their land.

Second, 1855 was a landmark year in the ramping-up-to-the-Civil-War period. Politicians began to campaign on pro-slavery and/or anti-slavery platforms, and laws that supported or went against slavery got a lot of attention. In November 1855, violent political confrontations broke out in Kansas over whether or not Kansas would allow slavery as it became a state. The violence that lasted for nearly six years led to the infamous nickname “Bleeding Kansas.”

Finally, 1855 brought violence and confrontation when it came to immigrants, as well. Though the United States was young, those who had been in the country “first” took a stand against newcomers. The Cincinnati Riots led to actual street fights between “nativist” Americans and German immigrants. And, in August 1855 on “Bloody Monday,” American protestants attacked Irish catholics in Louisville, KY killing twenty-two people.

All in all, 1855 wasn’t a peaceful year in American history. But, it’s important to talk about the violence that occurred. Luckily, we’re at a point where we can read about these terrible events that happened, and we can say, “Wow, that seems to barbaric.” But, the reason we can do that is because out of talking about what happened and trying to understand why, we’ve progressed. And, progress is a good, hopeful thing.

┬áSo, what are we making? Cold slaw – or coleslaw – from Cook Book published in 1855. Let’s get into the kitchen and make some history!



Here are our ingredients: Cabbage, white vinegar, butter, the yolks of two eggs, cream (half and half), salt, and pepper.


Step 1: Shred the cabbage. Now, I didn’t know the best way to shred cabbage when I set out to make this recipe. But, that’s okay. Not everyone is born with inherent cabbage-shredding knowledge! The point is that we don’t always have to know how to do everything. But, we should be willing to learn! I learned how to shred cabbage here.


Step 1.1: Once your cabbage is shredded, put it in a mixing bowl. I only shredded half of a cabbage for two of us… but, go ahead and shred the whole thing if you want!


Step 2: Now, I did make all of the dressing. I like having extra dressing on hand in case whatever I’m making seems dry. Use your best judgement – you’ll be eating what you make! To make the dressing, measure out a gill of vinegar into a saucepan – that’s half a cup to you and me! I love these old measurements. And, add butter the size of a walnut – two tablespoons – to the pan, too! Turn the heat on to medium-low.


Step 3: Separate the egg whites from the yolks in a separate bowl. Do whatever you want with the whites. If you put them on dog food for your dog, I think it’s supposed to improve the shine of their coat. Don’t quote me on that.


Step 4: Then, whisk your cream into the egg yolks until it’s all combined.


Step 5: Your butter and vinegar should have melted and become one by now! Whisk in the egg yolk and cream mixture until it looks like sunshine.


Step 6: Whisk the liquid over medium-low heat (you can turn it up to medium if it’s taking forever to cook) until it thickens. Basically, all of that egg you just put into the pan has to cook, and as it cooks, it becomes more solid. Thus, your liquid thickens (how about that bit of science from a historian!). Be very careful, though. If it boils, the egg will scramble and you don’t want scrambled egg sauce. Whisk until the mixture steams. That’s what I did, and my sauce turned out perfectly!


Step 7: Add as much of the finished dressing as you’d like to your cabbage and stir to combine. Then, season with salt and pepper to your liking! Chill the coleslaw in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it, though give it at least an hour for the cabbage to soak up the dressing.

(Note: We ate the coleslaw for dinner, and then I put the leftovers back in the fridge to chill. When I took them out to eat them again, the coleslaw was still good, but it developed a spice to it – like I had added horseradish. If someone could explain the science behind that transformation to me, I’d be forever grateful!)


Final step: Serve some delicious, light, crunchy coleslaw with hamburgers or hot dogs for an easy, summery dinner. Or, take it to a picnic. Just give it – and the flavors and techniques of 1855 – a try!

Talk about history, and don’t just talk about the good things. Yes, talking about inventions and innovations and the starts of positive events are inspirational. But, it’s so important to talk about the bad things, too, that came to really shape who we are as Americans, what we believe, and why we’re so advanced.

It’s especially important in times of toughness – in times of political turmoil, in times that we see a lot of violence, and in times that it seems no one can come together to agree on anything – to look at what happened in the past, and to understand how bad things came to be, what they did to America, as well as the world, and why we don’t want them to happen again. History has so many lessons to teach us, but we have to really look at the whole picture – the good and the bad – to understand what it’s fully trying to say.

From 1855: Cold Slaw

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


  • 1 head cabbage
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 Tbs. cream (i.e. half and half)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Shred the cabbage and place into mixing bowl.
  2. In a saucepan, warm the vinegar and the butter together over medium-low heat until melted.
  3. Whisk together the yolks and the cream. Add to the saucepan.
  4. Whisk continuously until the mixture has thickened. Do not let the liquid come to a boil or the eggs will scramble.
  5. Remove from heat and pour over shredded cabbage.
  6. Mix to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Chill for at least an hour before serving.




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