The Joy of Coleslaw

Pringles and the Industrialization of Food

My first job out of college was with Procter & Gamble, a soap company that also sold factory foods like Crisco shortening and salad oil.  Desperate for new products, P&G had resorted to growth by acquisition (Duncan Hines cake mixes, Folgers coffee, Jiff PB, etc.).  The smart guys at the top, however, knew the most profitable growth came from creating new products.  They saw an opportunity in potato chips, which at that time was a regional business with many players.

So P&G food scientists invented a potato chip with a long shelf life that could be shipped cross-country from a central factory.  No woman who knew her way around a kitchen would ever think of the product that resulted—Pringles.  But a food engineer with his brain bound by industrial thinking would.  Pringles used a cheap ingredient (potatoes), factory-processed into a mash, then formed and cooked with hydrogenated oil (a P&G expertise). 

The result was a patented and trade marked, densely packed, salty treat that would keep a long time.  I think the uniform shape of Pringles appealed to the corporate mentality—regular potato chips, in their random shapes and sizes, defied their controlling instinct.  By 20th century standards, Pringles was the perfect food invention.  Customer health, to my knowledge, was never a consideration. 

P&G expected that national advertising and marketing muscle would let them dominate the regional potato chip business, even though Pringles didn’t taste any better.  It didn’t happen that way.  Instead, Frito-Lay bought or drove out the other chip companies and today dominates the supermarket chip aisle.  P&G’s Pringle brand is a distant #2 and now they’re going to exit the business by selling out to Kellogg’s.  I think P&G is the more forward thinking company here—starch fried into salty snack food belongs in the last century.  Funny how Kellogg’s can’t see that. 

A Better Idea

Smart 21st century home cooks will take the path less travelled—reinventing the food of our pre-Industrial Revolution ancestors.  Forget about potato chips, Pringles, or fast food French fries and check our delicious Oven-Roasted Fries (recipe here).

In Praise of Cabbage

You get a big health bang for your buck with cabbage.  Cabbage is full of bone-building vitamin K.  Cabbage contains cancer-fighting antioxidants (including vitamins A and C) and glucosinolates.  It’s also rich in anti-inflammatory compounds.   (Similar benefits are found in the other cruciferous vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, Bok Choy, and broccoli.)  To learn more about the benefits of cabbage read here.

Family Food Traditions

The beautiful wife’s father was an unusually good man who grew up on a family farm in one of Utah’s mountain valleys.  Before his passing, he reminisced about the hard time farmers had between the World Wars.  “There was no money in the house,” he recalled, “but we were happy and had plenty to eat.”  In the fall they packed the root cellar with the food that would carry them through the winter—apples, onions, potatoes, oats, wheat, and plenty of cabbage.  “We stored the cabbage on a bed of sand and it lasted most of the winter.  When it started to turn bad, Mom made it into delicious sauerkraut.” 

From my own childhood I have a memory of cabbage.  Before our nation got addicted to credit, people lived on the money in their pocket.  One night we were eating a cabbage salad for dinner and Mom remarked, “At the store I only had a nickel in my wallet, just enough to buy a cabbage.”  It’s been a few years since you could buy cabbage for a nickel, but my memory is still clear on the value of this cruciferous vegetable.     

The cruciferous family is so healthy you should include it in your menu most days of the week—so coleslaw is this week’s recipe.  Because healthy snacking is the topic of the week, note that coleslaw makes a good snack, and can be added to fish tacos for a tasty meal too.  I wanted a recipe that didn’t start with a cup of mayonnaise.  I also wanted one without sugar, but because most recipes require vinegar, a little sugar is needed to offset the bitterness. 

Skip’s Peanut Coleslaw


½ cabbage (makes 4-5 cups when shredded)

2 carrots, coarsely grated

½ bell pepper, finely sliced

½ onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, finely cut on diagonal

¾ cup roasted and salted Virginia peanuts (or whatever’s handy)

Sauce Ingredients:

¾ cup yogurt (or sour cream, or half-and-half, but use more corn starch)

2 T cornstarch (to thicken)

1 T Red wine vinegar

2 T sugar (we used agave nectar)

1 T lemon juice

2 T horseradish sauce (adjust for the concentration of horseradish used)

½ tsp celery seed (okay to substitute caraway seed, or fennel seed)

½ tsp ground mustard (or 1 T Dijon prepared mustard)

Generous pinch of red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste (remember the peanuts may be salty)


  1. Prepare vegetables.  Beyond cabbage, most any vegetable works in coleslaw.  Including red cabbage adds to the color.  If pressed for time, you can also buy coleslaw vegetables already prepared.
  2. Make sauce by combining wet ingredients and spices.
  3. Toss vegetables in sauce and refrigerate several hours before serving.
  4. Before serving, add peanuts.  (The peanuts get mushy if left in the coleslaw.)
  5. This recipe takes a little time but can be made in advance and used in several meals.  Feeds 8.

Please comment:  Cruciferous vegetables offer a great combination of healthfulness and value.  We try to include them on our menu most days of the week.  Share your favorite ways to enjoy cabbage. 

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Reader Comments (10)

I love cabbage soup. Sauté an onion in some healthy fat. Add some thyme, caraway seeds, a chopped head of cabbage, and homemade chicken or vegetable broth to cover the vegetables. Simmer until cabbage is tender. Season to taste. You can also add other vegetables before simmering to suite your tastes: beans, carrots, celery, etc. I sometimes sauté a little chicken or beef with the onion. (If using beef, use beef or vegetable broth.)

A stir fry made with cabbage is also one of my favorites. I love the cabbage with a little pork, carrots, scallions, and and garlic. I like to use a ginger sauce, especially since ginger is said to aid digestion. That is helpful with those cruciferous veggies. :)

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

I find using Rice Wine Vinegar in place of distilled white makes a less pungent dressing, needing less sugar to tame it. For coleslaw in our family I'll add in chopped Italian Parsley, or maybe a shredded apple for sweetness.

Another dish is "fried" Cabbage. In olive oil sweat a diced onion and as many cloves of garlic that you like. Add in chopped cabbage, and cook down to desired tenderness (anywhere from stir fried crisp to wilted). Before serving, season with plenty of fresh ground pepper, a touch of salt, and a teaspoon (or two) of caraway seeds. I love this hot, room temp and cold, and usually it's a side dish for about a dollar.

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLizA

My comment isn't about cabbage but another healthier substitute for factory-produced chips and fast food fries: homemade potato chips. They are very easy to make and very, very tasty. I use a mandolin to thinly slice potatoes, brush or spray them with olive or canola oil, sprinkle with a little sea salt, and roast in a 450 degree oven until brown and crispy. In the summer I like to cook them on the grill.

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkpp2

I bought a bag of the preshredded coleslaw mix. I was surprised how many meals I got out of it this week . For lunch I cooked some potstickers and placed them on a bed of cabbage with a little drizzle of the dipping sauce. For dinner I made actual coleslaw. Sadly it was before your recipe was posted because the one I tried was awful. Maybe it was the vinegar--I used apple cider vinegar.
Anyway, the next night we just had it plain--like a salad. We used the last of it just yesterday as a filler for tacos. Cabbage is good stuff!

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLC

Your recipe looks so yummy. Can't wait to try it. Using yogurt for the sauce sounds intriguing.

I like to use packaged broccoli slaw for a change of pace with coleslaw recipes. Our family favorite: Make soft tacos using small, fresh corn tortillas, a little shredded pork (from leftover pork roast), and some coleslaw mixed with salsa. Ole'

February 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaryn/the Mid Life Guru

Caryn, the pork taco with coleslaw sounds delish. It'g going on our list.
LC, I'm changing the menu to specify red wine vinegar, as it does make a difference. Liz A also noted this.
Lindsay and Liz A, definitely going to try your cabbage soup and fried cabbage. Thanks all.

February 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterSkip Hellewell

We've all enjoyed this colorful red cabbage recipe (even my husband who says french fries are his favorite veggie).

February 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily C.

YUM to the cabbage soup!!! I added garden turnip greens/tops and shaved Parm cheese to my soup, it was so EASY! Thansk Skip!

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

My kids will actually eat brussel sprouts when I make them this way:

Clean and cut into halves. Mix in bowl or ziploc bag with some EVOO and seasoning salt just til coated. Bake on 400 for 10 minutes or til cooked through....the best part are the crispy single bits that fall off and are crunchy!

March 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMindy

After your post, I bought a whole cabbage for the first time. It tasted great. The kids at least tried it, which is a step in the right direction

March 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi

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