My New Favorite Coleslaw and My Son’s Graduation

My oldest child graduated from high school last week. I have to confess that I was utterly unprepared for the wave of emotions this milestone would bring. 

Joe Stuart, High School Graduate

Joe Stuart, High School Graduate

It’s no secret that I tend to be quite sentimental,I’m the mama who gets teary-eyed with only the slightest provocation. I estimate I’ve cried at least a little bit, almost every day for about a month leading up to the graduation itself. It all started with the senior Prom. As I scrolled through Facebook the day after and saw the many photos of kids I’ve known for years dressed in their finery, many looking more like young adults then I’ve ever noticed before, tears streamed down my face. 

It’s not because I’m sad that I cry, its that I am so moved. Moved by the beauty of these young souls. Moved by their earnestness and their laughter, and certainly by their potential. Of course, I’m proud too. Proud of the great humans these kids are becoming. Sure they look at their cell phones more than we’d like, but they are also good people – kind, compassionate, funny and smart. Many of them are natural leaders, and thank goodness they’re using their power for good instead of evil. One of the veteran teachers at the high school commented during the ceremony that in his 20+ years of teaching this was undoubtedly the kindest class he has ever known. I think that made every parent of the 482 kids swell with pride.

More than an accomplishment, high school graduation is a milestone for my son and his friends. It is the iconic marker of the end of childhood. We all know that childhood doesn’t end that abruptly, indeed I suspect that this particular kid might draw it out as long as he can (on good days I refer to this as his “youthful spirit”), but it is certainly the beginning of the end. Or maybe the “end of the beginning” as Winston Churchill said. 

Funnily enough, it doesn’t even have to be something sentimental that gets me going. When they arrived in the mail, I read through all of the orientation materials  from Joey’s chosen college and even that relatively dry information had me in tears. Still more ironic is that I can’t even really say he’s going “away” to school. The college he’s chosen is less than a mile from our home, right here in McMinnville. Though he will be living on campus, so I suppose that’s kind of “away”.  Still – the tears! Mama Mia!

Good thing there were plenty of parties, ours included, to distract. 

We had our party on Sunday mid-day and it was really a joy to have so many people who had been a part of Joey’s childhood here to celebrate him. Aunts and uncles, former babysitters, neighbors, teachers, emergency grandparents, even his pediatrician! And then of course there was the steady stream of teenagers who came through the house that day. 

Hosting an Open House for 100 in the midst of such a busy week requires some serious planning ahead. Early on I decided that the entire menu was going to have to be pre-made. There was still the last minute setting up, but by in large the day-of-party prep was minimal. A month before I cooked about 40 pounds of pulled pork in the crockpot (well, several crockpots) and then froze it. A trip to Costco early in the week of the party allowed me to procure all the remaining necessitates. Two days before the party I made tons of my new favorite coleslaw and an extra large batch of pimento cheese. I also prepped the vegetables for a big crudite platter. My 12-year old daughter, our resident baker, made about 150 mini cupcakes. 

party prep

Party Prep


More Party Prep

Congratulations Joey!

Congratulations Joey!

Plenty of cold wine and water for a hot day

Plenty of cold wine and water for a hot day

The morning of the party we set up the buffet and put the wine on ice. We made a 5 gallon container of lemonade and hung up the decorations. There was a stressful moment about half an hour before the party was scheduled to begin when my husband and middle son both looked at me like I was crazy. They thought the party started at 2pm, when all along it had been noon. Still, with some swift going we got everything set up and ready in time to relax and enjoy the fun. 

Here was the menu:

Pulled Pork with Slider buns

Vinegar Cole Slaw with Cucumbers and Dill  (recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen)

Pimento Cheese with crackers

Crudite platter with Green Goddess Dip

Chocolate and Vanilla Mini Cupcakes

I loved this menu because it was both simple and delicious.

Just a word about this coleslaw. It’s cool and crisp and not at all creamy – the perfect contrast to the fatty, rich pork. It’s also beautiful in it’s monochromatic way (my daughter wanted me to add shredded carrots for color, but I stood my ground).  As I mentioned above it’s my new favorite. It has just a few ingredients and it keeps for what seems like forever, at least a week. It’s great with the pork and next to, or on, a ham sandwich. It would also be great on fish tacos. I am grateful to the Smitten Kitchen for including it in her book and I share it with you now, unchanged in the least.

My new favorite coleslaw!

My new favorite coleslaw!

Vinegar Slaw with Cucumbers and Dill
Serves 12
Delicious, simple and crisp. Can easily be made ahead.
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  1. 1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 pounds) cored and thinly sliced or shredded
  2. 1 large seedless or English cucumber (about 1 pound) sliced in round discs as thinly as possible
  3. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  4. 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  5. 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  6. 4 teaspoons sugar
  7. 1/2 cup cold water
  1. Toss the cabbage, cucumber and dill together in a large bowl. Don't be freaked out by how big the salad looks; it settles as it marinates. Whisk the vinegar, salt and sugar together in a small bowl until the salt and sugar dissolve. Stir in the water. Pour the liquid over the salad and let it marinate, tossing the cabbage occasionally. After 1 hour, it should be a bit wilted and crunch, after 2 hours the flavor is even better.
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