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Macquarie Dictionary recognises Broken Hill invention cheeseslaw for the first time

Donna Coutts, May 5, 2019 6:45PM Kids News

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A dust storm heading for Broken Hill turns the sky orange. Recent stories about Broken Hill have mostly been about hot weather and the drought. Picture: NSW SES media_cameraA dust storm heading for Broken Hill turns the sky orange. Recent stories about Broken Hill have mostly been about hot weather and the drought. Picture: NSW SES


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Cheeseslaw is officially a word and a thing, nearly 100 years after the people of Broken Hill invented it.

Australian dictionary publisher Macquarie confirmed* the news of the new official noun* to Kids News.

Cheeseslaw — and the two-word version, cheese slaw — will be included in the 2020 printed Macquarie Dictionary and in its online version.

The dictionary entry for the salad made of grated carrot, grated cheese and mayonnaise will include the word’s origin* as the NSW outback mining and farming city of Broken Hill.

media_cameraWelcome to Broken Hill, the NSW inland city that is the birthplace of cheeseslaw and the newly official noun for the salad. Picture: Manuela Cifra

Macquarie Dictionary senior editor Victoria Morgan called the word “a valued gem*”.

“Every region of Australia has some language which is particular to it and it’s always a pleasant discovery for the editors at Macquarie Dictionary to come across such a term,” she said.

“The Dictionary’s role is to record language which is in use. The term cheese slaw, comprising* grated carrot, grated cheese, and mayonnaise, has been in frequent use in, and around, the Broken Hill area for a very long time. It’s time we share it with the rest of the country.”

Freshly Picked Carrot From The Garden- media_cameraOne of cheeseslaw’s three ingredients is carrot, grated, which gives the salad its bright orange colour.

Broken Hill’s long-time cheeseslaw makers and eaters expressed pride that their home will now be officially recognised as the birthplace of this brightly coloured salad and the word to describe it.

Until now, Broken Hill has been best known for silver, lead and zinc mining, for being very hot and dry and as the birthplace of artist Pro Hart.

Art - painting "Minescape, Broken Hill" by Pro Hart. /Art/Hart media_cameraPart of a paining by Pro Hart called “Minescape, Broken Hill”.

It’s also known for being a long way from a lot of places. It is 1143km or almost 13 hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW and 517km and almost 6 hours’ drive from Adelaide, South Australia.

In the past few years, most news stories about Broken Hill have been about extreme heat and the drought.

In contrast, this news is about something cool and damp.

Macquarie’s headline-making decision to officially recognise the word fired up social media in recent days.

People all over Australia, many of whom had never heard of cheeseslaw, debated on social media platform Twitter whether it was a real food that deserved its own word and whether it was very nice — or not — to eat. Some suggested it was just a version of coleslaw, which is a salad of mostly grated cabbage.

Mayonnaise media_cameraMayonnaise sticks the grated carrot and cheese together in cheeseslaw. Some make their own mayonnaise out of oil and egg and some people just buy some in a bottle from the supermarket.

The invention has been a staple* food in Broken Hill homes at least as far back as the 1930s. It has been sold in milk bars and takeaway food shops since at least the 1960s. It is often served on top of hot takeaway chicken, chips and gravy so that the cheese melts.

Karen Coutts, who was born in Broken Hill and lived there until in her 30s, told Kids News cheeseslaw was a Sunday night ritual at home.

“We had toasted ham and cheeselaw sandwiches every Sunday night,” she said.

Ms Coutts missed it when she left Broken Hill for northern Victoria.

“I tried it here in Victoria and it wasn’t the same.”

Broken Hill resident Margaret Lesjak suggested cheeseslaw to Macquarie for inclusion in the dictionary. She moved to Broken Hill in 2005 and first noticed cheeseslaw in the hospital cafeteria.

“It was always interesting to watch the new doctors try cheeseslaw,” she told ABC.

“Often they’d only try it once.”


  • confirmed: said that it was true
  • noun: a word used to identify a thing
  • origin: place it began
  • gem: something valuable, like a precious stone
  • comprising: made up of
  • staple: basic food eaten often such as bread, milk, flour


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  1. Name three things Broken Hill is known for.
  2. Where is Broken Hill?
  3. What is the main ingredient of coleslaw? What are the ingredients of cheeseslaw?
  4. How did Karen Coutts eat cheeseslaw on Sunday nights?
  5. Who did Margaret Lesjak watch eating cheeseslaw for the first time?


1. Cheeseslaw recipe

With only three ingredients, cheeseslaw sounds easy to make! Write a recipe for cheeseslaw that includes a title, a list of ingredients and utensils required and a step-by-step set of method for making the dish. As an extra challenge, see if you can include at least four adverbs in your method.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English

2. Extension
Cheeseslaw doesn’t sound particularly fancy. Perhaps you can change that. Imagine that you are the owner of a very expensive and exclusive eatery. Write a sophisticated menu description for cheeseslaw that makes it sound mouth-wateringly delicious.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight all the openers you can find in blue. Discuss if they are powerful and varied openers or not. Why do you think the journalist has used a mix of simple and power openers? Would you change any, and why?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Have you tried cheeseslaw? Does it deserve to be an official word in the dictionary?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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