Last weekend some friends and I stopped to have a quick lunch at a deli in Boston. I ordered honey maple turkey on a whole wheat roll with the works and instead of potato chips, I asked for a side of coleslaw. Almost as soon as the words escaped my lips, I knew I had made a mistake. In theory, I love coleslaw – but on second thought I knew this coleslaw would be an anemic, soggy concoction held together with something slimy and sweet and slopped onto my plate from an industrial-sized vat. The sandwich was one of the best I’ve had in a long time, but my coleslaw prediction was bang-on. I managed a few bites and gave up (which could be why diners and delis only give you about 3 tablespoons in a small plastic cup). Although I didn’t enjoy the slaw, its presence at the table (and my reaction to it) sparked a lively round-table discussion.
While there are more varieties of coleslaw than there are of apples, the debate boils down to a personal preference for mayo- or vinegar- based coleslaws. The pre-made coleslaw doesn’t count. While people may tolerate it, I doubt anyone actually prefers it (correct me if I’m wrong). Of the two choices, people are usually in one camp or another. I am firmly in the mayo-based camp and particularly like Mom’s recipe. While Sharon likes Mom’s mayo-based coleslaw, she prefers vinegar-based.
Regardless of your personal preference, the key to a good slaw is fresh ingredients full of color and crunch, like cabbage, carrot, bell peppers and scallions. Where you go from there is up to you, but here are a few variations for the mayo-lovers and mayo-haters alike.