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.
Dear Bang On,
I’m actually part of the camp that likes KFC premade coleslaw… that said, it’s the ONLY premade type I like. I’ve actually never made it myself but I think this will be on my list to try this Summer. I’m sure there is a picnic or two that could benefit from this dish.
Thanks for the amusing picture of a table of people arguing over an American favorite! “It’s only good THIS way!”
Watching for the Great (Chowder) Debate in NE
I like all cole slaw except overly sweet mayonnaise-based cole slaw like the kind you describe in this post.
But your piece reminds me that when I met David he hated cole slaw and now he loves all varieties–a reminder that if you’re open, your tastes will evolve and develop.
I have a recipe that calls for both vinegar and mayo, now what? 🙂 I think overall my preference is for mayo though, but very, very, very light mayo. Nothing needs to swim in the stuff. I have found that many restaurant slaws can be made edible with copious additions of black pepper.
I hate coleslaw but love these recipes! I only knew the soggy, mayo-laden kind growing up,. Now I often prefer this to salad!
Thanks for the variations!
What’s coleslaw mix?
Good question. Cole slaw mix is packaged shredded cabbage. You’ll find it in the produce section in most grocery stores. It’s been dehydrated a little, so that when you dress it, you don’t end up with watery dressing at the bottom of the bowl. But if you can’t find it, clearly you can shred fresh cabbage.