No matter where it’s ordered, the seasonal salad is reliably crunchy and tangy, with a hint of sweetness. But, there, the similarity ends. How coleslaw is presented, and what it includes, seems to be as variable as the chefs who prepare it.
Sometimes it’s served as a ragged tangle of shredded, but still easily recognizable, cabbage and carrots. Sometimes the ingredients are minced fine and scooped like a ball of ice cream into a dish. At some establishments, it’s flavored with dill or mustard or pineapple. Infrequently, it’s drowning in thick mayonnaise; more often it’s kissed by a lighter dressing of vinegar and cream that binds and flavors without taking center stage.
My husband, Kevin, is a recent, but enthusiastic, convert to coleslaw’s charms. He spent years sliding his portion over to my plate, but in recent summers, he has become a veritable connoisseur. He’s even been known to choose where we dine based on the quality of the coleslaw.
Yet, until now, we’ve never tackled it at home. So, this spring, I planted a variety of cabbage that produces small, 3-pound heads — just large enough to make a week’s worth of coleslaw for the two of us.
Instead, with our first harvest, I hauled out our biggest cutting board and set to work chopping. First the cabbage, then the carrot, then the onion. Once this finely chopped — but not minced — melange was mixed together in a bowl, I streamed in some white vinegar and sprinkled in some sugar. Then, I added a pinch of sea salt, a dash of black pepper and, finally, a serious splash of cream.
In less than half an hour, a simple, basic coleslaw.
We couldn’t resist munching it that evening, knowing it would be better the next day after the flavors melded — which it was. Kevin deemed it “the best he’d ever had.”
I have to agree. Next summer, I just might crave its return!