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Hi, I'm Coleslaw. You Didn't Even Notice I was Here.

What do you know about coleslaw? Probably not a ton. You’re aware that it’s essentially a

cabbage salad, and that it always appears on your supper club plate next to breaded perch in

some sort of paper ramekin. You’ve passed it in the KFC buffet line while writing nasty Yelp

reviews in your mind, or you’ve bought it at a deli so you could to bring it to the party of a friend

that you hate. On the totem pole of food ancillaries, it occupies a forgettable, two-feet-from-the-

ground netherspace between cottage cheese and stewed spinach. It’s mostly pleasant, entirely

unnecessary, and although no one asked for it, it always shows up. It’s the James Franco of

side dishes.

Or is it? My father-in-law is a master of the grill and oven, and soon after my wife and I started

dating, I realized that until I assume the apron and chef hat that he so ably wears, I’d be

delegated important duties such as setting the table, decanting wine, or picking which Jackson

Browne song to play once the current Jackson Browne song is over. You know, man stuff.

And so I set upon a course that I continue to this day. Since the bulk of his main courses -- ribs,

fish, pork tenderloin, etc. -- work well with a generic coleslaw, I would make the best damn

coleslaw the world had yet seen. I’d be the Scottie to his Jordan. The Ed McMahon to his

Carson. The Trump to his Steve Bannon. Together, we’d make miracles.

Of course, part of the miracle lies in turning something that is traditionally boring into something vaguely adventurous. The basic coleslaw recipe -- cabbage, mayonnaise, vinegar, avowed mediocrity -- allows for constant improvement. So, if we’re willing to use “coleslaw” as a vague template meaning “any side dish that is salad-like but doesn’t have any lettuce or pasta,” we can use a wide brush. And that, my friends, is why coleslaw has such a lively palate of colors from which to choose. (Ed. note: You may have just read the weirdest sentence ever written about

any salad, let alone freaking coleslaw.)

Three tips:

Start by adding fruit and/or nuts. If we learned anything from our dearly departed Prince, it’s

that adding raspberries, cherries and strawberries sweetens the entire endeavor. If you must

make a traditional coleslaw (which, believe me, you’re better than that), just adding some fresh

or dried fruit, or some sliced almonds, makes something that will make even your worst enemy

think, “Hmm, if I’m going to kill this person, I should get his/her coleslaw recipe first.”

Change up the base. Again, it’s an unholy cocktail of mayo and vinegar that makes coleslaw

so uniformly meh. But a rudimentary search of “honey mustard coleslaw” or “asian coleslaw” will

set you on a path that is not only much more appetizing, but actually somewhat interesting. It

might be just the thing to make your worst enemy think, “That was some terrific slaw, wasn’t it?

Let’s just poison their garden instead.”

Avoid cabbage altogether. Remember when I said that any salad not involving pasta or lettuce

could loosely be qualified as a slaw? Try melons. Julienne-cut some watermelon, cantaloupe

and honeydew, then make a light sauce out of lime juice, jalapenos, cilantro and honey, stir it all

up, and you’ve created an entirely different animal. All of a sudden, your nemesis is thinking,

“Fine, but if they get sick and die, which can totally happen with or without our help, we’ll at least

agree that they made a very fine slaw while they were living.”

As with any fine art, which coleslaw may someday be, the only limit is the sky above. Coleslaw

can help gain favor with a discerning father-in-law, a fish fry expecting the same old cabbage-

borne garbage, or even with a person who might wish you ill. Your life will be richer, and who

knows, it might just save it. Lotta crazy people out there.

March 2017

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