Ode to Slaw

I love living in Texas, but I believe we underestimate our coleslaw, which is usually served in a little cup, off to the side of the meat. I contend it is capable of more responsibility than that. In Mississippi, where I grew up and ate my first barbecue, it was served on top of the meat. We never heard it called coleslaw. Slaw was slaw and barbecue was pork with sauce, and the two were inseparable. Beans were a side option, so was potato salad. But oh, that slaw.

Eventually, I heard it called “coleslaw” and found out the “cole” part meant “cabbage,” but who needed the explanation? Of course slaw was made from cabbage. We liked it shredded tiny or chopped in little squares, vinegary with a little sugar, a glob of mustard, carrots, and maybe onions shredded in as well. As good a meal as I know is a soft bun with chopped pig meat and sauce on the bottom slab, then slaw, then pickles, onions, then the top slab.

Once, at a barbecue place in Arkansas, I saw a sign that said, “If you don’t want your slaw right down on the meat, you better tell us.” I felt happy.

— Novelist and biographer Beverly Lowry quit making slaw at home because she was always shredding her fingers.

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