Friday, September 9, 2011

Coleslaw de tante

Is there any more sure-fire way to stimulate a conversation these days than to bring up politics?
You could be at a gathering of total strangers, and within three minutes of the topic's instigation you will be surrounded by every possible person....expounding every possible point of view. The only trick after that might be to extricate oneself before becoming embroiled in a heated, perhaps even physical tet-a-tet.

Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Greens, this party, that party....perhaps this is not the sort of discussion to be held so close to kitchen utensils....especially sharp knives.

We grew up in a somewhat "politically conscious" family; if by politically conscious you mean Republican.
We children were expected to tow the party line...from waving the flags at rallies as little kids to voting "the  ticket" when we came of age.  It was assumed.  And ours was not the only family like that. The neighborhood was crawling with them!

The Vietnam, I mean, I mean war....anyway, It tore through our town like a hellfire, drawing the Generation Gap battle lines straight through the family nucleus.  It destroyed parent-child trust, eradicated innocence and annihilated Ward and June Cleaver's brats status as role models to us kids.
The blinders were off.
No family was spared, although some had it far worse than others.

Ours was an interesting scenario.  Naturally we had the heated discussions between Dad and his sons about long hair, the war and the draft....but there seemed to be a line in our clan that nobody would cross-a DMZ, who's location, depth and length were known to all parties involved.

That isn't to say things didn't come close....real close.  Def Con Five close.

While the "boys" were cutting their teeth on such things, we girls were expected to learn the ways of "Stepford University."  Keeping house, raising children, walking, talking, acting, thinking, breathing and being "ladylike..."  this was supposed to be our fate; and we were expected to desire it as surely as a thirsty traveler craves water.

For some reason, even though Vietnam was knocking on our own front door via the evening news playing in the background during our dinner hour, we women were supposed to continue as we always had....stoically
clearing the table while the daily draft numbers were called.  And when the numbers came too close to home it was time to pull out the rosary, assume the position and let God do something about it.

It was a strange, emotionally charged time to be growing up....for all of us.  Parents and kids alike.  We were all learning from one another-whether or not anybody wanted to admit it.   Parents were learning what it was like to put their children's lives on the line...and the kids?  We were learning how to either "man up" or duck.

"Manning Up" meant either enlisting or going to prison, ducking meant going to Canada or getting some form of deferment.  The deferment usually involved some sort of school.  

But even on the tip of that Damocles's Sword known as the mid-and late '60s, there was that place of retreat our family seemed to find within itself - wounds, battle scars and all.  It had to do with traditions. 

Our family holidays became our DMZ.  The Thanksgivings, Christmases, 4th of July's, birthdays, weddings, christenings and funerals where everybody left their war-weary weapons at the door, sat down at the table and shared.  Once in a while somebody'd get a wild hair up their posterior...hey, shit happens.  But for the most part, our family always seemed to know how to get together. And they still do.

I know, we've all heard the horror stories of Thanksgiving food fights, shouting matches as a result of too much booze and too much baggage...dangerous combination, that.

Fortunately my personal memories of these times hold real beauty, warmth and love....even when the events of the 60s had us sometimes at each others' throats.  We seemed to know how to pull back from the brink, fix up the house and sit down to dinner.

Coleslaw with apples and raisins
One of the staples at these holiday meals was Coleslaw.  No holiday was complete without it.

To this day when I make this salad, my mind is drawn back to those days when everything was so intense....
 .....back also to the first times Mom let me try to shred the cabbage and carrots...without shredding too much of my fingers.    Watching the news today made me crave Coleslaw....a little corner of peace and tastiness in a world gone mad.

Depending on how much you want to make, adjust your measurements.
I like to make a nice mid-sized bowl to have on hand in the fridge for a few days. The flavor enhances with time, kind of like Kim Chee.

1 large head of cabbage           6 carrots              
   (or 1 small head of green cabbage
   and 1 small head of red cabbage)
3 to 5 green onions chopped4 small red delicious (or other variety) apples - chopped     
1 to 3 teaspoons garlic powder (optional)
1 to 1 1/2  cups of raisins - chopped   
4 Tablespoons (more or less) sugar or sugar substitute
1 to 1 1/2 cup mayonnaise  
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar  
4 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
dash of salt or low salt (optional)  dash of pepper (optional)

Start with a large bowl....

Rinse all fruits and veggies in COLD water.  Shred first cabbage(s), then follow up with carrots.  Chop green onions fine.  Add to the cabbage and carrots.  Mix thoroughly so that the flavors begin to pull.  Add chopped raisins and apples, mix again.  Set aside.

Add mayonnaise, vinegars and sugar together-stir with a wire whisk.  If you like it thicker add more mayo.
add spices, whisk again. Pour over the cabbage, carrots and so on.  Mix all of this together like you're tossing a salad.  I use two spoons.

Put this conglomeration into a covered bowl and refrigerate for an hour or two before serving.  Some people like it with paprika on top...I like mine a la natural.

Waldorf Coleslaw - add chopped walnuts
 Hawaiian Coleslaw - add dried pineapple
 (fresh pineapple does WEIRD THINGS to certain foods...dried is the only option here)
Beer House Slaw - don't add sugar/sweetener, loose the raisins and apples,
 consider yellow onions instead of green, regular vinegar or balsamic instead of apple cider
 Broccoli Slaw - use grated broccoli instead of cabbage
 Kitchen Sink Slaw - close your eyes and start adding stuff.  Marshmallows might be a bit over the top, but what ever floats your boat.
Naked Slaw - nothing....absolutely nothing but the shredded cabbage, carrots and green onions.
 Clothing optional

 Enjoy!   Let me know what you think and if you have any recipes you want to share!

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