Pharaohs believed that consuming cabbage before drinking excess alcohol prevented hangovers. They also believed in the healing power of brined cabbage — sauerkraut.
Likewise, mariners at least as early as the 18th century applied sauerkraut compresses on sailors’ wounds to prevent gangrene and enhance healing.
Instead of pharaoh cuisine, cabbage in Europe, Russia and America has long been a staple of the working class and poor. Stuffed cabbage leaves, cabbage soup, boiled cabbage with potatoes, brined cabbage and cabbage salads are cheap, delicious and nutritious.
Barbecue in America is also associated with the working class and poor. Much of it was developed by plantation slaves as a method of rendering tough meat scraps discarded by wealthy slave owners into the tender, flavorful morsels we honor today as America’s cuisine.
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Barbecue and cabbage in the form of coleslaw is universal in backyard barbecues, picnics and restaurants. We like a sour slaw with the sweet meat of pork. We like it either way, sweet or sour with brisket and chicken.
One of my favorite coleslaw recipes is in Vince Staten’s “Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Cookbook” (1991). Here’s my current adaptation of Vince’s version:
The Little Bible Teacher’s Mustard Slaw
Vince doesn’t explain the origin of the recipe and how it got its name. I assume it alludes to the mustard seed parable in the New Testament Bible.
Besides serving as a healthy complement to barbecue pork, this slaw has other merits: if the pharaohs were right, it will prevent a hangover. And the dressing is surely biblical. You’re covered: No hangover. No guilt.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
For the slaw
1/2 medium head of cabbage, chopped
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion — or garden-fresh onions in season
1/2 cup red, green or orange bell pepper, chopped
2 medium carrots, grated
For the dressing:
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 pinch of celery seed
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup prepared ball park yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Red Devil Cayenne Pepper Sauce
Put dry ingredients in a lidded quart jar. Add vinegar and shake until dry ingredients are absorbed. Add oil and mustard and shake lidded jar again until dressing binds. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Pour dressing on slaw right before serving and toss until coated. Save the remainder for another batch. It will keep, refrigerated, for at least two weeks. Bring to room temperature before using.
Vince recommends dressing the salad and refrigerating it covered overnight. Try that if you prefer a slaw that isn’t as crispy as freshly dressed.
Ardie Davis founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on food shows and writes for barbecue-related publications. His most recent release is America’s Best BBQ (Revised Edition), with chef Paul Kirk.