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Coleslaw: A Labor of Hercules

I want to be honest from the get-go with you guys; when you see the photos I post, they will not be the picture-perfect images with strategically placed cutlery and sexily placed vegetables. For the most part, I let my girlfriend be in charge of picture taking when she’s around; and I believe she enjoys helping – and well, she has more experience with taking pictures of her creations than I do. It’s a distraction for me to stop my process to snap a photo.

Now, between you and me, I am not the cleanest person. I’m a mess in the kitchen, a tornado that tears apart vegetables and splatters sauce and drops scraps on my feet, but instead of picking them up, I let them lie there and squish between my toes. There’s often an iPod plugged into a stereo with the volume cranked and I would prefer not to be bothered. I’m in the zone and the mess will always get left for post-preparation clean up.

With those two things in mind, I want to tell you a story.

Generally most messes are fairly easy to clean up, but last Thursday I was tasked with making coleslaw for a party of 100 people. Let me start by saying, the most people I’ve ever cooked for is 15 or so. But cooking for 100, I’m sure was one of the twelve labors of Hercules.

A word to the wise for all you amateur/wannabe chefs out there who cook for your dinner parties: STICK TO DOING THAT! Do not attempt to cook ANYTHING for 100 people.

After buying the necessary groceries, I had 4+ hours to tackle this project. It seemed easy enough; there was no cooking involved, just chopping and putting the slaw into gallon bags for transportation. I guess I should mention that it wasn’t a simple cabbage and carrot slaw; it was one of my favorite coleslaw recipes that I adapted from a recipe I found years ago in a magazine. The ingredients list: cabbage, carrots, red bell pepper, corn, green onions, and cilantro. Then the dressing is a vinaigrette with orange juice concentrate and cumin.

The deceptiveness is that all the vegetables don’t look like that much when they’re whole; it’s when they are all chopped up that they begin to look like more. I felt like I was competing on Top Chef, with the clock against me and I had to finish my dish and transport it before time ran out. And well, that’s not so easy to do when you’re not equipped with the essential kitchen items to actually make coleslaw for 100 people.

The biggest problem staring at me was the lack of a large bowl. Now, obviously there is no bowl big enough at Bed Bath and Beyond to mix 100 servings of coleslaw, so I had to work in batches. So with my biggest mixing bowl and two 6-quart stockpots sitting on the stove top (because my kitchen is so small, the only counter space available was taken up by the cutting board), I started chopping all the veg into appropriate portions and adding them together. After mixed, I transferred the slaw into gallon bags and poured the vinaigrette in, shook the bag and placed it in the fridge.


Two hours in, I was feeling good; I still had two hours to go and felt confident that I would finish. Then there was an hour left, and I realized that though I was in good shape, I was wasting too much time cleaning up after myself, so I just started throwing things on the floor with the intent of sweeping it all up and throwing it all way. Then there was half an hour before I had to leave and I was furiously chopping and mixing and cursing myself for agreeing to do this, down to the filling of the last bag. The kitchen looked like a coleslaw bomb exploded. In the pictures below, you will see the aftermath.

The counter…

The floor…

On the bright side, the slaw was a hit, and I was complimented several times throughout the evening. But that was seriously the most intense and stressful thing I’ve ever done in the kitchen. There’s still a head of cabbage in the fridge, taunting me every time I open the door. I have reservations about making another batch of slaw because it just might be another traumatic experience. I don’t know whether to throw it away or throw it off a cliff.

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2 responses to “Coleslaw: A Labor of Hercules

  1. Pingback: It’s going to be dirty | The Amused Bouche

  2. Pingback: Farewell to an Indian summer | The Amused Bouche

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