The Fictional Origins of Coleslaw

Growing up in the suburbs of northern New Jersey meant my adolescent social life essentially revolved around diners. Diners are great places for a cup of coffee and a few hours of doing nothing. I consistently ordered meals that came with a side order of coleslaw. For the most part, coleslaw in north jersey consists of green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrot shavings mixed with a thick dose of mayonnaise. There are many regional variations on coleslaw, some involving oil and vinegar rather than mayonnaise, or eliminating or substituting the vegetables.

Since I was quite well known for random tidbits of knowledge, I figured I could pull off explaining to my friends the origins of coleslaw, even if the entire story was fictional. One afternoon I retold an improvisational tale of coleslaw’s origin. Since then I’ve repeated the story a few times, and inevitably I am believed.

When inventing the story of coleslaw’s origins, I inserted certain facts that were real, such as mentioning the Panic of 1873. Other facts were so mundane, there was little reason to question them. Most importantly though, coleslaw itself is so pedestrian, there would seem little reason to fabricate a legendary tale about a food given away for free when you order a grilled cheese sandwich. In essence, I created a Clancy Pants before I even knew what a Clancy Pants was.

For those discerning readers interested in the original tale, I wrote up a version here.

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