Balancing BBQ’s with side dish freshness

By Wendell Fowler

Americans have a primal passion for little picnics or extravagant community backyard barbeques. Grilling, swigging margaritas and local beers, chatting it up with friends and family while consuming grilled meats, buckets-o-chicken and side dishes is good for the head and heart. Well, sorta.

Tradition can be a double-edged sword now that science has revealed the vast majority of today’s timesaving, store-bought side dishes like our classic friend, Cole slaw, are in fact sabotaging America’s collective health. It’s perilous out there in today’s deli department where slaw comes in a sealed plastic tub from a factory in a galaxy far, far away doused with mayonnaise, sugar, high fructose “porn” syrup, preservatives and an expiration date several weeks in the future. Weeks? Pick up a container and check the date.

Choosing to live life in balance with the gifts of nature makes for successful living. Remember the quality of your food determines the quality of your aliveness. We are here to be happy, not sick. There is good and there is bad in all things: the inescapable duality of the universe. Perhaps now is the time to break and let go of a tradition that no longer serves you: an expression of self-compassion. Time to stop the repetitive behavior of making ourselves sick. Treat your temple like you give a damn and live disease-free! Health is a choice and an intention we must make each new day. You are stronger than you think.

Getting back into thy kitchen and preparing fresh, crunchy slaw (or potato and macaroni salad) from scratch, where you control the ingredients, makes perfect sense. I mean, cabbage is off-the-hook healthy but when it’s made in a factory weeks ago, it’s lofty antioxidant vitamin content dies a gruesome death.

“Fresh” Cole Slaw

¼ small sweet onion

½ cup plain Greek yogurt, fat free if desired

¼ cup Vegenaise or olive oil mayonnaise

1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 tablespoons raw honey

1 teaspoon Dijon

½ teaspoon Himalayan salt

¼ teaspoon celery seed

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons ground flax or chia seeds

8 cups finely shredded green and purple cabbage

1 cup shredded carrots

¼ cup minced hearts

2 tablespoons parsley, optional

  • Grate onion with a box grater. Scrape grated onion into a large bowl.
  • Add Greek yogurt and mayonnaise and whisk to combine.
  • Add vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, celery seed and pepper and whisk to combine.
  • Add cabbage, carrots, celery, parsley and toss to coat.

Chef Wendell is a lecturer and food journalist. Contact him at