I'll certainly admit to having one heck of a lot of 'cue country exploration left to do in my lifetime, but thus far I've yet to encounter any venue outside of North Carolina slinging BBQ slaw alongside their meat. It's an essential side for Lexington style, vinegar-kissed chopped pork, and gets its characteristic pink tint from a dollop of ketchup or barbecue sauce. Also -- it's pretty darned delicious, and provides a pleasantly crunchy textural contrast with the rich, soft strands of slow-cooked shoulder.
From Searching for the Dixie Barbecue, Journeys into the Southern Psyche by Wilber W. Caldwell (2005):
"In the central North Carolina Piedmont you will often find what locals there call "red coleslaw" on the plate next to your chopped pork barbecue. This tangy variation replaces the usual mayonnaise-based slaw dressing with a catsup-and-vinegar-based dressing. In fact, it is not unusual for Upcountry slaw all over Dixie to be spiked with a big splash of barbecue finishing sauce. Whether a sweet/sour tomato-based, spicy mix, either right from the store-bought jar or from some dusty bottle of secret brew, this spicy addition turns the coleslaw sauce either red or a rich brown color and creates what most Southerners called "barbecued coleslaw."
Surely food experts and gourmets all over the planet will ... most certainly suggest that this "barbecue on barbecue" presentation robs the meal of balance. ... Southerners will scoff at this suggestion. Everyone down here knows that if a little barbecue sauce it good, then a whole lot is even better."
If you happen by High Point, NC, do stop into Carter Brothers BBQ (from whence the above pictured platter of BBQ came on this most recent Christmas Eve) for some of the finest chopped (regular or coarse -- they're both good) pork BBQ you'll ever have the pleasure of eating.
BBQ Slaw is recipe after the jump. Got one of your own? Might you please be so kind as to kick back with a Cheerwine and share it in the comments?
Lexington Style BBQ Slaw (a.k.a. Red Slaw)
1 lb green cabbage
4 tbsp ketchup or BBQ Sauce
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Finely chop or hand grate cabbage. Mix together other ingredients (scaling back seasonings to taste if BBQ sauce is used instead of ketchup), and pour over cabbage. Stir to coat, and chill, covered in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes -- preferably longer to allow flavors to blend.