Be the talk of the block party when you walk in with not just that cook-out essential dish, cabbage slaw…but with John Steinbeck’s cabbage slaw. This is what Recipes for Rebels: In the kitchen with James Dean is all about…these aren’t just tasty recipes for satisfying dishes, these are recipes that come with stories and history. This dish is all-American. Perfect for your 4th of July barbecue and all those summer-time gatherings. This isn’t the latest trendy dish that someone reposted from some Purple Pansy website involving edimame and sriracha chilies…this is JOHN STEINBECK’S personal recipe…John Steinbeck who authored 27 books about Americana, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1939 for Grapes of Wrath, a Nobel prize for literature in 1962, and his 25th novel East of Eden was made into an epic film starring James Dean (44 films and TV productions have been based on John’s writings).
Steinbeck was intrinsically involved in the production of East of Eden. Warner Brothers paid him $125,000 and 25% of the film’s net receipts. Director Elia Kazan arranged for Steinbeck to meet a young, new actor to play the role of Cal. John was not impressed. James Dean was intimidated and suggested to Steinbeck they should go for a ride on his motorcycle. After a harrowing ride through the streets of New York he was convinced, exclaiming to Kazan,”Jesus Christ, he IS Cal!”
John Steinbeck and his third wife Elaine (and possibly his dog Charlie), were big on entertaining and cooking for friends. The recipe sounds simple and basic, but surprisingly delivers lots of interesting flavor contrasts… Here’s Leonard Rosenman’s beautiful composition Opening Theme to East of Eden, you can listen while you cook (James Dean was influential in getting Leonard the job)…
JOHN STEINBECK’S OLD-FASHIONED SLAW
-Shred or chop cabbage, onion and green pepper (I used a mandolin on the cabbage and found myself without any onions in the house so I substituted scallions which I prefer for this dish anyway).
-Sprinkle green olives and celery seed over vegetables (I can’t seem to locate celery seed here in Greece, so I used poppy seed. Caraway seed would be nice too).
-In a small saucepan (that’s my grandmother’s saucepan in the picture) combine and bring to a boil, sugar, oil, vinegar, salt and mustard (Use olive oil for the “salad oil” mentioned. I generally substitute honey for the sugar used in recipes like this…I used under 1/2 a cup).
-Add the hot liquid to the vegetables. Mix well, cover, let stand 24 hours (refrigerated) before serving (I like to add a few good grinds of black pepper, to contrast and enhance the sweet dressing and salty olives).
Make a label to identify your dish at the party as “John Steinbeck’s Old-Fashioned Slaw” and tell a story about James Dean and the harrowing ride through the streets of New York with Steinbeck holding on for dear life.