Gingery Cabbage Slaw with Spicy Lime Dressing

The thing that nobody tells you is that birthdays after the age of 30 are nothing like birthdays before the age of 30.

I’ve tried to write a sentence after that without sounding completely sad and pathetic, but failed. It’s going to sound sad and pathetic to anyone under the age of 30, the way birthdays turn into a total non-event. Weddings and baby showers? Sure! Those are events to celebrate. My birth? I guess that’s a thing that happened…34 years ago.

God. Is it too sad to handle? Can I go on?

I’ve kept a low profile the last couple birthdays and this year was no different. Being over 30, I spend a depressing proportion of my life indoors — I mean, let’s just get it all out there, people — so I decided I wanted to have a birthday picnic at the Silver Lake Meadow, basically a giant grassy lawn next to the reservoir in my neighborhood, a place for apartment-dwellers like me to enjoy the sun and surreptitiously sip wine poured into opaque cups.

And picnics demand picnic food, so I made a gingery cabbage salad. It’s a sort of no-mayo, Asian-y coleslaw and I think it would be just the right thing to bring to a potluck or BBQ this Fourth of July. It’s super-gingery, a little spicy (or a lot spicy, depending on how much chili paste you add), totally refreshing and it can be made up to a day before the party.

I also made soy sauce eggs, a blueberry-lemon cake and a raspberry-lemon cake. (The blueberry and raspberry cake were the same batter, just with different berries on top. I’m not crazy enough to make two cakes for my own birthday. What am I doing, turning 24?) My smart and lovely friends brought quinoa salad, a cheese platter, bean and avocado dip, the best pastries and a giant container of mango cubes (my favorite!).

There was rosé and beer and a big pitcher of Aperol Spritz. Some of us played bocce ball. The rest of us watched a man doing handstands try to hit on a woman doing yoga. (He failed.) The sun finally sank behind the trees. We packed up the blankets and promised to do it again soon, because there’s something so perfect about friends and a giant lawn and a summer Sunday. “Thanks, Anjali!” one of my friends called out as we left. “For being…born?”

So okay. Birthdays after the age of 30 are nothing like birthdays before the age of 30. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still be great.

Gingery Cabbage Slaw with Spicy Lime Dressing

Yield: 4 servings

{ Ingredients }

1 pound green cabbage (about 1/2 small head)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ginger, grated
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 teaspoon - 1 tablespoon chili paste (like sambal oelek), depending on spice preference
1 tablespoon grapeseed or other flavorless oil
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup salted peanuts, roughly chopped

{ Directions }

Cut the cabbage into quarters and cut out and discard the core. Thinly slice cabbage with a mandoline or a sharp knife. Place in a colander in the sink and sprinkle with the salt. Lightly rub and toss the cabbage to evenly disperse the salt and let sit for about 30 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the ginger, lime juice, soy sauce or tamari, chili paste and oil. Pour the dressing over the cabbage and mix. Sprinkle in the cilantro and the peanuts. Toss to combine.

• I find that salting the cabbage beforehand results in a crisper and more flavorful slaw that holds up better in the fridge.

• This slaw can be made up to 1 day ahead. If you will be serving it more than 2 hours after making it, mix in the peanuts just before serving. They'll be crunchier that way. (Although there is something strangely good about a soft peanut. Or am I crazy?)