Friday, March 20, 2009

Mayo Clinic

Saucymayo – What do you have against mayonnaise? The Great White Hope

Apparently, in the previous post I gave the impression that Saucyman had some sort of anti-mayo basis. Two things: Yes, I do not like mayonnaise and my writing has improved to a point that I can convey an opinion without directly expressing it.

I could tell you that it is an emulsion; liquid and fat locked together in an unnatural state that is either an offense against our maker or proof positive the expression ‘like oil and water’ is a lie. But it isn’t like that- I like most emulsions, I just hate mayo. This animus towards mayonnaise is lifelong. As a saucyboy, I called it ‘white death’, making me not precociously ironic, but singling me out as the only Midwesterner who objected to processed soybean oil on white bread.

Mayonnaise is believed to descended from the noble aioli – a thickened sauce of eggs, garlic and olive oil that is said to have originated in Provence and/or Catalan. According to food historian Andrew Smith, mayo was not mentioned in domestic cookbooks until the 1880s. By 2000 Americans purchased more than 745 million bottles of the condiment. That is the type of growth that has only been matched by the expansion of the American waistline - so what happened to make mayo so popular?

The French, or more accurately the influence of French chefs helped promote mayo to the masses. Fashionable restaurants such as Delmonico’s began offering mayonnaise to customers. Mayo based sauces like tartar, countless special sauces, became popular and mayo became the go to ingredient for almost every kind of salad dressing made – think Caesar. It was bottling really helped mayo reach its ubiquitous pantry status. 1911 – 1912 saw the birth of Hellmann’s, first in wooden packaging, then a glass jar. About the same time, Schlorer’s and Gold medal mayo took to the jar. A little later Kraft’s Miracle Whip began sponsoring a radio show boosting the brands popularity and the rest is bland white history.

Learning how to extract flavor from your ingredients is the essence of cooking. Wrapping things in bacon, dousing them in hot sauce, salting them to death, pickling foods in acid/vinegar or slathering in mayo – all can stimulate and satisfy the taste buds but it doesn’t take talent – and that isn’t even my objection. People don’t need to be talented cooks, possess subtle taste buds or have exquisite taste to enjoy food…If I have some rare roast beef, bread baked that morning & aged cheddar; what does mayo have to offer that combination? Even if the bread isn’t the greatest and maybe the roast beef is a little dry, does mayo from a jar really help the flavor of anything or is it just convenient and customary? Everyone gets to answer that question for themselves but if I need to add a little fat and moisture to a preparation, I am going to think about sour cream, avocado, yogurt, garlic roasted in olive oil, mustard, horseradish, butter, tomato sauce before the thought of using mayonnaise ever comes up.

1 comment:

Terry C, NJ said...

Whenever I hear "Mrs. Schlorer's Mayonnaise", I always remember the TV commercial for it with the two kids and the boy singing "I'm a Sandwich Man...."