Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo(naise)

I was inside my fridge earlier today. Not wondering what to feed my growling, diet deprived tummy. Au contraire. I was wiping the shelves. The ones on the door. Making them sparkle. Which I do not do often enough.

Goodness they get so grungy. Sticky. Collect things that shouldn't be inside an ice box. Like Bailey's hair which is everywhere floating.

The bottoms of jars ... mustards, jams, pickles, maraschino cherries with the stems ... stuck like glue. Needed to pry up a few with a wet, warm sponge. Phooey.

Anyhoo, I noticed I have three, count 'em, three different jars of Hellmann's taking up room: fat free, light and my absolute hand's down fave ... Real. I tossed the fat free. It most assuredly does not bring out the best in anything.

Mayonnaise. Delicious condiment of tuna salad sandwiches, deviled eggs, on cottage cheese (per my darling bluegrass friend and I trust him implicitly so he must be right) ... or, with peanut butter on Ritz.

My wonderful childhood pal, Valerie, and I, 8 year old wannabe chefs, concocted this delicacy when I moved into her Cherokee Park neighborhood. Standing on tippy-toes to reach the third shelf in the Raleigh Tavern red pantry with a wall that curved because it backed up to the winding front hall staircase, we'd teeter until the box fell into one of our waiting hands. The tin of Nabisco Saltines rusted from damp southern summers right next to the familiar red box of those buttery flavored crackers. The ones that could make mock apple pie. Not that this baker extraordinaire ever tackled that 1950s modern ersatz dessert.

Today marks the unlikely victory of the Mexican Army over the French. And the French love their mayonnaise. After all they invented it over 250 years ago. Without the Duc de Richelieu we might not have tuna salad. Or cole slaw. Or a proper BLT.

General Louis-Francois-Armand du Plessy, the duc de Richelieu soi-même, led his troops onto the island of Minorca in June 1756, taking it from the British. To celebrate, the duke's personal chef created a feast — and a new sauce.

Emulsified oil, egg yolks, vinegar with a hint of lemon. Perfect dunk for a greasy paper cornu spilling over with hot salty pommes frites. As a delicious alternative to Dijon with sliced cold chicken. Blended in a mortar and pestle with fresh minced garlic. A savory dip for crudités. The slimmest of tender fresh out of the garden asparagus. Olives. A French luncheon on the seaside of lobsters and Pinot Gris incomplete without rich, homemade mayonnaise. Capers tossed casually for garnish.

Lobster without butter? I prefer lemons. Mais sûr.

So with this celebration of a most minor holiday across the Americas, I am a teensy bit surprised that salsa has not replaced it as the condiment of choice in the North American kitchen.

Oh wait. Maybe it has. Just not in this house. And never, not ever Miracle Whip!

Here's to centuries of European countries vying for power ... and to a condiment superbe!


  1. Real mayonnaise. the real deal only, of course!

    You mentioned putting it on pommes frites, which is the traditional sauce for french fries (patat) in my native Holland, although the stuff you normally get is not very good quality.

    When I first visited the US people were aghast and disgusted when I requested mayo rather than tomato ketchup.

    In the Netherlands you now have your choice of many sauces to go on your greasy fries, peanut sauce, curry sauce, and so on. You can also select "war" on your fries, which is both mayo and ketchup: The Dutch at war with the USA on top of French fries.

    Enough already!

  2. Wow....I am SO hungry now! lol An absolute mayo fan--love it on asparagus! (for dinner parties I thin it slightly with cream and say, "oh, you MUST try this lucious cream sauce on your asparagus..." Shhhhhh.

    My husband is a (shudder) m-whip fan. *sigh* I hide his in the back of the fridge...

    I love making herb mayo (basil, dill, chive etc...) to go with fish or paninis. Oh, try chopped up dill pickles with salmon! (you can also do that with butter--YUM!)

    Now I'm heading for the kitchen.

  3. Hellmans......yet another connection!

  4. I have the same problem with tomato ketchup. It's everywhere and none of it is any use. But it makes my fridge smell very pleasant.