In Praise Of Mayo (Sorry, Charlie)

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - March 11, 2009
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In Russia and Ukraine, mayonnaise outsells all other condiments

Now that columnist Charles “Hold The Mayo” Memminger is pau at the Star-Bulletin and has no access to the ink to fire back at me, I can write the column I’ve always wanted to print but feared his mighty reprisal.

I don’t understand how any human being gets along without mayonnaise. I pondered that as I spread the real McCoy on two toasted English muffin halves to make a kind of slurry to hold my fried kim chee sausage slices in place.

(Note to my cardiologist: I’m just kidding here. It was really raw broccoli without mayo on an unbuttered oat muffin.)

There could be no macaroni and potato salads or deviled eggs without real mayonnaise. Plus, it’s the most wonderful-tasting ingredient in the refrigerator. I love a spoonful of it. (I mean, I would love it or ingest it were I not a 20-years-ago cardiovascular bypass patient.)

Mayonnaise is like sugar. The world waited for it longer than they did for the Messiah. Maybe it was brought back to France from Mahon, Spain, after Louis-François-Armand du Plessis de Richelieu’s victory over the British at the city’s port in 1756. Maybe Marie-Antoine Carême made it lighter by blending the vegetable oil and egg yolks into an emulsion.


The authoritative Larousse Gastonomique says, however, that “mayonnaise, in our view, is a popular corruption of moyeunaise, derived from the very old French word moyeu, which means yolk of egg. For, when all is said, this sauce is nothing but an emulsion of egg yolks and oil.”

Nothing but??? C’est un amoin-drissement, messieurs! A veritable understatement of horrible consequence.

Whatever. Although mayonnaise seems to have been around since the late 18th century in some form, mostly as a sauce, it didn’t really get going in English cookery until about 1840. Well, that’s when it made it into the Oxford dictionary and written recipes.

Why anybody objects to the taste of mayonnaise perplexes me. I guess it’s OK to object on medical grounds because egg yolk and oil are not the greatest contributors to bodily health. But today, it’s usually mixed with a bit of mustard, which contains lecithin, which protects cells from oxidation and helps make up the protective sheaths surrounding the brain. So I look at it as sort of a neutralizer of the adverse cardiovascular effects. I use it on egg sandwiches, banana sandwiches, steak sandwiches and bacon-and-cheese sandwiches.

My blood pressure is perfect. We won’t discuss my weight. Homemade mayonnaise can approach 85 percent fat before the emulsion breaks down; commercial mayonnaises are 70-80 percent fat. Low-fat mayonnaise contains starches and cellulose gel.

And my research shows it’s a myth that foods like potato salad with mayonnaise can kill you if left out of the refrigerator. The acidity of mayonnaise prevents harmful bacteria from growing. If you get sick, it’s more likely because of bacteria in the foodstuff the mayonnaise has been added to.

And this is interesting: Mayonnaise is very popular in Russia - the only market where more mayonnaise is sold than ketchup. The brand called Biki out-sells all other condiments in Ukraine. It’s a worldwide phenomenon.

And I recently read that the Titanic was carrying 12,000 jars of mayonnaise scheduled for delivery in Vera Cruz, Mexico, which was to be the next port of call after its stop in New York. No, that’s not why they call the popular Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo.

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