Mayonnaise: An Etymology Of Sorts.

Mayonnaise: An Etymology Of Sorts.

Mayonnaise is, by all accounts, an emulsification of egg yolks, oil, and an acid, e.g., lemon juice or vinegar. By definition, it is poetry. ¬†Though many are repulsed by it‚Äôs simplistic beauty, I am intrigued, and oftentimes wonder who came up with such a delightful condiment. Even using the word ‚Äúcondiment‚Äù seems like I‚Äôm doing mayonnaise a disservice. It is the sum of all of its parts. If mayonnaise is a composite, it’s parts are prime.

Take the oil, for instance. From olive oil to ghee, oils are used in, and for anything imaginable. They range in color, flavor, texture, and smoke points. Personally, seeing an array of oils on a grocery store shelf lights within me a fire of possibility.

Next up: Acid.  It can be found in all kinds of wonderful places. Tomatoes? Acidic. Lentils? Acidic. Don’t let this one blow your mind too much in a full circle kind of way, but.. Olive oil? Acidic.

Here we are, left with that delicate little orb of sunshine. Holding a yolk in my hand, sans whites, is one of my absolute greatest joys. Collecting a bowl containing, say, six of them? Just the sight of it makes my solar plexus constrict with happiness.  I have many thoughts on the egg in general, but the yolk is solid gold. (get it?)  The way you pierce a yolk, and that silky smooth liquid pours languidly out of it’s membrane? Genius.

Now for the science of it all: Emulsion. By Wikipedia’s definition, it is “ a mixture of two or more immiscible (unblendable) liquids.” Things that weren’t meant to be mixed together, by the magic of science, are. Oil and vinegar. You’ve heard what awful things have been said about these two beautiful creatures ~co-mingling. They are the Romeo and Juliet of food. The emulsifier here is the yolk. (Oh, Yolk. You sexy little minx, you!) It’s lecithin is the catalyst. Add speed and oxygen, and Voila!  Mayonnaise.

I have a history of finding anything and everything I can put mayonnaise on or in. Here’s one that I find amazingly unnecessary, but also delicious. Scrambled eggs. Whaaaat? This seems a little redundant, doesn’t it? Here’s the thing.. If you add water to beaten eggs, the consistency of the finished product is lacking at best. Cream is a better option, as it’s fat content lends itself to the density of the curds. But mayonnaise? It has the fat content, PLUS it is made up of mostly eggs, so the emulsification process becomes easier, therefore leaving hearty and well-rounded scrambled eggs. Scrambled eggs are an art.

My love for mayonnaise can be pinpointed to a very vivid memory with my mother. She was a teacher and had the summers off. I remember a day watching The Price Is Right with her, when she brought down a plate of  folded, one slice sandwiches. Wonder bread and mayonnaise. (Hellman’s, of course.) There had to have been at least six for the two of us. One and a half sandwiches each. I looked up the fat/caloric content, and have found that I, at approx. 7 years old, had consumed 355 calories and THIRTY-THREE grams of fat. If you remember, we were watching The Price Is Right, a show that has come on at 10a.m. everyday for my entire life. This “meal” was eaten as a mid-morning snack. Learned behaviors; we all have them.

Not much later, I was making these sandwiches on my own. Sometimes I would add tomatoes, which only increased the amount of mayonnaise I was using. I couldn’t have those slices of mealy red and gelatinous soiling the bread, could I? When she got sick, I stepped up my game a bit. I began cooking ground chuck in a pan, and making mayonnaise/beef/grease sandwiches. Sometimes hard salami. Always with white bread, and always with Hellman’s. No foliage here, sir. Move it along.

When she died, it became such a huge part of my diet that it was like there was nothing else. In short, mayonnaise tastes like my mother. (gross!) It is the comfort food of all comfort foods in my comfort foods roster. With each bite, each savoring of flavor, I am brought to a time where my mother and I, alone on the couch, snuggled and giggled together. No obligations, warm summer winds and Irises in the garden, and no fear of illness. A time when she fed me with love.. And fat.