Friday, November 2, 2012

My Father's Mayonnaise Episode

As far as I'm concerned, there is only one true mayonnaise: Hellmann's. I buy and use no other. In fact, I trust these people so much that I actually tried one of their recipes, which I had seen advertised in magazines and on television: Parmesan Crusted Chicken. I made half the amount, since that's all the chicken I had, and it was delicious.

Measuring the ingredients reminded me of the day my father decided to make mayonnaise. Now, Pop was an enthusiastic cook who sometimes let his enthusiasms get the better of him. He cooked often, usually making steak or spaghetti sauce or other hearty dishes. He cooked with energy and verve, paying close attention to his utensils and supplies. Our  household kitchen, for example, had a huge restaurant stove, with 6 burners, 2 large ovens, and a giant griddle and grill. Such stoves were seldom seen in the 1950s. Pop also had a wonderful collection of knives—a roast beef knife, a ham knife, various cleavers and slicers—some of had been passed down to him. He kept those knives sharp and clean.

However, he wasn't so fastidious about his recipes. "Isn't that the best damn spaghetti sauce you've ever had?" he'd ask. Sometimes it was great, but at other times it most certainly was not. Pop seldom tasted or measured as he cooked; instead, he'd just add ingredients as the mood struck him. Most times that method worked, but a few times it failed memorably.

The mayonnaise episode is a case in point.

One weekend we were at our farm, where we had an abundance of eggs but no mayonnaise in the fridge. Undaunted, my father announced that he would make mayonnaise. It was simple, he stated: merely a mixture of eggs, oil, lemon juice and seasoning.  To prove his point, he broke several eggs into a blender, mixed them up, and then poured in some oil. The resulting mess was totally inedible. We threw it out.

He tried again with the same result, and then tried a third time. Now we were out of oil, so my mother was sent into town to get more. It never occurred to my father to look at a cookbook. I finally did as we waited for my mother to return, and I learned that the oil can't just be dumped in but must be drizzled in, bit by tiny bit until it creates a permanent emulsion.

I explained this to Pop, who had a chemistry degree and understood the situation instantly. The next batch of mayonnaise had a perfect consistency, although for the life of me I cannot recall how it tasted.

1 comment:

  1. Love this story! I remember being at the farm one summer when your dad popped in for a day or two. He made the most amazingly simple cabbage dish that I remember to this day. He had me watch him step by step and would not hear that i didn't like cabbage. Uncle Morrie wasn't someone I'd argue with so I did eat it and loved every bit. I can still hear him singing the praises of the ground black pepper in that dish. Funny what we remember.