Read Time: 6 Minutes
Travel Perils And Rewards
My mother was a fervent believer in the inevitability of airplane crashes — to such a degree that when my parents went on vacations to Europe, my father took a plane and my mother reserved a very nice stateroom on a ship. Her belief prevailed when I went to study German in a Goethe Institut program. I was deposited in a windowless cabin (some might have called it steerage) which slept just four people on a Holland America Line passenger ship, the S.S. Rotterdam. One of the few pleasures I remember was the food served in a crowded but formal dining room. One evening the waiter served our first course which was a salad of hard boiled eggs garnished with a white sauce. I pushed it around my plate and then tasted it. It was delicious. I asked the waiter, who was trained not to appear too friendly to passengers, what it was. “That, Modom, is mayonnaise,” was his response. There were some notable outcomes to that period. I surprisingly aced the final oral and written exams in German, my mother finally joined my father on transcontinental flights after her ship had a terrible accident in the Bremerhaven harbor and I learned how to make mayonnaise after researching several mayo recipes.
North And South
I occasionally read in social and traditional media about the competition between Hellman’s and Duke’s. Since I am not a fan of either, I was curious about the perceived differences. To start with, one is from the North and the other from the South. One is the brainchild of a man and the other, of a woman. Actually, their histories and the ongoing rivalry between their respective fans are rather sweet.
Richard Hellman, a Prussian immigrant, landed in New York city at the beginning of the 20th century and married into a delicatessen-owning family. He soon opened his own on Columbus Avenue, where he developed his mayonnaise to be given out to clients. It became so popular that he tinkered with the recipe so that it would be less perishable. And then he sold it in bulk to other stores. The bulk sales were so profitable that with the sale of his delicatessen, he could afford to build a small factory, and the consumer-size bottle of Richard Hellman’s Blue Ribbon (his marketing design) Mayonnaise was born. The bottles were reusable, and a purchaser could get an additional gasket for a penny. Hellman tried to market other products, but nothing had the staying power of his mayonnaise. He dropped all other products and focused on expanding its sales. In the ensuing years, a California brand of mayonnaise, Best Foods, become a competitor. Its parent company, Postum Foods, bought Richard Hellman’s company, when he wanted to retire. Today, the same mayonnaise is marketed under the Best Foods Brand west of the Rocky Mountains, and virtually the same recipe is marketed under the Hellman’s name east of the Rockies. Today, after being part of several acquisitions, the two brands are owned by Unilever. When tasters quibble over the differences between the two, there is supposedly a bit more vinegar in the Best Foods version. Both labels list a combination of primarily soybean oil, water, whole eggs, vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice, with scorbic acid, and assorted “natural flavors”.
Duke’s Mayonnaise was born in Greenville, South Carolina over a century ago. Its success is even more remarkable in that it was driven by a woman at a time and place where a female run enterprise was almost unheard of. Eugenia Duke started by selling sandwiches to soldiers stationed nearby. She distributed her sandwiches (pimento cheese, chicken or egg salad) which were spread with lots of her homemade mayonnaise, near a military camp. The soldiers bought thousands of them. After the end of WWI, she began distributing sandwiches through drugstores, and she even maintained a tea room in a prominent Greenville hotel. Assessing the ever-growing number of queries about the spread that made her sandwiches such a financial success, Eugenia’s top salesman encouraged her to focus on the spread instead of the sandwiches. She did and sold her sandwich business, which still operates in Greenville today. Duke’s homegrown mayonnaise continued to amass huge sales, and Eugenia was advised by the same salesman to sell her mayonnaise enterprise to C. F. Sauer, a larger corporation that produced spices. Eugenia became the spokeswoman for the mayonnaise and C.F. Sauer promoted it successfully in grocery stores throughout the US, but primarily in the South. Even when she “retired” to California to be with her daughter, the ever resourceful Eugenia Duke opened a new sandwich business called the Duchess Sandwich Company, successfully selling sandwiches to drugstores and cafes. Duke’s mayonnaise has additional egg yolks in its whole-egg formula, and no sugar (actually a necessity when it was made on a larger scale amid sugar rationing) and a bit of paprika with the vinegar base. One of the classic mayo recipes.
A Family Feud
I think my older daughter, who went to school briefly in North Carolina, like her father, preferred Duke’s, but as Hellman’s was the favorite of both her grandmothers, we had both jars in the house. Daughter and dad even had taste tests (if one could call it that) involving peanut butter, mayonnaise and banana sandwiches. I had to leave the room when this bit of family bonding took place. (It should be noted that geography is not destiny. The father has grown to prefer Hellman’s on his world-famous BLTs.) Me, if I want mayonnaise, I make my own, and take solace that there exists a society for the preservation of Oeufs Mayonnaise in France – L’Association Pour La Sauvegarde De L’Oeuf Mayonnaise or L’ASOM. If you have an annual competition for the best Oeufs Mayonnaise, there has to be some hope for the world. Last year’s winner was Bouillon Pigalle, and can be savored for about $2.00.
I think David Tanis says it best in his book Market Cooking. “Why would you not make your own mayonnaise? It’s completely baffling to me since it is so easy to make and so divine.” I basically use the procedure he outlines. I use grapeseed oil or sunflower seed oil and will add some olive oil or nut oil, depending on what it is being served with. I do it by hand in a bowl with a whisk, or sometimes in a mortar and pestle, particularly if it has some added tuna or roasted peppers. Doing it in a blender or food processor actually took more time, if you consider the setup and clean-up afterwards. This is truly one of the best mayo recipes to try.
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) Dijon Mustard
- 2 cups oil (473ml) He uses all olive oil, I use mostly grapeseed or sunflower seed oil with some olive or nut oil for additional flavor) and I frequently use less than two cups.
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper (I prefer white pepper - it's milder and looks better in the emulsion)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice, red or white vinegar and add more to taste, if necessary
- Put the yolks and mustard in a medium size metal, glass or ceramic bowl.
- Whisk the yolks until they thicken slightly
- While whisking, add some oil in a drizzle, whisking in a circular motion (I am right handed so it is counterclockwise)
- As you see it thicken, continue to add the oil of your choice either by spoonfuls or in a small drizzle.
- Taste and see what type of emulsion you want and season accordingly.
- At this point, add your lemon juice or vinegar to suit your taste. and whisk again. - you may want to add a bit more oil of your choice.
- Your finished texture should be similar to softly whipped cream.
- This takes a few minutes by hand but it can be done in a hand mixer, a stand mixer, a blender or a food processor.
- It keeps about a week in the refrigerator, unless it is flavored with herbs or garlic, which lose their effect over time.
- I prefer Fallot Dijon mustard to other brands.
- I don't use the mustard with seeds when I make mayonnaise.
- 1 egg yolk
- 3/4 teaspoon (3ml) Dijon Mustard
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup (125ml) liquid bacon grease
- A small amount of boiling water to thin mayonnaise if necessary
- Combine the egg yolk, mustard and lemon juice in the small bowl of a food processor or in a blender.
- Process this enough so that is thoroughly blended.
- With the machine running, add some of the bacon fat until the mixture starts to stiffen and emulsify - this should take about two minutes.
- Once it starts to emulsify, you can add more of the fat until you get the texture and thickness you want.
- If the mayonnaise is too thick, blend in one teaspoon of boiling water.
- Taste and add salt and pepper to your taste.