Friday, 23 March 2012

Cookbook: Murder of Mayonnaise (1)

Alfred B. Mittington is an Honourable Man, dear reader. A man of his word. I promised you a while ago that I would tackle the distasteful theme of cookbook crimes against Mayonnaise, and today I will do so. It may not turn out to be an elegant post, or a pleasure to read. But please understand my plight. In order to run through this catalogue of barbarities, in order to write about such savage doings, I had to take a preventive cure of Alka-Seltzer and Aspirin. And yes: I confess that the bottle of Ginjinha is standing ready next to the leg of my writing desk. In case it all gets too much to bear for a man of taste and sophistication!

Where to start, dear reader, in this hellish list of misdeeds? With the most innocent of deadly sins? The most blood-curling one? The choice is hard, but – like old Heraclitus of Ephesus – I have inquired of myself and then taken the plunge manfully into the dunghill, so that, unhampered by hesitation – I may obey Aristotle’s rules of rhetoric, and start with the strongest, most reeking topic and work my way down to the weaker.

So brace yourself dear reader! Hold on to your chair and your breath. For here we go with the most abominable of them all! By far the worst thing that the international conspiracy of cookbook scribblers may entice you to do, is to use a Food Processor to rip your Mayo to readiness. Oh, I have no words for it! The mere idea horrifies me and I cannot possibly describe this outrage myself. Hence I must allow the rogues who dare lead you into temptation to describe the despicable process in their own words. And just to show you that – when it comes to cookbooks - the most pretentious are also the most preposterous, written by people who - while showing off of their upper class raffinement - do not stop short of the most barbarous onslaughts that the human mind may invent, I take from the secret cabinet in my library that American kitchen bible, The Book of Fundamental Cuisine, by Mss Andrea Sorrow and Lucille Sheen (Ann Harbour, 1988).

This BFC is probably the poshest, most overdone, exclusive and pretentious gastronomic catechism ever to have come forth from the kitchen of two sherry-sipping bankers’ wives. Any list of ingredients, even for such simple recipes as Fried Egg, is longer than most people’s CV; and of course you should only ever use the moscato-based vinegar that you buy in this tiny little delicatessen on the Piazza della Republicca in downtown Siena, and the artisanal Camembert of Monsieur Gout d’Or in Sainte-Coco-sur-Chanell… The ladies are in fact so very exquisite that they will patronisingly instruct their readers that for mixing Mayonnaise “traditionalists rarely use a whisk, (…) applying instead either a fork or a wooden spoon” (p. 24). And yet, when posh comes to shove, they cannot of course be bothered to do so themselves! No, since they will not entrust their Mayonnaise to the hired help (you never know what you can catch from them Mexicans, do you now?), and they themselves would not be caught dead working, they grab for the food processor instead. On page 775, they tell you to throw into this infernal machine: 2 egg yolks, 1 whole egg, 1 tablespoon mustard, 2 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice, and 2 cups of oil of any kind. Turn the meat grinder on, and run it for a full minute. The result, they proudly proclaim, is ‘3 cups’ of mayonnaise.

Dear reader, THIS IS NOT MAYONNAISE! What happens here, is not the creation of an honest emulsion ‘of oil in egg-yolk’. It is egg white being beaten stiff and forced violently into a pre-arranged marriage with some yolk and oil, which desperately cling to the flimsy foam of denatured proteins! Oh, but as long as the artisanal moutarde comes from the mustard-farm of our dear friend Gaston in the Upper Loire Valley, everything is tout bien, droit?

What ought to be done to a cook 
who makes Mayonnaise in a Food Processor

A similar insult to Good Taste gets perpetrated by The Vegetarian Epicure (New York, 1972), a book which is Oh so alternative, Oh so New Age, Oh so Aquarius, and in its bonfire of alternativiness will for instance teach you such ungrammatical truisms as: ‘With sauces, employ delicacy in preparation and discretion in use’ (p. 81). Aaaah, ain’t they profound now? Yeah, but when it comes to honest, natural work, what do we get again? Yes, you guessed it: blenders and food processors! Run on cheap electricity from the nearby nuclear plant (since it’s a plant, it must be green, right?) They propose that you jam one whole egg, salt, dry mustard, wine vinaigrette, Tabasco, lemon juice, ½ cup of olive-oil, ½ cup of peanut- or sunflower-oil, and water (!) into the blender, and run it however long it takes!

Will you believe it??

Dear reader, a Food Processor is a marvellous machine. It makes you soups and creams, pesto and mashed potatoes, and if you put egg white into it, it will make you marshmallows and macarons. And there is nothing wrong with that. But Never Ever use a food processor for the Golden Sauce! It is a Crime against Gastronomy! It is the Murder of Mayonnaise. You don’t use a nail gun to pierce your ear lobes either, or a sander planer as a vibrator! So don’t be absurd and forego the infernal contraption!

I say more. If you, reader, are the kind of Goth who thinks it is legitimate to use a food processor to make Mayonnaise, I hereby forbid you to read on! Go away. Get off my blog. And do NOT return. I want none of your attention! You are a culinary CUR!

It is too much! My heart is beating from justified fury! Time for a swig of Ginjinha… There, that’s better. What? You are still there, reader? Correction: you are still there, DEAR reader? That means that you are a person of taste and sophistication who has seen the light and will never look lovingly on a food processor again without murmuring: Yes, thou art fine for mushroom cream and milkshakes, but Let My Mayo Be! That is good, my dear reader… It means that my distasteful task is not in vain.

I must stop now. I feel the heart flutters coming on and my blood pressure rising like bread dough. I must therefore leave you. But I will soon be back with More Barbarities from the Cookbooks. For there are many. And we will have to face them all!

Now where’s that bottle?

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