Saturday, 31 March 2012

Cookbook: Murder of Mayonnaise (2)

Champagne, dear reader, is a name protected by law. Unless the bubbly beverage has been produced in the homonymous province, you are not allowed to call it so. Which is why, on New Year’s Eve in Barcelona or Benicarlo, when toasting the health and happiness of friends and family with an identical sparkly liquid, the label on the bottle will say Cava if it was produced below the Pyrenees. Never mind that it is often of comparable quality or even better.

Likewise, you cannot just fabricate any nice soft creamy cheese and write Camembert or Gorgonzola on the package. First you have to prove that the stuff was made to curdle in local storerooms, mixed from local milk, produced by local cows, who have been eating local grass in local pastures, and are fluent in the local lingo…

Even, as I pointed out in a previous article, yes: even German sausages enjoy a lexical protection so very strict that it makes the Siegfried Line look like a lengthy buffet of Gruyère cheese (which, to be sure, is also an appellation contrôlée…).

If all this is the case, then why, I protest with rightful indignation, is not the name Mayonnaise protected? Why can any old culinary Goth scribble some vicious recipe for a liquid goo involving eggs and oil (if you’re lucky, that is…) and cover up his shame with a giant headline screaming ‘Mayonnaise this-or-that’, without the secular arm of the law raiding his miserable study, dragging him out onto the nearest commons and burning him at the stake as he deserves? It is a mystery to me, dear reader, and I can only assume that these things go on because Good Taste is an insult in the eyes of the mediocrities who write our law books and set our legal standards. They themselves are Pizza People, Hamburger Hooligans, Pesto Pests… They recognize themselves in the tasteless cookbooks of this sad excuse for a civilisation, and they like what they see. Once again it shows that Law is not the same as Justice, and that Morality has nothing to do with Government Regulation.

In my first J’Accuse last week I denounced the use of the Food Processor. I know you all were shocked to the bone by what you read, but… there is even worse! Believe it or not: there are people who not only use such infernal machines where they shouldn’t, but toss into their witches’ brew all sorts of revolting ingredients under the pretence of making Mayo. Ah, where are you, sweet soothing bottle of Ginjinha…? Come closer to my breast, beloved friend, for you and I must continue with the distasteful task of denouncing the Crimes against Gastronomy in all their sordid details! Yes, I know it is certain to drain us both. But Noblesse Oblige! Our readers of taste and sophistication are counting on us…

So there. A hearty swig and here we go.

Surely you all remember the vegetarian gluttons I quoted last week (The Vegetarian Epicure, New York, 1972) as mixing Mayo from entire eggs in a food processor. Well, these world-improving gals and boys had yet another turd up their sleeves on page 112: a mush they dare call Mayonnaise, made from hard-boiled eggs! They suggest you put together 3 hard-boiled eggs, 6 to 8 tablespoons of olive-oil, ¾ tablespoon lemon juice, 1 spoon of sugar, 1 spoon of mustard, and ¼ cup sour cream, and then mix the lot to pulp in the food processor again. What can I say? Had they called this Egg Spread I could have lived with it. But Mayonnaise? Who do they think they’re fooling?

Yet not only today’s This-is-the-Dawning-of-the-Age-of-Aquarius egg-heads perpetrated such atrocities… Our immediate ancestors did so as well; even those who carried on their feeble and unworthy shoulders the responsibility of teaching the young! A pair of ladies by the names of A. Koopmans-Gorter en G.A.M. de Boer-de Jonge (respectively director and teacher of a Home Economics School in Groningen, the Netherlands) suggested to innocent future homemakers, in their Nieuwe Kookboek (13e edition, Noordhoff NV, Groningen 1931) the following formula for – Yuk Yuk Yuk! – Warm Mayonnaise, meant to accompany things like smoked salmon and cold meat. The recipe is almost too repugnant to repeat, but I must do my duty. One is supposed to whip three egg yolks in a saucepan, place it on a hot stove, mix in 1.5 decilitre of cream and 3 tablespoons of oil drip by drip, and then stir the mass until the sauce gradually thickens. Once that takes place, add ever so carefully 2 tablespoons of green herbs, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, salt, mustard powder and pepper, and stir until it has the right consistency. Then, to ensure that the cook will be so nauseous she will not need to eat her own creation, they instruct her to keep stirring the mass until it is cold, so that no skin forms on top of the sauce… (Hey, but wait, wasn’t this supposed to be WARM Mayo? It beats me, reader… I fear you will have to figure this one out for yourself.)

An only slightly less offensive recipe comes from page 9 of Ms Cristina Soler’s Ensaladas (ed. Damau Socias, Barcelona, no year, but I suspect the Stone Age). The spineless young lady takes a short cut to ensure the binding of egg and oil: she soaks the soft inside of bread in vinegar, then mashes it together with egg yolk in a mortar. While mixing in a ¼ litre olive oil little by little, she insists we must always turn the whisk in the same direction, if not something awful will happen (sadly she does not specify what). This is of course the sheerest nonsense (I take it that in Australia, where water runs down the drain clockwise, we must whip our Mayo the opposite way?), but this sort of mystification probably is meant to make up for the near total lack of spices which, like any good Spaniard, Ms Soler despices. No mustard, pepper or acid is anywhere in sight. Only a pinch of salt is allowed in the latter stage of the mixing process. And with very good reason, I must say!

By now you surely think you’ve seen the worst. But no, dear reader, you ain’t seen nothing yet, as Ronnie Reagan said! Horror of horrors: there are health freak zealots who pretend they can make Mayonnaise without egg! Yes! Incredible! Especially given the fact that the name of the Golden Sauce itself comes from the old French for Egg Yolk, as I explained in my earlier article on the subject. Yet there they are, shamelessly, barefaced, empty-headed. The first recipe of the kind comes from the macrobiotic cookbook De Natuurlijke Keuken, het gezonde kookboek der 70-er jaren, by one Jean Hewitt (Bert Bakker, Amsterdam, 1976). It tells you to mix 1 cup of coffee-cream, 1 teaspoon of sea-salt, ¼ cup of lemon juice, 1 cup of oil and 1 entire cup of cane sugar (!) together. Once again the blender – that favourite instrument of every alternative spirit - does the rest!

And do you want another one? Here goes: a French cookbook called 500 Recettes d’Alimentation Sainte (ed. La Vie Claire, 1977), wisely published anonymously, wants you to combine 1 tablespoon of almond mash with a little water, some mustard, some lemon juice and salt. Then once you have added the oil, you have an ‘alternative mayonnaise’.

Come here and kiss me, dear bottle of Ginjinha. Make it a French kiss, and make it a long one… So that my readers know that not everything French is perverse…

Must I continue? Oh, I could go on forever, dear reader! I know of a recipe that makes Mayo from egg yolk and milk! Of one that uses egg-powder instead of the natural yolk. Some cookbooks replace lemon juice with white wine! Some add powdered sugar, or even syrup. There are those who toss in Tabasco, or cayenne pepper, or Worchester sauce. Then there are such who ‘lighten’ the sauce with whipped cream. And finally there are those who cook Mayonnaise…  WILL YOU BELIEVE IT?

But there must be a stop even to Dante’s Inferno

Line-up of the Usual Suspects

Cookbooks, dear reader, are a pool of ever-original sins. Do not heed them. Do not follow them! The place of a cook, dear readers, is in the kitchen. Not at a writing desk or behind the lectern. And even in that kitchen, a close watch should be kept over him, to ensure he will not produce egg-less mayonnaise, industrial sauces whipped into shape by blenders, or health-food variations of a dish which, by definition, is not good for the body, although it is famously good for the soul. 

If to this you agree, then please do me a favour. Whenever you have a moment, tonight or tomorrow, sit down at your writing desk, or if you must behind your computer, and write to your MP, your Congressman, your general secretary, dictator or ayatollah, and ask him to do all he can to ensure that before his term of office runs out, the hallowed name of Mayonnaise becomes an Appellation Contrôlée in your country! Only thus may we avoid that cookbook barbarity gains a victory over good taste.

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