Two years ago, in the summer of 2012, I made a short visit to my dearly beloved Motherland, Southern France, after an absence of a considerable while (which – I assure you - had nothing at all to do with that little pending business of the Paris Interior Ministry concerning the precise state of my political loyalties during the German occupation back in the war years, as the Times Culinary Complement has recently suggested!) I went mainly for pleasure and rest, dear reader: to visit my Ex-en-Provence, to have a Nice time, To Lose a few bucks at the local roulette tables, to paint the town Orange, and so on and so forth. But I also visited for more serious reasons: to check up on the general direction the old country is taking, and foremost, naturally, to investigate that utterly supreme and all-important subject: The State of Mayonnaise in France (for the prominent role which She played in the genesis of the Golden Sauce see this here earlier article).
Well, what can I say, dear reader? La Douce France of my youth is obviously going down the drain. The place is nearly unrecognizable. If anything, it now looks like a particularly poor chunk of the American Midwest where for some odd reason the local bigwigs have decided to change the lingua franca to, well, French… (Did you know, by the by, that shortly after the American Revolution, the US Rebels were so very fed up with the British that Congress earnestly discussed changing the national language to German?? Imagine what this world would look like today if they’d gone down that sour Kraut road…!)
|A French village, as it used to be...|
There are now hamburger joints everywhere, dear reader! In the countryside restaurants are few and far between and bloody ALL OF THEM offer PIZZA, for crying out loud! At the same time it is of course rigorously forbidden to smoke anywhere in a bar or a bistro – for we may despise the Yanks, but my, don’t we love to imitate their every idiocy! Parking prohibitions condemn the innocent motorist to perennial motion, as he cannot stop for a second without generating parking tickets automatically allotted by sneaky closed circuit cameras in the pay of the National Treasury. There are myriads of Megastores (a.k.a. to our American cousins as ‘malls’) in every village, even the smallest ones. No longer does the crumbling church spire bid you welcome you to an amiable communauté… No: what meets the eye as you drive in is a Mondrian skyline of megalomaniac cubes containing Intermarché, E. Leclerc, Casino and all the evil rest of them… Naturally, these have driven out, crushed, bankrupted and exterminated all small shops, so that each village looks like a ghost town where the average age hovers around 85. The only places that still show any sort of social life are horrid tourist traps like, for instance, Les Beaux (a little hilltop town that once gave rise to the name for Bauxite aluminium ore). Formerly a charming medieval hamlet gently forgotten by the rotten world, it is now filled to the brim with a human mudslide of half-dressed rabble, which moves chomping and gulping with wide-open mouths
|The French village, as it is today...|
Fortunately some things, the TRULY WORTHWHILE THINGS, never changed. And guess what has changed least (and is therefore worthwhilest of them all…)?!
Yeah, you guessed it: Mayonnaise! French Mayonnaise!
Other than in the rest of Europe (not to mention post-communist Eastern Europe!) France never succumbed to the onslaught and virtual monopoly of the Three Mammoth Brands: Hellmans, Kraft and Calvé (soon I will dedicate a post to their imperialist doings, dear reader; as soon, that is, as Mr Snowdon sends me his views on the matter). No: France developed, and sold, and ate, and KEPT its own national brands. These were always many, but three stood out as savoury rocks in a raging sea: Amora, Benedicta, and Lesieux. Today we will dedicate a few words to the first of these gorgeous Three Graces.
F1. Amora. Paris, 1981. Price unknown; 425 ml/400 gr.
Mustard - a mild mustard, not one which comes armed with hypodermic needles or a free sadistic acupuncturist - is in our opinion essential to all Mayonnaise. And as mustard is a favourite of the French (happy, happy nation...!) the Amora corporation – biensûr: de Dijon! – put 1 and 1 together and generated a long tradition of mustard-rich Mayo, which works splendidly. Nomen Being Omen, we simply Love this brand. It is not fit to accompany all dishes, nor apt to be eaten at all hours of the day. But an Oeuf Mayonnaise prepared with Amora is a guaranteed success! Sad that the producer opted to mutilate his label with no fewer than three ugly yellow bottles announcing ‘45% extra’ and a big Gratuit. It tires the eye, and is redundant! Good Mayo needs no bush!
F3. Amora. Paris, 1982. Price unknown; 262 ml/250 gr.
This somewhat later label of the same fine brand provides us with a good occasion to draw our readers’ attention to the large differences that exist between the sorts of victuals depicted on national Mayonnaise-labels. In France, next to the customary vegetables and hard boiled eggs, cold meat appears considerably more frequently and in a more prominent place than elsewhere on the globe. Also, the French – ah, happy, happy nation! – exceptionally include lobsters, avocado's and artichokes in their pictorial selection. One sees, at a glance, what Great Nation invented Mayonnaise and guarded its hallowed traditions! And what nation does most honour to the Golden Sauce.
F16. Amora ‘de Dijon’. France, October 2011. € 1,39 for 235 gr.
And, praise where it is more than due: as the label was gradually changed over the decades, the strength, beauty and character of this excellent brand was strictly maintained. Amora in the 21st century was still as mustardy as always, as robust, as fierce… as… as… Divine! Even if there were some ominous signs of capitulation to health food manias on the label, such as the disappearance of all of yesteryear’s cold meats (has Cholesterolophobia taken root even in the land of Foie Gras???), and a laudable, but rather suspect emphasis on the ‘roughly 310,000 hens’ which are guaranteed free range happiness throughout the year due to the charity of Amora Mayonnaise. We are happy for those chicken. But… let not thy left egg know what thy right egg is doing, we softly mumble…