To wrap up the triad of Prominent French Brands, we shall look at the Sun King among Marianne’s Mayo’s: Lesieur, both from Metropolitan France and from one of the Colonies d’Antan.
F4. Lesieur Tournesol. Paris, 1982. Price unknown, 262 ml/250 gr.
Ah, a very French Mayonnaise is Lesieur! It is, to our taste, the sunflower sauce par excellence! No other brand makes such fine use of the good old savoury oil from the soul of the sunflower seed.
That said, there is, of course, a drawback to the reliance on so very strong-flavoured an oil. Yes, it shines with a pronounced personality of its own; yet the same could be maintained of that jolly old fellow whose one and only party-trick is playing the musical saw: nobody else does it so well, but how often do you really wanna hear it? Therefore, I dare say that Lesieur is best kept for an occasional diversion, when one feels the need to get away from the usual brands made with milder oils. That way one can keep appreciating Lesieur’s uniqueness…
One other great objection is its texture. That is by far too sturdy. You can't stir it: instead, the rotating spoon breaks it into flakes, like congealed wax. If you happen to have guests, and cannot possibly serve the sauce in that shape, the solution is to mix in a one or two spoonfuls of quality olive oil.
T1. Lesieur. Hammamat, Tunesia. Feb 2000. 3,200 dinar (€ 2,55) 245 ml.
To my knowledge, Mayonnaise is no staple of Muslim cuisine. There is no particular reason why this should be so. The necessary eggs and oil are produced in abundance in the fertile Muslim lands. The Muslim kitchen has its charms, its savoir-faire and its rich, majestic dishes. So nothing stands in the way of a worthy Mayonnaise being produced. Another reason must be sought; and perhaps it may be found in the traditional Muslim way of eating. After all: the consumption of a Mayonnaise-based dish with the right hand from a large shared central plate, would certainly turn the collective dinner into a very gooey and unpleasant affair.
However that may be: North-African Mayonnaise only came in with colonialism; and small wonder, therefore, that I suffered a grand disillusion during my fortnight in Tunesia a decade ago. It turned out that both home-made and bottled products were bland, uninteresting affairs. Even the best hotels served only a pale, anaemic sauce which had seen neither salt, nor pepper, nor mustard, nor lemon juice. Picture Picasso using only yellow paint, and you will get the idea. The best bottle of one could score in local commerce was this lamentable Lesieur, a complete carbon copy of the above common French brand, and - seeing the multi-language and multi-script label slapped on top of it - produced for purposes of export and tourist catering only.