Have you ever rediscovered something from a long time ago that you’d forgotten existed? That childhood toy, the stuffed animal, the scented fragrance, the favorite spot in your hometown?
I have these scraps of memories floating around disconnected in my brain. I see fields and sunsets that remind of me of random Midwestern locations, that were my first sights as I rode along in the car with my parents. I can vaguely smell the strong perfume of my first piano teacher. I hear bars of music and know I’ve heard them before, but have no remembrance of the piece of music or why they sound familiar like a satisfying homecoming. I remember pieces of conversations, remember thinking childish opinions about people, remember certain joys and disappointments.
And then there is mayonnaise. Yes, I said it. Mayonnaise. I am whispering it; afraid I might be shunned from decent society for declaring my association. I rediscovered this gem of a spread last summer and I am not sure if I am happy or sad about the reunion, but let’s leave it at I haven’t made it sleep in the shed yet. All I can think about when I use mayonnaise is the scene on How I Met Your Mother when Lily goes to the Eriksen homestead in Minnesota for Thanksgiving. She helps make 7 Layer Salad and her New York City sensibilities are horrified when the recipe calls for 16 cups of mayonnaise. The backward reputation of mayonnaise tarnished my snobbish taste for years.
I excommunicated mayonnaise from my dietary regulations as a teenager. I made tuna fish with lemon juice and pepper. I made egg salad with herbs and mustard which I didn’t really like. I ate sandwiches sans, “sandwich lubricants,” as one odd person I knew termed it. I made potato salad with olive oil, goat cheese, and pine nuts and looked not so politely in the other direction at barbeques, church gatherings, and other social events where potatoes and other field grown produce hid themselves under a fluid mask of gummy whiteness. And mostly, I avoided foods that played well with mayonnaise.
Enter Summer 2015. I blame my aunt. She came to visit for a week at the beach. What do you need for a day at the beach? Lunch. What is easy to make for lunch at the beach? That’s right, class, sandwiches. Now, a side note. I have always loved ham and cheese sandwiches from the time I was a child. They were not a super common occurrence in the menu cycle, something about economic reasons and lunch meat costing more than tuna or some such nonsense. Anywhoo, as an adult I would make myself ham and cheese sandwiches when I would now and then deign to eat a carb in bread form for lunch. They were good enough, but mostly I was so bread deprived and carb guilt ridden, that the bread was the consuming factor in the sandwich. I was chewing away having a love hate relationship over the bread, not really noticing what the sandwich tasted like. So, back to beach lunches. Being the nice aunt that she is, my aunt made sandwiches. Ham and cheese sandwiches. With lettuce and tomato, lightly peppered and salted. And, the winning sandwich protagonist. Mayonnaise. Yes, mayonnaise, just a swipe from crust to crust, snuggled right up next to the tomatoes, making a little creamy accessory to the mouthful of carb and nitrate goodness.
“That was one good sandwich,” I thought to myself as I watched waves crash onto the sand. “It is almost like there was a secret ingredient,” my brain continued. Like something was in there that has been missing from my sandwiches. I wondered and mused and remade the sandwich in my brain over the next few days of the beach week. And then the epiphany occurred. Mayonnaise. Score. Mayonnaise combined with tomato. Winning at sandwich life.
And hence was planted the seed of my reunited allegiance with that substance from the blue lidded jar. I made non-bread sandwich wraps. I put a dab of mayonnaise next to the tomato that was curled up comfortably inside the wrapped ham, draped over with lettuce. Amazing. It was not leaving me with an empty feeling, that feeling when one is positive there is more to life. It completed my taste quest.
I tried tomatoes chopped with salt and pepper, mixed in a bowl with the tiniest scoop of mayonnaise. Not gourmet. But simply refreshing and delicious. Creamy, tangy, tart, and a complete mouthful of summer.
This summer my mother made her creamyish potato salad again. I tried a few bites and I saw that
it was good. I asked her for the recipe. I read it over and saw the magic word. Mayonnaise. Yes, of course. The secret weapon.
But not too much mayonnaise. Not 16 cups certainly. Just enough to taste it, but not enough to know you’re really tasting mayonnaise. No, that would be gross. In all things moderation. Hold deep emotion in check in order to truly convey emotion. Hold too much mayonnaise in order to make the food taste good, not disgusting. You do not want swimming chunks of undistinguishable food clumped together in waves of sluggish mayonnaise piles.
My last terrible secret, as it relates to mayonnaise, is that I eat it on something that is an abominable combination. I. Eat. Mayonnaise. On. Hot. Dogs. My husband cannot bear to look at my plate when I do this. But my childhood comes flooding back, combined with my adult world to make a fabulous good life. The taste of summer, the taste of carefree days, of sunshine and happy children and a bright future, is all there with flick of the wrist, the swipe of the knife.
I hope the stigma of mayonnaise is not too much for my readers to bear. I may be unfollowed, unfriended, rejected by the finer pallettes. I promise if I cook for you not to plunder my food into 16 cups of mayonnaise. I promise not to make you eat mayonnaise on hot dogs – although I do think you should try it.
Its funny the things that surprise us in life. It’s more odd how we shun things trying to be sophisticated, only to rediscover them when sophistication no longer needs to be quite as affected as it did at age 14. When we are comfortable with who we have become, sometimes that is when we can allow pieces of who we once were to resurface. We can look in the face of the things that once made us who we are now and welcome them back into our circle of trust.