Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The King of Condiments

I just finished re-reading Tom Robbins' Villa Incognito and truly related to his elegant tribute to Mayonnaise (I once made a similar soliloquy to Mrs. Mosley on the subject of Pork Fried Rice). You may want to eat something before you read this, 'cause it's bound to make you hungry:

"All Carolina folk are crazy for mayonnaise, mayonnaise is as ambrosia to them, the food of their tarheeled gods. Mayonnaise comforts them, causes the vowels to slide more musically along their slow tongues, appeasing their grease-conditioned taste buds while transporting those buds to a plane higher than lard could ever hope to fly. Yellow as summer sunlight, soft as young thighs, smooth as a Baptist preacher's rant, falsely innocent as a magicians handkerchief, mayonnaise will cloak a lettuce leaf, some shreds of cabbage, a few hunks of cold potato in the simplest splendor, recycling their dull character, making them lively and attractive again, granting them the capacity to delight the gullet if not the heart. Fried oysters, leftover roast, peanut butter: rare are the rations that fail to become more scintillating from contact with this inanimate seductress, this goopy glory-monger, this alchemist in a jar."

"The mystery of mayonnaise – and others besides Dickie Goldwire have surely puzzled over this – is how egg yolks, vegetable oil, vinegar (wine's angry brother) salt, sugar (earth’s primal grin-energy), lemon juice, water, and naturally, a pinch of the ol’ calcium disodium EDTA could be combined in such a way to produce a condiment so versatile, satisfying, and outright majestic, that mustard, ketchup and their ilk must bow down before it (though, at two bucks a jar, mayonnaise certainly doesn't put on airs) or else slink away in disgrace. Who but the French could have wrought this gastronomic miracle? Mayonnaise is France's gift to the New World's muddled palate, a boon that combines humanity's ancient instinctive craving for the cellular warmth of pure fat with the modern, romantic fondness for complex flavors: mayo (as the lazy call it) may appear mild and prosaic, but behind its creamy veil it fairly seethes with tangy disposition. Cholesterol aside, it projects the luster that we astro-orphans have identified with well-being ever since we fell from the stars."

It's a simple reminder of how Mayonnaise is part of the Holy Gastronomic Quadrilogy.

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