6/27/10

Homemade Mayonnaise & An Ode to my Grandma

For my birthday two years ago, my 91-year-old Grandma Ruth sent me, alongside a card with a very appreciated check, a jar of previously-opened mayonnaise. (It happens.) I would have been more shocked had I not recognized the jar. This jar of mayonnaise and I had history—it was an organic brand, and clearly, the one Matt and I had brought with us to the beach house for my family’s week-long beach vacation over a month earlier. At the time, I was in graduate school and living in Wilmington, North Carolina, and so, before meeting up with my family at the beach house about an hour away, Matt and I thought it would be nice to bring some groceries—the USPS-ed mayo had been part of this shopping trip.

It didn't take long to put the puzzle pieces together: I failed to pack the mayonnaise (or any other food product I'd brought) and take it home with me when leaving the beach house. So, like a pair of earrings I’d mistakenly left behind, the mayonnaise went home with Grandma for safekeeping. I thought I’d do you the courtesy of creating this Indiana Jones-style map to show you the path of this refrigerate-after-opening, preservative-free, three-dollar condiment.
Starting from Topsail Island, North Carolina, the mayonnaise went along with Mom and Grandma on the 11-hour drive—which they broke up into two days—back home to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where it must have hung out for awhile (most likely still in hot trunk of her car) as that would have been the end of the second week of August. Since my birthday is September 24th, and the package arrived September 26th, having been sent via regular mail through the U.S. Postal Service, I am estimating that, at best, it took two more days for it to make the journey back down to coastal, sweltering North Carolina.

Now, here’s the thing. I know that when you’re as old as my grandma is you sort of get a free pass when doing things that veer from the norm, but sending mayo through the mail is kind of par for the course for Grandma. She’s pretty notorious for her Depression-Era food hang-ups--to date, no one in my family has ever seen her throw a piece of food away. Also notorious is her reputation for making delicious food. She still makes the family’s Thanksgiving turkey each year, still works in the church kitchen and occasionally, when the dishwasher bails, still operates the church’s high-powered commercial dishwasher. Allow me to quote Grandma: “Well, they weren’t going to wash themselves."

Grandma doesn’t have Internet access so doesn’t read this blog, but when I first started it and began telling her about my culinary triumphs and failures, a steady influx of cooking-related items ranging from clipped newspaper recipes to 1990s-calendar-cat-tea towels to awesome, old-school cookbooks began arriving in my mailbox. A few months ago, she sent me her amazingly tattered copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
And the first recipe I thought appropriate to attempt, in honor of Grams, was Julia’s mayo. And since there are no pictures of the mayo in the book, alas, I cannot provide a “their version” shot, so I hope you’ll do me this one solid and let this picture of Grandma suffice:

I loved making my own mayonnaise. I loved that Mastering The Art refers to it as a sauce, an "egg yolk and oil sauce" to be exact. And I really loved the straightforward directions. Not only are they calming and reassuring with statements reminding you that mayo is simply oil beaten into eggs with a little lemon juice, but they're also playful. Within such a seemingly serious tome, I hadn't expected such moments of lightness. "After 1/3 to 1/2 cup of oil has been incorporated, the sauce will thicken into a very heavy cream and the crisis is over. The beating arm may rest a moment."
Julia and company were right. Halfway into my cup of oil, the crisis was over. I had done it. Hurrah! And what to do with fresh egg yolk and oil sauce? We made BLTs.
In short, thanks for all the mayo, Grandma—let's keep it coming!
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16 comments:

Green Been said...

gorgeous - love grandma!

N said...

Your grandma sounds amazing! I miss mine. She is the one who got me interested in baking & cooking & who would talk food with me! Love the mayo story - and that she sends you books and recipes and such.

Danielle (elleinadspir) said...

That is a great story. I think you should repurpose the mayo jar into a vase or utensil holder or something...after you wash it of course!

amelia said...

good idea, Danielle! only, I was too grossed out to even take it out of the plastic bag she'd wrapped it in. :(

Heather Taylor said...

super duper cozy. i liTERally DIE for the picture of the cookbooks

Mark and Marsha said...

What a great grandma! You're lucky. By the way, if you have any left over mayo would you mind Fedexing it this way. Address to follow.

dulci said...

man - ain't nothing like hot mayo!!

such a great story :)

http://ladulcivida.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

The gift of mayonnaise sauce!

Megan Taylor said...

cozy blog and cozy grandma! aw, cute! also, dishtowel/napkin in last photo? I swear I have the same...

xoxo, Meg

Anonymous said...

After reading about your Super Grandma I want to frame her picture and put it on our mantle for a guaranteed smile from all who see her! Mayo Grandma is amazeballs.

Mary said...

Brava! Grandma and Julia would both be proud. This is my first visit to your blog. I've taken some time to read through your earlier posts. I'm so glad I did. I really like your recipes and the tone of your blog. I've enjoyed my visit and I'll be back often. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

amelia said...

Mary: thank you!! so nice to hear!!

Mary said...

I'm so glad you returned my visit. I hope you'll stop by often. Have a wonderful holiday. Blessings...Mary

Anonymous said...

Ei, good for you! I wanna make that too.

grizzly&golden said...

Was just thinking today need to make my own mayo. And then I found this post, while looking for Grandma's pic.

It's a beautiful place, this life!
xx

amelia said...

I love that blogger can't handle an ampersand!!! :) :)