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.
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.
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."