I have made mayonnaise from scratch a few times, using different basic recipes, and making some modifications. Mayo is generally made with an egg yolk, some lemon juice, a bit of dijon mustard, salt and pepper, and a distressing amount of salad oil. As you’re constantly whisking the base ingredients and pouring a steady tiny stream of the oil, you find yourself saying things like, “am I really going to put this in my body?” When you’ve finished, you have a light, fluffy concoction that is much more delicious than the store-bought variety, even the “real” stuff.
Sealed in an air-tight jar, the home-made stuff will remain fresh in the fridge for a few days. Meanwhile, I have a jar of Hellmann’s in there that I bought in April! So the obvious question is: what is in that store-bought stuff that can preserve it for months?
Ever since I first made my own mayo, I haven’t made a habit of eating it. Every time I see it, I think of all that oil. It’s not like I’m going to eat the entire jar, but still. The plus side of making your own is you can use any oil you like, or blend them. Olive oil is healthier than some oils, but it has a strong taste. Canola oil is a popular choice, but there is so much disagreement about whether canola oil is healthy, or whether or not it is safe, I could not make a decision either way. Therefore, I just avoid it for the most part.
I tend to make certain things myself. I make laundry detergent due to sensitive skin. I also make my own shaving cream and shampoo. Admittedly, making your own products is time-consuming, and I have to shake the shampoo bottle every time I use it, because the ingredients tend to separate without an emulsifier, like the egg yolk in the mayonnaise. (I have heard of eggs used to shampoo hair, but I didn’t think people in this century did that.)
I’m not here to brag. But I think it is important that we remember where we are and how we got here. When we think of things that are “real” we all might imagine different things. For some, real food might mean something home-cooked. For others it could mean something entirely different. We might disagree on “real” cheese, but the USDA has its own definition. Some countries, like Germany, have strict purity laws, where products like beer must be made within certain standards. Champagne, for example, is sparkling wine from a particular region in France. Bourbon, Scotch, and other types of whisky are made according to certain specifications, and there are rules according to geography as to how they can be labelled and marketed. And don’t get me started about the recipe for Coca Cola.
You could make your own cola. There are recipes all over the internet, and many of them, according to some, taste like the “real” Coke. I remember when Coca Cola released the “New” Coke, which was a bit of a disaster. Rumor had it that it was intentional, a PR stunt. (A very expensive stunt). It actually wasn’t bad, a little like RC Cola. The “real” Coke returned months later in the form of Coca Cola Classic. We may never know what really happened. Billions of dollars and decades later, the company is more profitable than ever.
The next time I make a salad involving mayonnaise, like Waldorf Salad, I will probably make the fresh stuff from scratch. I don’t know if anyone will appreciate the effort, and I don’t know if they will be able to tell the difference. Still, I’ll probably do it anyway. I like making fresh-squeezed lemonade. There’s really nothing like it. I guess I can’t go back to the fake stuff. And I’m okay with that, even if no one else cares.