Monday, August 21, 2006


If your car were to break-down for a week and you could not go to the store could you prepare your condiments?

When I was young, let’s say through my early 20s, I thought mayonnaise was some concoction invented by alimentary scientists and that it could only be prepared through some secret, magical recipe held jealously by Kraft or Hellmans. A couple of years into my permanence in Italy I was in a small town, about 3000 people, outside of Milan. A gentile lady in her 70s was preparing Vitello Tonnato for the family, the Matriarchal rule abounds in northern Italy and she was the Boss. I watched, fascinated as she placed eggs yolks in a bowl, added salt and began whisking. I asked what she was preparing.

“Maionese,” she responded.

Mayonnaise, how is that possible? I thought as she slowly drizzled olive oil into the whipped egg yolks.

Mayonnaise is white; this will be yellow-red!”

I was no dummy! I went to university at 15, always top of my class. I grew up in a southern family with 5 siblings. We all cooked on a regular basis. Mayonnaise is an industrial concoction, made with hydrogenated imgonnamakeyoureallyfat oil, and I have never seen yellow or yellow-red mayonnaise. Fortunately, she spoke only the local dialect and while I understood Brianzolo, I could not speak it fluently enough to contest.

She finished. There, right before my eyes, she had made about a pint of mayonnaise. I tasted it. It was creamy, velvety, rich, flavorful, mayonnaise. This mayonnaise was a delicacy in its own right. I could have eaten just that for dinner. She quickly added some shredded tuna and some capers. She threw veal cutlet into a pan and seared them lightly. She placed the veal onto a serving dish, covered with that heavenly mayonnaise and put it into the refrigerator.

I was amazed, I really like mayonnaise but this was different. I have never had mayonnaise like that. It is not right that something so simple is so marvelous. The next time the mayonnaise is missing from the refrigerator and it is time to prepare the lunch sandwiches, a sinful salad dressing, or perhaps those hamburgers on the grill, try this. Show your prowess as the god or goddess of the kitchen. When the basic ingredients are wholesome and flavorful the end result is no less.


2 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
1 cup Olive Oil


Place the yolks in a mixing bowl or food processor. Add a pinch of salt and whip the yolks until creamy. While whisking, drizzle a bit of Olive Oil slowly into the yolks. Before adding additional oil, verify that the previously added oil has been incorporated completely.

An interesting touch to this is to add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice once all of the oil has been incorporated.

Saving a mad mayonnaise:

If the eggs are not fresh, or too much oil was added too quickly, the mayonnaise can go mad. The yolks will separate from the oil and the eggs will seem to curdle. Do not worry. Place the mad mayonnaise in a separate bowl. Clean the mixing bowl with warm water. Dry and add another yolk. Whip the yolk adding a drizzle of oil. Then slowly incorporate the mad mayonnaise into the new mayonnaise.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I always thought mayonnaise was made with the whites of the eggs.

Just three ingredients! I'm all over that!

9:09 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Jennifer See how ignorant I was on this topic. You knew that eggs were involved (I really had no clue!)

Italian Wine Guy was telling me about the ultimate BLT sandwich. He suggests making the mayonnaise after you have fried the bacon. When adding the olive oil use a couple tablespoons of the bacon grease.

Many of our dinner guests think we bring products back from Italy for our dinners because, they say, the taste of the food is the same as the food in Italy. While there is little to do for a caprese salad (either the tomatoes are home grown or they are not) with other dishes the trick is simple preparing the basic ingredients instead of using the industrial stuff.

Try the mayonnaise. You will be amazed at how easy it is and how much texture and flavor it adds to the foods.

9:55 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I will! Maybe we'll do BLTs this weekend on my cooking night :)

11:29 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Jennifer Hey, with mayonnaise made by hand your family will think you have been working all afternoon. Go for it!

3:51 PM

Blogger ColleenQ said...

Out of curiosity, how do Kraft and Hellman make their final product white? More imgonnamakeyoureallyfat oil? (I love that!)

7:31 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

CQ Each company has a different recipe. They develop their mixes by starting out with the final taste and then work backwards, changing ingredients, looking for the cheapest way to produce the End Taste. The worldwide wine industry is trying to do the same thing with liquid additives and sugar.

If you read the label the 4th most important ingredient is sugar, that is after water, soy oil, and vinegar. The eggs are listed right in line with the preservative potassium sorbate (nasty byproduct of cement).

So commercial Mayonnaise is water and soy oil spiked with sugar! It provides, if you are frugal when adding, 25% of the calories in a lunch sandwich.

5:44 AM

Blogger Pauline Evanosky said...

I love making our own mayonaise. Each time I'd fiddle with the recipe and add different things. I used a blender, though, and it worked up in 15 seconds. It was amazing. I think I'll try a whisk next time like you did.

8:53 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Lady Skye The blender is great too. The whisk creates a bit less clean-up. Thanks for stopping in.

5:39 AM


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