The Mayonnaise Wars – Throw it at Me!

My recipe for shrimp spread or dip, if you will. Not even my husband, a true "non-mayo-er" can resist this appetizer. I wonder if he realizes there is mayo in it. Cats out of the bag now!

In the landscape of southern cooking – and eating – there may be no more divisive ingredient than mayonnaise. Feuding families split over which brand they prefer: Kraft, Hellman’s, Blue Plate or my personal favorite, Duke’s. And believe it or not, there are even those who not only don’t like mayonnaise, they admit that even the thought of it makes their duodenum cramp a bit.

True Southerners would consider those folks the politically incorrect “c” word – crazy. (And being ever so polite would never actually say this to their face.) This is likened to not enjoying a warm bowl of creamy grits, homemade hushpuppies, or worse yet, turning your nose (and your tongue) up at pit-roasted, hardwood smoked pork barbeque. Sacrilege.

Considering myself to be a non-judgmental type person I will admit that I too, find it hard to believe that someone would not like all the delicious eats that include mayonnaise in their ingredient list. First off there’s potato salad, then there’s the BLT sandwich, deviled eggs, pimento cheese, and yes, even ranch dressing.

When presented with a “non-mayo-er” situation an uneasy feeling of disbelief sweeps over me. Something is wrong here and I must ascertain the answer ! Like a therapist searching for the clues of life-long anguish, I pester the non-mayo-er, pleading with them, “but why don’t you like it?” There must be something sinister lurking in your past, way back there, behind the pickled jalapeños and the expired yogurt, that slammed the door on all delights deemed, nay doomed, mayonnaise-y in your refrigerator of life.

When I say that my own husband is one of these non-mayo-ers, you may be surprised. Believe me, he will be surprised to read that I’ve spilt the beans regarding his little aversion in the blogosphere. But I am not here to judge or defend. Actually I am here to state that I love mayonnaise and all that it contributes to my spring and summer table.

Apologies to Paula Deen, but I won’t be “slathering my corn with mayonnaise” or recreating my own Mother’s beloved congealed salad recipes (most of which contain mayo) verbatim on South by Southeast. However, I will show how simple it is to make homemade mayonnaise, a superior condiment to any jarred brand, in my opinion. And offer recipes (with step-by-step how to) for some delish sides like old-fashioned potato salad and new favorites like Madras chicken salad sliders.

Duke's Mayonnaise. Created by Mrs. Eugenia Duke in Greenville, SC in 1917 (Yes, 1917!). Since 1929 it has been produced by the C.F. Sauer Company, still in Greenville using the same time-tested recipe. And happily the market for Duke's is expanding. You can even get it in Pennsylvania and west into Missouri now. Go Duke's!

That being said I do buy and use Duke’s Mayonnaise. This is my “family mayo” and no other brand graced the threshold of my parent’s kitchen, ever. Even though my mother is very frugal, no off brand mayo for her either, only Dukes would do. And heaven forbid, she would never allow the “whip” (you know what this is!) into a grocery cart much less onto a tomato sandwich!

What makes this specific brand so good? To me, it’s because I’ve grown accustomed to Duke’s – the clean flavor with just a subtle tang of acidy vinegar kick, I suppose. And honestly, I know what to expect and I appreciate that. Consistency is an undervalued commodity.

So, do you have a favorite mayonnaise? Or other condiment that you cannot live without? What makes it special? Throw it at me (but be nice, please). I would love to hear all about it!

Blue Plate. This is a southern mayo straight out of New Orleans via Gretna, LA. It's a cajun staple.

Kraft. There's a style and a size for everyone, pretty much.

Hellman's. There was no 'light' version at my local grocer, however, there was olive oil, for the cholesterol conscious.

Things I’ve learned from my dog Jackson.

Our dog Jackson.

For over a year now I have been trying (eh… sort of) to get this project called “South by Southeast” started. I’ve told friends and family all about my big plans for a digital ride across the Southern food and culture landscape through the eyes of a native, albeit not a redneck hick, i.e.…. me.

I have tested recipes, taken pictures, designed header artwork, made numerous outlines, and done a lot of thinking. But for some reason, that apparently only a procrastinator would love, I just could not ‘start’. I thought about all the reasons why I could not ‘start’. The biggest hurdle being, what do I write in my first post? It must be creative, it must clever, and it must be perfect.

Then I took my dog Jackson out for a walk. It started as just a regular walk in our neighborhood. We walked down to get the mail, avoiding the shrubbery in front of the antique shop where all lifted doggie legs are met with a furrowed brow of disdain from the owner. We got the mail and quickly made it up through the main drag pee-free, only stopping after we reached the green clover under the biggest oak tree. The ground is a little soft and cool here under the shade of all that swaying Spanish moss. Clearly this is a popular spot and Jackson makes a beeline for it every time we are within leash length.

Usually he sniffs (Jackson sniffs a lot) and that’s it. But today, he plopped down and rolled over onto his back, paws up, gyrating in a sort of snow angel motion. I guess it was a clover angel. He did this once, snorted with happiness, got up and started walking. I thought, “Oh what has he just rolled in!” Then I did my own sniff. I perused the clover angel making area and discovered nothing discernibly smelly or otherwise.

Jackson then ambled on ahead to the next clover patch, plopped down and did his clover angel move again. I checked for any putridity and nothing. As we walked ahead to the big open, sunny area in front of our home, the breeze picked up some and I then I did smell something good, something sweet. Honeysuckle? No, maybe it was Carolina jessamine, I thought. Love that smell.

Jackson plopped down again and did his clover angel routine. But this time when he stopped he took a moment to just lay there sprawled out, staring up at the blue sky. Then he looked over at me with his (literally) puppy-dog eyes and scruffy face, all fluffed up from his angel making. He gave me, what can only be described as an exasperated and prolonged look, as if to say, “What are you waiting for woman, roll around in the clover. Life doesn’t get much better than this!”

No, I did not roll in the grass, but I did sit and give Jackson a tummy rub and breathed in that spring air for a bit. I watched some tiny ants scurry to and fro with a blade of grass for a bit, oblivious to everything around them. Then we both got up and headed back to the house where I sat down and started writing this post.

There is nothing to wait for. Today is as good as any day to ‘start’.