^ See this title? ^
It was not SUPPOSED to be the title of this post. The title of this post was supposed to be, “How do you make your egg salad?” And I was supposed to very wittily talk about my personal love of egg salad, very openly ask you about your personal egg salad idiosyncrasies, and then very proudly tell you about the most amazing egg salad that my family has ever eaten, made so because of the homemade mayonnaise that we put into it.
Unfortunately, I got a little ahead of myself. (I do this a lot. Once in the fourth grade, I wrote this poem that won an award in the community, so my teacher at school asked me to read it in front of the class the next day. I daydreamed all day that my classmates would not be able to get enough of my poetry and that half of the class the next day would be dedicated to me… reading poem after poem because they just would not let me stop, and that somehow the principal would find out and there would be a school gathering where all of my peers begged for more, and I would humbly read on until I became hoarse and would have to pick someone to continue reading my poetry to them, and of course it would have to be someone who would use all the right inflection… I went home with this in mind, and I was sorting through all of my poems, trying to put them in an appropriate order for the requests that were sure to come… when my wonderful and oh-so-practical mother passed my room, saw what I was doing, and said, “You need to only take the one Mrs. Crissey asked for. This is not Jenni West’s poetry reading day!” Thud.)
Back to topic: yesterday was a rainy, stormy day, and Jay was off work, and it was the perfect day to sit inside reading books or watching movies or whipping up a quick batch of homemade mayonnaise to brag about. I was so confident that it was going to be so good that I decided to make a double batch. I doubled the egg. I doubled the ground mustard. I doubled the lemon juice. I doubled the salt. The problem is that the lemon juice, which came before the salt, called for half a Tablespoon, and somehow my brain kept seeing, “Tablespoon” when I moved on to the salt, so yes, I added SIX TIMES the salt that the recipe required.
How do I describe how this first batch of mayonnaise tasted? Hm. Pretend that you are having a dream about being in the ocean. The waves keep hitting you in the face, so you are tasting the salty sea water – which is blissful, of course, because you are in the ocean, and that is part of the experience. But suddenly your dream goes bad, as dreams are sometimes wont to do, and the water turns into an oily (REALLY oily, but we’ll get to that later) white glob that has not lost its saltiness. Salty. Oily. Globby. Yes, it was disgusting. It was so disgusting that I threw it out before Jay knew what I had done. (Sometimes, when you know it’s your fault, you just have to do that with disgusting things.)
I had wasted two cups of oil, but no matter. THAT mayonnaise was NOT going into my perfect egg salad. I started over. Incidentally, I got my recipe from this wholefoods cookbook that I really like. It has only ever failed me one time, and I have made a lot of things from scratch with it. So I was very careful the second time, and I followed all of the instructions to the letter. And… it was gross. It was like my oily glob of an ocean turned into an oily glob of a lake (meaning, it was still disgusting; it just wasn’t salty). I didn’t really expect it taste like store bought mayonnaise, so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I expected it to taste BETTER, and this just did not. I added a couple of extra eggs, thinking that the problem might be that the recipe called for too much oil. It was so awful that I made Jay try it. (Sometimes, when you’re sure it isn’t your fault, you just have to do that with disgusting things.)
At this point I felt somewhat desperate. The thought of cooking from scratch for three hundred and sixty two more days suddenly felt like an eternity. So because I am not one to give up easily (both a strength and a flaw), I got online and consulted Alton Brown. Ah, Alton Brown!! He gave a very similar recipe to my friends from the wholefoods cuisine cookbook, but he went a tiny step further and explained the importance of making sure that the mayonnaise emulsifies. And he explained how to be sure it does. Their recipe wasn’t wrong; it just wasn’t suited for me, a novice who did not understand the process. I decided that once we got through the oily glob, I would make mayonnaise properly with Alton’s voice in my head whispering, “Emulsify!” But my awesome husband suggested that we ditch the disgusting batch and try yet again.
So we did. Together. We put an egg yolk in a bowl. We added some salt and ground mustard, and we beat it. The we added a little lemon juice and vinegar and beat it some more. Then we added some oil – a few drops at a time – and waited for it to get pale and globby. (This is the sign of the beautiful emulsion.) It did. Then we poured the oil very slowly and kept that emulsion going. Halfway through, we added a little more vinegar and lemon juice, and then we finished trickling the oil in. And in the end, we had mayonnaise. I have never been so happy to see mayonnaise in my life. Who would have thought making it could be such an adventure?
My adventure in making mayonnaise got me pondering… life can be kind of like this, I think. Success that doesn’t come right away usually requires perseverance. Many pithy statements tell us this, and this is an inspiring thought; we cut our losses, dig our heels in, and try again. But lots of times the pithy statements leave out (because this is not nearly so inspiring of a thought) that success that doesn’t come right away often requires change as well. Sometimes small adjustments make big differences, but change isn’t easy, isn’t fun, and the idea of it deflates us as quickly as a practical mom informing an impractical daughter that the likelihood of reading half a day’s worth of poetry before the entire school is probably not a foreseeable reality. So we try again, doing the same things and hoping for different results. And a lot more than a blog post about egg salad is at stake… our children suffer; our marriages suffer; our grades or our jobs suffer…
I thank God for the Alton Browns in my world – the people that know a little bit more than I do about what I want and are willing to share what they know to help me get there. I hope that you have those people, too, and that you ask them for help when you need it. Because that will get you a lot more in life than yummy egg salad.
(And on another note entirely, please don’t ever buy “just add water” pancake mix again. Ever. From-scratch pancakes take about ten minutes longer to make and are infinitely more delicious.)