Nothing makes me happier than reaching into the refrigerator and finding a full jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise. A full jar of mayonnaise is like a blank canvas, or a brand new notebook. Inside that jar is a world of possibilities. Down deep, that full jar of glorious, creamy mayonnaise signifies hope. Does that sound a little dramatic? Maybe, but true Southern cooks know exactly what I’m talking about. Mayonnaise is a crucial ingredient in so many of our recipes.
I’m not trying to get into an argument here about brands. I know that there is quite a lot of disagreement in the south about that. Over the years, my refrigerator door has held jars of Bama, Hellman’s, Kraft, Blue Plate, and Duke’s. I once tried “light” mayonnaise, and I even bought (and promptly threw out) a jar of Miracle Whip (I may or may not have repented of the Miracle Whip Incident at the altar call at church that week). When it comes to preferred mayonnaise brands, my philosophy comes from that great Facebook meme: You do you, Boo.
Many of our salads, sauces, and casseroles have mayonnaise listed as an ingredient, but I imagine, if you’re like me, it’s also a secret ingredient in some of our recipes. If I’m making something that doesn’t quite have the flavor or texture I’m after I’m not above pulling out the Hellman’s.
Mayonnaise is also a common condiment in my family, and I’m not just talking about sandwiches. My cousin Nina can’t sit down to a plate of peas without it, and the same with my sister Jeannie and English peas (English peas are known outside of the South as simply green peas). Mayonnaise is what makes a good pear salad. Without it, you just have pears, lettuce, cheese and a cherry. It’s the flavor enhancer for tomato slices, and even corn on the cob. What in the world would the world be like without it?
I’m always amazed when someone disparages the use of mayonnaise. But I just smile and nod sympathetically and offer them another spoonful of that creamy congealed salad that they love so much.