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Hold The Mayo … While I Get A Spoon

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
August 16, 2011

Know your audience: It’s a maxim that television network officials and public speakers know well. Parents are familiar with it, too, as they try to sneak some healthy ingredient into a not-so-healthy dish. Even Chef Boyardee has a whole ad campaign built around hiding a full serving of vegetables in each one of its meals.

I love the idea of camouflage cooking. Pardon me while I take off my apron, put on my camo and grab my jar of mayonnaise. That’s right — mayonnaise.

Prepare to be shocked and awed.

Poor mayonnaise. Most people think of it as a condiment. Instead of spreading it with a knife, I think measuring cup.

I was hooked after I saw a chocolate cake recipe that had mayonnaise in it. It was a recipe for “The Ultimate Chocolate Cake” using Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise.

The longer I stared at the picture of the moist cake, and the more I ruminated on the idea, it seemed perfectly fine to put mayonnaise in a cake. After all, mayonnaise is just the emulsification of eggs, vinegar and oil.

But not everyone would agree. That’s why it’s important, when experimenting in the kitchen, to know your audience — who is going to be trying the finished product.

I have learned that not everyone has the stomach — no, make that the mindset — to try something new. Which is why I lie to some people about what’s in my treats.

Let’s be clear: I don’t lie to people who have food allergies. That would be evil and could lead to a lawsuit.

I lean more toward impishness. And unless my co-workers are hard-core taste-testers, I suddenly develop amnesia when asked, “What’s in the cookies?”

My Fickle Pickle Cake didn’t go over very well, only because I blabbed and told people the name. Had I kept my mouth shout, more people would have loved it.

Making food with secret ingredients — that’s my avocation. Some people have hobbies like knitting, philately or collecting baseball cards. I like to build recipes around a food item you wouldn’t normally find in those dishes. Dill pickles in cake, for example.

Since I had my aha moment with the chocolate cake, I’ve put mayo in other cake recipes, chicken casseroles and mashed potatoes — to name a few.

I’ve also seen it used in recipes for pies, breads and pimento cheese. Of course, there are also the not-too-surprising recipes for potato and macaroni salad.

For convenience, I use store-bought mayonnaise. Sure, I could make my own but why bother? I like the idea that when I open a new jar, it will be good for a long time in the refrigerator.

If you make your own — providing it turns out the way you want it — it will only last a few days. Also, it means you will be working with raw eggs, and that carries a risk of salmonella. Commercially prepared mayonnaise uses pasteurized eggs. However, it has preservatives and other items not included in the homemade version. So, pick your poison.

I thought I’d try my hand at making mayo, so I got out my ragged go-to favorite cookbook. It had many recipes for flavored mayonnaise. I rechecked the index thinking I had missed the page with the mayo recipe on it.

Turns out, it didn’t have a from-scratch mayo recipe. Even 30 years ago, it was easier to open a jar.

Nowadays, plenty of people have opened that jar, so to speak — and many delicious foods exist with mayonnaise as a secret ingredient. But some people still refuse to try them.

So, to remind myself that I need to tell a fib from time to time, I hold on to an email from a co-worker.

When I told him about the poor reception for my pickle cake, he wrote, “The next time you throw together a pickle brine, mayonnaise or ground-glass coffee cake, simply say, ‘Come and get it, y’all’!”

Keep those words of wisdom in mind when you try my secret-ingredient mayonnaise recipes. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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