I had a wild hare and decided to make mayonnaise from scratch. For the first time. I was using the recipe from Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast. It failed; I became frustrated. The instructions in the book–though whimsically written–just weren't that clear. I felt like the young kid in the obligatory scene in those old movies where he finds out that his hero, the Champ, or star quarterback was a fraud, or doper: "Say it ain't so, Champ, say it ain't so?"
I thought maybe it was the immersion blender generating too much heat, so I tried an ice bath and a whisk to cool down the oil. Nothing. Just a big messy bowl of olive oil and egg yolk snot. I gave up. We enjoyed the artichokes, cheese, and charcuterie nonetheless. Those things really are amazing, and I am intrigued about who first thought it was a good idea to eat the spiky things, and how many people suffered from the choke before figuring out to remove it. I mean, really?
It was just the day before that by chance, on a lovely South Austin walk, that the Shortcake and I had stumbled upon two bolted artichoke plants. The plants were huge, unwieldy looking things. Having gone to bolt, the artichokes that remained on the plants shot skyward on long stalks, standing erect like proud phalluses in the afternoon shade. The Shortcake was excited to see the very plant on which her favorite food grew (if we could just find that damned elusive taco tree, we'd be set), we had been talking about them shortly before coming across these fine specimens, which made the discovery somewhat surreal. Whoa. I love when things like that randomly happen. It feels like things are synching up; destiny unfolding.
I slept on the failure of the mayonnaise. I woke up way later than I ever would on a Sunday. I ate, had some coffee. There was work to be done in the garden and I was intent on knocking it out. After finishing my greenthumbery, I sat and relaxed a bit. I started thinking about the failed mayo, just sitting in my fridge. It taunted me like a beating heart beneath the wood flooring. It was getting to me. I cleaned the whisk and bowl and set out to beat this shit into submission. Nothing. Still nothing.
The information age is good for many things. I sought out a use for this spent mess. Perhaps there was a custard, or bread that needed over two cups of olive oil and three egg yolks. After a few videos I realized where the mayo failed in the first place. I never let the emulsion happen with just the egg and mustard. That is what suspends the fat. Ah ha! There it was. An answer, a hypothetical answer, but an answer all the same. Start over with one yolk, some mustard, and some salt, form the emulsion, then very slowly add the failure. The website said, "I heard if you... but I've never tried it." I've tried it. It worked.
Miraculously, the one egg yolk held all of the failed mayo. Now I have over twenty ounces of mayonnaise and a sore forearm. Understanding the origins of my failure shed light on the recipe itself, and knowing now the technique needed, it makes sense in its whim. I also have the feeling of satisfaction that comes from the tenacity to overcome adversity through deliberate and dedicated action.
Of course this was resuscitating mayonnaise, not climbing out of a canyon after cutting off my own arm, but I was really going to be bummed if I had to pour out all that spensive olive oil, and fancy egg yolks. After all, we are in a recession, right? Wasting that much food seems rather bourgeois to this ignorant pleb. And just like that kid in the old movie, I was vindicated; my hero, despite his transgressions, came through in the end. The curtains close, the lights come up, goodnight.