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Hilde Lee: Potato salad fans will hold the mayo in high esteem

Hilde Lee: Potato salad fans will hold the mayo in high esteem

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I wonder what other little food items people are hoarding this week? After the past weeks’ publicity about ketchup in newspapers and on TV, people were getting big bucks for those little paper bags of ketchup. One lady got almost $80 for her bundle.

If I use ketchup on my burger, I also want some mayonnaise. Is that another item to hoard? I hope not. Some of these fads can go too far. Some of the stuff may spoil before it is ever used.

If you ask many Americans where mayonnaise originated, they would probably answer “in the jar on the kitchen shelf.” That is not far from wrong, but somebody had to make the first batch. It was the French, but today they have not gotten a lot of credit for it. Also, the Spanish were early producers of a mayonnaise sauce.

I have found that there are frequently two or more versions to a story, especially about food origins. That’s true about mayonnaise.

However, most food historians agree that mayonnaise was invented in France in the mid-1700s. It was first served in 1756 at the victory banquet of the Duc de Richelieu upon his capture of Minorca from the British. Others claim that the name comes from the French word “manier” (meaning “to stir”). The list could go on and on.

If you are not a food snob, you can attribute the name mayonnaise to several Mediterranean countries. For example, the Spanish “ali-oli” is a garlic mayonnaise used long before the French version.

The word mayonnaise (the English word) first appeared in print in 1841 and in the United States in the 20th century. Richard Hellmann, the owner of a New York delicatessen, began bottling his popular sauce in 1912. Several year later, the mayonnaise was selling so rapidly that Hellmann purchased a truck and began distributing it. Six years later, he built a factory to produce his mayonnaise.

In 1923, a company called Best Foods started selling mayonnaise in California. Nine years later, Hellman’s and Best Food merged, making mayonnaise a national product. However, the Depression made the rather expensive mayonnaise a luxury food. A low-priced substitute was invented by Kraft, called Miracle Whip. It has held its market share. Miracle Whip is a starch-thickened dressing with a 36% water content — twice that of commercial mayonnaise.

All of these specifications are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. The government requires that mayonnaise can contain at least 65% vegetable oil, at least 2.5% vinegar or lemon or lime juice, and salt, natural citric acid and preservatives. It may not contain food colorings or artificial flavorings.

Most commercial mayonnaise is made with soybean oil, whole eggs, vinegar, water, egg yolks, salt, and lemon juice. The ingredients are blended in a stainless steel mixer to produce a creamy mayonnaise. The mayonnaise is then guided into filler machines and then into jars to be capped and labeled.

The manufacturers of mayonnaise feel that their product will last “forever” on a pantry shelf, if unopened. Once opened, mayonnaise should be refrigerated. Caution should also be applied when serving mayonnaise-based salads in a warm atmosphere. Keep them refrigerated until just before serving.

I like a basic potato salad, but I usually add a small can of diced olives to it. That gives it a little tang. You may dice the potatoes before or after cooking; I usually dice them first.

Old-Fashioned Potato Salad

■ 4 cups diced cooked potatoes

■ 1 ½ cups sliced celery

■ ½ cup sliced green onions

■ ¼ cup sliced radishes

■ ¼ cup diced green pepper

■ ¾ cup sliced celery

■ 2 tablespoons snipped parsley

■ 1 cup mayonnaise

■ 1 tablespoon vinegar

■ 2 tablespoons mustard

■ 1 small can sliced black olives

■ Salt and pepper, to taste

Several hours before serving, combine all ingredients and refrigerate. Serve the salad on lettuce leaves and garnish with tomato slices. Add hard-cooked egg wedges, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

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