Our kitchen renovation continues. Stuff from the fridge and pantry had to be moved to the garage, and in the process we cleaned out several drawers filled with exotic spices.
Most of the spices I have never heard of: anardana, advieh, amchoor powder and ajwain, to name a few. (Yes, Mary Ellen had them in alphabetical order.) She bought these when she went through her, “I am going to learn to be a gourmet cook” stage, the week after we got married. The stage left the following Monday.
Mary Ellen still wanted to keep those seasonings, claiming there is no expiration date on spices like Nigella seed. This was not an argument I wanted to have, especially when it was more important to save my personal favorites from being tossed. But my wife thought that this was a good opportunity to wean me off my addiction to mustard and ketchup, two essential ingredients that the great chefs of the world have, inexplicably, eliminated from their food preparation.
Oh, you do find occasional recipes with a touch of gourmet mustard, but when was the last time Wolfgang Puck smacked the bottom of an inverted ketchup bottle and drizzled his chicken Kiev with a little Heinz 57?
During the transfer of my favorite condiments to the garage, Mary Ellen discovered that I had left a jar of mayonnaise on the storage shelf overnight instead of putting it into our extra fridge. Without the slightest hesitation, she tossed the jar in the garbage.
“It’s no good. We have to throw it out.”
I begged to differ. I just couldn’t accept the product’s ruin from just a few hours at room temp. Look, if you can’t fight off bacteria overnight, you’re not worth the preservatives you’re made of.
The next day, desperate for a smear on my BLT, I fished the mayonnaise out of the trash and slathered it on my sandwich, then placed the jar back in the fridge. When Mary Ellen discovered what I had done, she panicked.
“Are you crazy? Why not just use it to make potato salad and then we can wipe out the entire neighborhood at the summer block party?”
I picked up the mayonnaise jar and confirmed that my wife was correct. It did say “REFRIGERATE AFTER OPENING.” But then my eye caught an 800 number on the label, a hotline for people with emergency mayonnaise questions. I didn’t know if I was calling a deli or New Delhi, but I made the call.
“Hello, I have a question about mayonnaise food poisoning.”
“I get husbands calling all day long with this question. Commercial mayonnaise is loaded with acids that can actually kill bacteria. And the eggs used in prepared mayonnaise are pasteurized. It’s perfectly safe, despite what your wife thinks — what every wife thinks.”
“So, I shouldn’t throw it out?”
“Of course you should throw it out! A husband can’t win a mayonnaise argument.”
He was right. I didn’t tell Mary Ellen about my phone call. It would have meant Hellman’s to pay.