Mary Ellen and I recently exchanged a few words over mayonnaise. Sometimes condiments can be seen as an insult to the chef. Like ketchup, for example. When I pour Heinz over my wife’s beef bourguignon, we always get into a stew.
Mustard? Yes, we have argued about mustard, too. Over the years I have attempted to season some of my wife’s dishes with a healthy dose of this condiment. What would her Pork Milanese have been without mustard? Uneventful. What would her eggplant parmigiana be like without a spoonful of Dijon? I shudder to think. What about that sesame-encrusted salmon without a dollop of you-know-what? Yes, Mary Ellen and I have clashed over mustard.
But a fight over mayonnaise? Who would have predicted this?
It all started one morning when Mary Ellen was searching for the sugar in our kitchen cabinets and noticed that I had accidentally placed the opened mayonnaise jar in the cupboard rather than back in the fridge the night before. Such absentmindedness is a part of my nature. I have found my keys in the freezer and my cellphone in the dryer, but mayonnaise in the cupboard was apparently a capital offense.
Without the slightest hesitation, Mary Ellen tossed the jar in the garbage, along with this denouement: “It’s no good. We have to throw it out.” I begged to differ. I just couldn’t accept the product’s ruin in just a few hours. I say 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 garbage and slathered it on my bread, then placed the jar in the fridge. Hours later my son stopped by and made himself an egg salad sandwich. When Mary Ellen discovered what I had done, she panicked.
“Are you trying to wipe out the entire family?” she bellowed. “Why not just open all the cans with bulging tops and make a nice bouillabaisse for the neighborhood block party?”
I picked up the mayonnaise jar and read the label, confirming that my wife was correct. It did say in big, bold letters: REFRIGERATE AFTER OPENING.
But then my eye caught an 800 number next to that warning, a hotline for people with emergency mayonnaise questions. I didn’t know if I would reach a deli or New Delhi, but I made the call.
“Hello, you’ve reached the Mayonnaise Hotline. How may I help you?”
“Hi. I have a question about food poisoning.”
“First of all, this is the mayonnaise hotline, not the Mayo Clinic. And, yes, I know what you’re going to ask. Husbands call all day long with this question. Look, our mayonnaise is loaded with acids that can actually kill bacteria. And the eggs used in prepared mayonnaise are pasteurized. It’s perfectly safe to eat.”
“So I shouldn’t throw it out?”
“Of course you should throw it out! A man can’t win a mayonnaise argument with his wife.”
He was right, of course. I didn’t tell Mary Ellen about my phone call. It would have been Hellmann’s to pay.
Television personality Dick Wolfsie writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to email@example.com.