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.
But a fight over mayonnaise? Who would have predicted this?
It all started one morning when Mary Ellen was searching for the sugar and noticed that I had accidentally placed the opened mayonnaise jar in the cupboard rather than back in the fridge the night before. Mary Ellen then 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 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. 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? Why not just open all the cans with bulging tops, make a nice bouillabaisse and wipe out the neighborhood and the next pitch-in?”
I read the mayonnaise label. It did say: REFRIGERATE AFTER OPENING. There was an 800 number next to that warning, a hotline for people with emergency mayonnaise questions. Would I reach a deli or New Delhi?
“Hello, you’ve reached the Mayonnaise Hotline.”
“Hi. I have a question about food poisoning.”
“This is the mayonnaise hotline, not the Mayo Clinic. 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 Hellman’s to pay.