Wednesday, May 4, 2011

An Ode to Mayo

When it comes to food there are two kinds of people: the parsnips and the gravies. The parsnips dissect each food item for its nutritional value while the gravies float on a boat of rich culinary pleasures...

That's one metaphorical distinction. Rick Bragg, a Pulitzer prize winning author, sees the difference another way in "The Guiltless Pleasure" which is the definitive ode to mayonnaise. He calls it a "story of tragic romance."

"I love that condiment, love it the way Odysseus loved Penelope, Samson loved Delilah, Lancelot loved Guinevere. I know, as they all must have known, that this will not end well, but I am not ashamed.

When I am on my deathbed, probably from a lifetime of bad cholesterol, I hope someone gives me a little packet of Hellmann’s, or Kraft, or Duke’s, or Bama, so I can slip it underneath my pillow like a scrap of scripture or a family photo. It will comfort me, I believe, as darkness falls. Then again, someone could just make me a sandwich."

Unfortunately his wife does not share his passion,

"My wife, who knows everything, says there are two kinds of people in this world. First, there are people like her, mustard people, who wake up in the morning and run five miles, or at least talk about how they used to. They wear clothes ordered from catalogs, the ones that show people hiking, fly fishing, or paddling a canoe, usually beside a Labrador puppy. They eat flax and what appears to be horse feed and swear they like it, and would no more let whole milk pass their lips than hemlock. They have never had high blood pressure, except when talking about their feelings. They have never had gout, which they even like to say, but can eat a whole pound of dark chocolate without ever having to check their blood sugar. They will tell you with a straight face that sometimes they just forget to eat....

And then, there are the rest of us..."

You may read this superbly entertaining essay here. It's part of an excellent annotated anthology of "Nearly 100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism" published in The Atlantic by Conor Friederesdorf who writes a newsletter entitled The Best of Journalism.