Food, Inc. the other night on PBS. Even though I didn’t learn much that I hadn’t already come across in other places, it was still pretty horrifying and depressing. And at the moment I feel revulsed by the idea of buying anything that can be classed as a product of the “food industry.” I’m not going to make any drastic pronouncements (yet). But I’ve been experimenting for a while with making things myself that I had previously only bought ready-made, and I feel more strongly than ever that that’s the direction in which I want to be going. There’s the health aspect of knowing what’s in my food, which is certainly important; but right now I feel as though the political statement I can make, by buying as many single-ingredient items as I can, is even more so. The filmmakers reminded me that we as food consumers send a message with every purchase that we make. They pointed out that Wal-Mart switched a while back to buying only hormone-free milk in response to customer demand—a significant decision considering both the size of Wal-Mart’s market share and its reputation as the premier outlet of industrially produced food.
I’m not pure in my food choices, or even always particularly consistent. But I spend a pretty fair amount of money on food, and I try to remember how lucky I am that I have the option to do that. So, since I can, I’m going to keep exploring how to spend my food budget in ways that are consistent with my principles and beliefs.
Adapted slightly from Ratio by Mark Ruhlman
This is a bit labor-intensive with a balloon whisk, which is all I have available at the moment, but I’m expecting that it will be a cinch with a hand mixer. The hardest part is not adding the oil too fast. It is considerably cheaper and infinitely better, than store-bought mayonnaise, and even DP, formerly a diehard fan of Miracle Whip, has been converted. (The coup will be if I can pull that off with homemade ketchup. Watch this space.)
1 large egg yolk
½ tsp salt
1 tsp water
2 tsp lemon juice*
¾ - 1 cup oil (mostly vegetable, but with a good splash of olive)
Anchor a good-sized bowl on the counter by twisting a tea towel around the base; or wetting it, folding it in half, and putting the bowl on top. Place the first four ingredients in the bowl, and whisk to combine. Add the oil very slowly**, a few drops at a time, and whisk in thoroughly before adding the next few drops. When you see the mixture start to thicken, you can add the oil in larger amounts, but still go carefully so as to avoid breaking the emulsion. (If it starts to look liquid or curdled, it has broken.***) Continue adding the oil slowly and steadily, whisking all the while, until you have a thick, gloopy, pale yellow mayonnaise.
Put in a jar and keep in the fridge for about a week. Use to make Caesar salad dressing, tuna salad, and anything else you can think of that would benefit from some tasty mayonnaise.****
* I add another good squeeze of lemon juice at the end, plus a healthy pinch of cayenne pepper.
** Various recipes I have consulted suggest using a cup with a pouring spout, the pusher part of the Cuisinart with the little hole in it, etc. I have none of those things available, and have managed fine, if messily, by trickling it out of a 1-cup measuring cup.
*** If it does break, start over with the egg etc. step, and whisk the broken mayonnaise in bit by bit.
**** And I used to not even really like mayonnaise.
N.B. See here for an explanation of the high five.