Thursday, July 22, 2021

Revisiting Mayonnaise

When it comes to mayonnaise, I have an unbreakable tie for the #1 spot in my rankings, Duke's and Bama. I adore them both in equal measure. Duke's has no sweetness, while Bama has a pronounced sweet note, so I have to point out that they are very different formulations, that their tie for #1 is not due to closeness but to distinctiveness and richness. Say, you take all of the commercially-available mayonnaise brands you can find at your closest supermarket. You'll find Bama, Duke's, Kraft, Hellman's Sauer's, maybe Heinz, maybe Blue Plate out of New Orleans, and one or two store brands. If you line up all of them, slap a blindfold over my eyes and hand me a teaspoon, I will pick out Bama and Duke's from this lineup. Easily. 

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This summer, I've had tomato sandwiches with Duke's, Bama, and Blue Plate. And Blue Plate is a perfectly serviceable concoction, so I'm not knocking it.  I'm just saying that a Bama-slathered tomato sandwich approaches something akin to spirituality whereas the Blue Plate-slathered sandwich is merely enjoyable. 

Bama's ingredients are as follows: Soybean oil, eggs, water, distilled and cider vinegar, sugar, salt, onion flavoring, natural flavoring, oleresin paprika, lemon oil. 

The first four ingredients are exactly the same in both Bama and Dukes, so the Bama magic happens with the addition of their own secret "natural flavoring", onion flavoring and sugar and lemon oil. I really like the idea of the lemon oil pushing it over the edge into something special, and it is. 

Duke's ingredients are as follows: Soybean oil, eggs, water, distilled and cider vinegar, salt, oleoresin paprika, natural flavors, calcium disodium. 

I'm always curious what the "natural flavors" are in a secret recipe like that because they make it hard to speak to what makes Duke's so special. People talk about it's "tang" and I can get on board with that for sure. It has no sweetness as all. It's a creamy tangy richness and it stands alone in its perfection. 

When you get the idea that a touch of sweetness in your mayonnaise is what you need to bring out the notes and counterbalance that smoked turkey sandwich, pick Bama. When, on the other hand, you're mixing up a pimento cheese and you want to exert control over the sweetness ratio as I am prone to do, use Duke's and a nice coleslaw dressing. It just depends on what you need. 

I can't say a negative word about either of these gems. But I highly recommend the tomato sandwich test. Get your hands on a good tomato, some white bread, and make two tomato sandwiches, one slathered with Bama and one slathered with Dukes, and you be the judge and maybe help me break my tie for the #1 slot because I'm cobbed. 

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