Armand de Vignerot du Plessis (1696-1788), Duke de Richeleiu, soldier, Cellamare conspirator, philanderer, and thief, watched with smug satisfaction as British troops marched from Port Mahon.
Under the command of Lieutenant-General William Blakeney (1671-1761) the British had defended the city, which they called Fort Saint Philip, with honor and were allowed to retreat unmolested from the island. Blakeney would later be named the first Baron Blakeney for his actions in this early European engagement of what was to be known as The Seven Years War. Vice Admiral John Byng (1704-an abrupt 1757), the man in charge of the failed attempt to reinforce the British garrison, would be court-marshalled, found wanting, and executed by firing squad.
No matter the fate of the British officers involved in the battle, the day belonged to Richeleiu. He commissioned a celebratory dinner. His chef, having no cream for a sauce at hand, became desperate. Flailing about aimlessly he threw together whatever was at hand to come up with something, anything, to serve for dinner. He must have known that the final product he served was wretched, but he had neither time nor resources to correct his failure. So at the table of a criminal minded traitorous Duke within wafting distance of the yet unburied corpses of fallen soldiers, the air redolent of death and gunpowder*, humanity was first forced to endure sauce Mahon, or as we know it today, Mayonnaise.
To double down on the unseemly provenance of this most vile of condiments, the name Mahon itself comes from Mago, brother of Hannibal, scourge of Northern Italy and Spain, and part time crucifixion enthusiant. From hell’s heart it spreads at thee.
While playing the role of Abraham Lincoln in the Star Trek Episode “The Savage Curtain,” actor Lee Bergere once said “There’s nothing good in war except its ending.” Obviously on that June day in 1756, the lie was put to that statement. For two hundred and fifty-nine years we have suffered the consequences of Byng’s failed battle plan.
I’ve made the argument before that slightly bad is often worse than horrific. To illustrate: the putrid warbling that Bjork calls music is so obviously bad to so many that the odds of having to endure one of her “compositions” in polite society are infinitesimal. Billy Ocean’s “Get Out of My Dreams (Get Into My Car)”, however incredibly inane and repetitive, did not quite pass through that event horizon of decrepitude à la Bjork. The result is that rather than being banished and completely forgotten, it makes odd, jarring appearances on restaurant soundtracks, in elevators, and as bumper music, usually when you least suspect it. So while not as awful as Bjork, Billy Ocean has had opportunity to inflict far more damage on mankind and our sensibilities.
And that’s the problem with mayonnaise. It’s not sufficiently horrible to rouse a critical mass of humanity against it. Right thinking people must be constantly on guard, quizzing waitstaff, sniffing at dips, sticking to vinaigrette, and eschewing even the temptation to wade into the minefield that is “assorted finger sandwiches.” You never know around which corner danger lurks.
Picnics have thus far been an occasion for the mayonnaise hater to eat a very large breakfast. Otherwise acceptable ingredients like potatoes, chicken, celery, and onions are tossed together in various combinations with unforgivably large quantities of sauce Mahon and then left to warm under the hot sun in un-insulated baskets while unwary attendees play at croquet or the suddenly ubiquitous corn hole.
It doesn’t have to be so. Reasonable people can still enjoy traditional picnic foods in a way that our cholesterol sauce loving compatriots cannot: by actually tasting more than one ingredient. Dice half an onion, an equal amount of carrot and celery, and a handful of black olives. Chop or tear up two pre-cooked chicken breasts and toss everything together with extra virgin olive oil, a few glugs at a time until everything binds together. Salt to tast. Now you have delicious chicken salad that is, and this is very important, not gross.
I like mine on a buttery croissant with a little bit of arugula tossed in red wine vinaigrette. Now at the end of a picnic I’m as full as the mayonnaise eaters. The difference is that I’m still sated two hours after getting home instead of waiting out the dry heaves so I can get something in my grumbly stomach, still aching from violently evicting its left-in-the-sun-egg-and-oil-bacteria-farm-sauce laden contents. That stuff is deadly.
*Thoroughly assumed by the mightstainyourshirt.com research team.