Jim Carroll

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500 Words Of January – Gerry Godley

We kick off 2013 on OTR with 500 Words of January, a series of guest posts on anything and everything. Back in August 2010, we invited a bunch of guest writers to contribute to OTR and they did so with …

Wed, Jan 2, 2013, 09:30


We kick off 2013 on OTR with 500 Words of January, a series of guest posts on anything and everything.

Back in August 2010, we invited a bunch of guest writers to contribute to OTR and they did so with great gusto. Seeing as it’s the start of a new year and it’s traditional to shake things up at this juncture, I’ve asked a dozen writers to come onboard with 500(-ish) wise words. There was a rough theme (“2013″), but the writers were free to ignore that guideline if they so desired. Some stuck with the plan and some…well, some didn’t as you’ll see over the next 10 days.

We kick off the series with Gerry Godley on why the future is mayonnaise.

Fellow citizens of Europe, salvation is at hand. Though our darkest economic hour is upon us – exacerbated by inept central banks, spineless heads of state and vampire squid capitalists – soon the union will draw its members every closer, and all will be well in the cradle of consumption, her citizens free to return to the life of privilege and harmony that is surely ours, non? But what can save us? Deeper fiscal union or sweeping banking reforms, is it? Perhaps Eurobonds and a bit of tax harmonization?

Francois Mitterand, the man who infamously served the endangered species ortalan at a dinner for fellow potentates, said the answer to any question about the political future for the continent was always “more Europe”. I say its “more mayonnaise”.

Anyone for some mayo?

For in truth, what are we in Europe if not an emulsion, with the single currency our egg yolk, binding the oils supplied by the profligate southern Europeans, with added mustard for piquancy? French if you’re an enthusiast, English if you’re a sceptic. Of course the Germans make the most reliable mustard of all.

Wherever you go in Europe, from sophisticated capitals to backwater peripherals, vast globules of the sticky stuff keep the show on the road. Just try eating chips in Belgium, where it’s really more like a side of chips with your mayonnaise. Even American hitmen know this, as seen in the legendary Royale with Cheese scene in Pulp Fiction. In Copenhagen, I once found myself at a late night hot dog stand, where an ingenious overhead device that can only be described as an udder, squirted great lines of gloop when worked with a milking motion by the, eh, mayonnaise technician.

No-one gets through more of it than the Spaniards of course, who like to believe they invented the mighty coagulant, and Russian salad, that tapas bar staple bound with you know what, is really just a mayonnaise delivery system, with a token nod to vegetable intake. Indeed the Irish progression, from surly salad cream slatherers to the dainty mayonnaise daubers you now see before you, is a neglected episode in our own great leap forward. And sure look at us now, envy of the world!

It’s clever too, and with just a little sacrifice of your self respect, you can enjoy such household applications as facial and hair conditioning, sunburn relief, fingernail strengthening, removing crayon marks and, my favourite, killing head lice. No wonder it trades in America as miracle whip. Indeed, it trades as many things, as wryly observed by Paul Theroux. When unravelling the mystery of 1000 Island dressing, he surely put the key question of our time when he cried out from the condiment wilderness, “why did it take another 999 islands to mix tomato ketchup and mayonnaise together?” He might have equally applied himself to the origins of upwardly mobile sauces like Marie Rose, remoulade, tartare, rouille, aioli and their yankee white trash cousins like “ranch dressing”. No, I don’t know either.

These days you’ll often hear business and brand gurus talking about how organizations need to understand their secret sauce, the elusive quality that sets them apart from the competition, a concept borrowed from the world of the fast food behemoths. Now, they might tweak the seasoning, but you and I both know that the secret sauce never falls very far from the mayonnaise tree.

So here’s to you mayonnaise, you greasy keeper of global order, instantly recognizable in your creamy livery, beloved of Christians and Muslims without prejudice, your very name transcending linguistic barriers. Even the most committed Anglophone need never be without a jar in Russia, where they are the world’s most avid consumers. Just look for майонез.

When mayo goes wrong, the oil separates from the other liquids and solids. The emulsion cracks, the centre does not hold, the ingredients go their separate ways. Not really what you want in a sauce or a currency union. So keep spreading, people. Do it for Europe.

The credits: Gerry Godley is the director of the Improvised Music Company, whose 12 Points festival will take place at Dublin’s Project Arts Centre from February 13 to 16. Gerry also presents the excellent Reels to Ragas radio show on Lyric FM every Tuesday night and curates the Hot Potatoes discussion forum on food issues. Watch out for his soon-come food blog.