I HAD an encounter the other day with mayonnaise and it left me with egg on my face and many other parts of the kitchen.
I had to make some you see, and yes, there was emotion. There always is when you ascend these culinary learning curves. Without it, you wouldn't make the climb.
You'd just pop down to the shop. And buy the wrong mayo. And then have to go back again and get the whole egg stuff. But that's another story.
The order was for Caesar salad. That delicious feast of cos lettuce, croutons, crispy bacon and Parmesan cheese. Anchovies are optional for the freaks.
All brought together by mayonnaise. That gooey white stuff that comes in a jar. Usually hidden up the back of the fridge where it can survive for years without noticeably degrading. Which is one of those curious things about stuff in jars stuffed up the back of fridges. Best not to think about that too much.
But on this particular afternoon, the fridge was bare. Not to worry. The suggestion was put that making DIY mayo is, as Heston, or Jamie, or Donna Hay might say: "A piece of piss."
To back up the assertion, it was pointed out there was a handwritten recipe in the little blue book of cooking truth. That dog-eared Doomsday Book hauled round since year 7 home economics containing all the "hit" recipes amassed over life.
You couldn't go wrong, it was suggested.
Well, that may be true if you happened to be the one who hand wrote the simple three-point plan for mayo.
Because that might suggest you'd been schooled in the ancient art of emulsifying.
But if you hadn't, well, you were walking into the unknown, unknown. That is, you knew you didn't know things. But in the case of emulsifying, you didn't know that you didn't know you didn't know. A scary thought.
Particularly as you knew the person who did know, didn't want to know what you didn't know. It was your turn to cook.
On face value, it seemed simple. Combine egg, sugar, mustard, oil and whip.
Alas, after early misguided optimism, and much food processing, the only thing whipped was myself.
The runny oily egg juice created certainly didn't cut the mustard, even though there was mustard in it.
That's because the simple three-point instruction didn't make clear that between points one and two - combine stuff and whip - something amazing has to happen.
It's called emulsion and it's up there with the journey from grub to butterfly, boy to man, innocence to experience in terms of kitchen voodoo.
Emulsion, as any science textbook will tell you, is a mixture of two liquids that normally can't be combined.
A bit like some kitchen relationships.
With mayo, ingredients are combined with egg yolks, which contain the emulsifier lecithin, which binds the ingredients together and prevents separation. Much like religion in many cultures.
Then oil is added drop by drop as the mixture is rapidly whisked. If you are a mayo novice, however, and ignorant of the "drop by drop" component of the process, oil is added like you're making a Valvoline ad, creating the aforementioned runny oily egg juice.
Efforts to retrieve the situation inevitably lead to the wastage of many eggs, and much oil. But the addition of determination, and much nagging of the person who knows what's going wrong will eventually create a vat of half-edible mayo.
Perfect if your Caesar salad is the size of a condor nest.
As the sauce begins to thicken, oil can be added more rapidly, which is a godsend because lord knows, the sound of the food processor starts to do your head in.
Blenders, mixers and food processors have made it easy to make home-made mayonnaise. In the days before electricity, mayo makers must have had major forearms.
Many gourmands feel homemade mayo is far superior in taste and consistency to commercial ones.
That's because they probably spend all afternoon trying to make the stuff.
It's got me beat, so to speak, how they stumbled on the process in the first place.
Let alone bothered to repeat it.
Turns out mayonnaise was invented in 1756 by the French chef of the Duc de Richelieu.
After the Duc beat the British at Port Mahon, he ordered his chef to create a victory feast that included a sauce made of cream and eggs.
"Scrambled eggs for everyone!" the Duc is reported to have yelled in an outrageous "Frawnch" accent. Those French sure knew how to celebrate.
Realising that there was no cream in the kitchen, the chef substituted olive oil and a new culinary creation was born.
The chef named the new sauce "Mahonnaise", which means "what a right royal pain in the arse the Duc is".
Since it is uncooked, home-made mayonnaise can also be a right royal pain in the gut, too.
Hence food authorities recommend the eggs used are reasonably free from salmonella.
If you really want certainty, grab the jar from up the back of the fridge.
Salmonella may prove a little less painful than making your own.