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This is, I think, flat-out awesome food writing – in part, of course, because it is not simply about food:

“Without directly saying so, [Elizabeth] David is acutely aware of the tension in all cooking between the traditional and the new. Anthropologists might call this the same opposition a conflict between the synchronic and the diachronic points of view. In plain language we can regard mayonnaise as a given, a static artifact existing outside history whose authentic nature is as unchanging as a primordial totem. Or we can suppose that mayonnaise had and continues to have a history, that its authentic nature is redefined each time you or I whip some up.

Both points of view are always valid, I think, in cooking as in the rest of life. The synchronic is always there, making sense of the diachronic. Our notion of authentic mayonnaise underlies our certainty that an egg and oil emulsion aggressively flavored with chipotle chilies from Mexico is still a mayonnaise.”

– Raymond Sokolov, Why We Eat What We Eat: How the Encounter Between the New World and the Old Changed the Way Everyone on the Planet Eats


  1. Matthew,

    Well, after all… a reader's willing SUSPENSION of disbelief is a good mark of great writing.


    It had to be said.


  2. Jonathan Webb says

    Food is like language. Similar, like a simile.

  3. I'm waiting for a post about mayonnaise and porn.

  4. Matthew Lickona says

    cnb – you're on.

  5. Rufus McCain says

    I was brought up on Miracle Whip.

  6. How 'bout the eschatology of mayonaisse: – the economy of salvation has often been called the "divine spread."

    And so: Miracle Whip. Sic.

    And: Hellman's. Sic. Sic.



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