Making mayonnaise is tricky. In my experience, anything involving eggs is particularly finicky. After attempting to make mayonnaise twice, and wasting four otherwise rather terrific eggs, I've retired my mayonnaise-making -- but you know what they say about threes.
No, when making mayonnaise, you must be especially careful to drizzle in the oil oh-so-slowly. It's where I always fail (always being twice, of course.) If you don't whisk in the oil slow enough, you risk breaking the sauce altogether and on your hands you'll have a lovely bowl of thick vinaigrette. It looks pretty, but you don't want this. It is not good. Especially if you are making am ambitious potato salad with salmon and three varieties of potato. Served me right I suppose for trying to be all high-fallutin' (as my grandmother is all too fond of saying), but maybe had I succeeded in my mayo-makin' all of the potato salad would have been devoured. Instead I threw together a lemon vinaigrette and it sufficed. However, not to debase a lemon vinaigrette or anything, but it is not mayonnaise. And there is no sense messing with the long-term, loving relationship that is that between potatoes and mayonnaise. You may add balsamic vinegar, or perhaps some Dijon mayonnaise, or even a little Ranch dressing, but a potato salad without mayonnaise is so very criminal.
But what it has taught me -- making mayonnaise, not making naked salads -- is fundamental: patience is invaluable, and persistence, mandatory. And really, if you get it right, the results..? It's amazing how transcendental a bowl of homemade mayonnaise can be, in the same way that a really great beef stock can put your mind at ease and comfort your worrisome heart. Unless you are a vegetarian. I think this goes without saying, but in my line of work I have quickly learned that assumptions are dangerous weapons.
This week is best captured in vignettes: working alongside two women, filling phyllo shells with King crab and a tarragon aioli, charred corn and tiny slices of avocado, sipping sparkling wine from a styrofoam cup.
Wild mushroom risotto cakes fresh from the oven, picked right off a wooden spoon with your fingers; the mushrooms still have a bite to them.
"Tell us another story," they ask, and so I play along and spin a few tales. The room, a loft-like sort of place with exposed brick and beams, one of the windows broken. There is no heat in here and it's -5C and we shuffle around, putting our toes up against the chaffing dishes trying to keep warm. "What do you think about this?" one of them asks me as she hands over a sushi pizza. Good, I think, but more salmon is needed and less rice. She echoes the same, and we smile.
"So what got you into catering?" I ask. "We love to eat," they say, and it makes sense. There's three of them who run the business and two of the women used to write plays. Every time they got together they would talk about their next dinner destination or where they might grab a snack, and soon it escaladed to the point where they believed (naively) that catering would be perfect: they could make their own hours and cover for each other while heading to auditions and the like, and life would be grand. I don't think they realized they would be writing stories in a different way, in an oral sense, and that their art would form on platters instead of on stage, but I have no complaints. The story, as the ladies tell it, is far more elegant and whimsical than I have made it out here, but there it is. We hum along to "I Believe In Miracles" and hear the clacking of heels against the wooden floors above us, the sound like horse hooves. "Are you humdiggin'?" one woman asks the other. "Why yes, yes, I am." There is risotto cakes and sushi pizza, sparkling wine and Coca Cola, beets with goat cheese and pralines, and soon enough I am out in the cold again, trudging toward the Queen 'car with my dry cleaning.
Two women in a bookstore, browsing the cookbook section (!), drinking peppermint hot chocolate and a latte. The one thing I hate about moving from city to city is being forced to leave friends behind. You will still be friends, certainly, but the distance is difficult and the months fly by. Before you know it half a year has fluttered away and you think about visiting them constantly. It's going to take some time to really meet people here, but somehow the cold succeeds in bringing people together.
A Sunday afternoon and I take a brisk walk around the city core, making my way down Queen West and back up to Kensington Market in search of Sanagan's. People gawk and observe outside at the window display. The men who work there are fabulous to deal with and their utter transparency is impressive and refreshing. "Grass-fed stewing beef," I say when a gentleman asks what he can get for me. "Oh, I was just slicing some up right now," he answers. Perfect. It's not cheap, of course, but their prices are fair and reasonable and the quality is tops. Maybe it's the sense of intimacy perpetuated by small, local businesses in the big city, but there's a special quality to independent stores that pleases me. Maybe it's that my actions matter. And to tell you the truth, it's really charming to walk along the streets devoid of cars, to hit the pavement with my boots, and to feel as though you are stepping into another era altogether. Instantly I am brought back to my childhood when my mom would drag my sister and I to the butcher's and we'd be given pickles or a hot dog or kielbasa. The place smelled like bologna and I stared at the piles of bright red ground beef, called it spaghetti.
Skip to the evening and you'll find two people at a wooden kitchen island, drinking cheap Italian red and eating a rip-off version of Julia Child's Boef bourguinon. I would not choose to finish the stew on the stovetop impatiently instead of the oven, but I did. I also would not cook my stew for three hours and kill my meat for a second time as Julia recommends, and it just so happens I did not. Good stock is absolutely necessary. Those are my tips. It's easy to put together and it tastes damn good, and it makes me wonder how something like Boef bourguinon has been relegated to the background. This night there is maca chocolate and the sound of laughter and talk of Canadian citizenship and lyrics that go I hate you, you pain in the ass. That sounds about right; it's a song I can dance to.
And today, two women -- things come in threes, after all -- begin a phone conversation each by breaking a wine glass. A different kind of cheers, perhaps? Over the phone we whine about losing another wine glass yet again, and this is why I buy cheap glassware. It was only a matter of time. And it's only a matter of time until another one bites the dust.