Recently I was having a conversation with some friends about strange things to eat-- we were exchanging meal recipes from our childhood that our parents forced us into (scrambled eggs with ketchup), things our friends ate that boggled our minds (Eggo waffles with maple syrup and ketchup), and things we had read that just sounded terrible (lots of things from this blog, and anything involving canned pineapple).
Overall, though, the running theme of the conversation was mayonnaise in all its possible iterations with no distinction to be made between mayo, Miracle Whip, and 'salad dressing,' a term I never heard until I moved to Kentucky and even then didn't really understand. Let's be real: use of the phrase 'salad dressing' to apply to something mayo-like is up there with 'relish' vs. 'pickle relish' on the list of Kentuckian concepts I don't understand.
I wish I liked mayonnaise, really I do. It would be nice not to have to avoid it on sandwiches every time I go out to lunch. I don't care that continental Europeans eat mayo on their french fries, I don't care that it's the main component of tartar sauce (more on that later), and I definitely don't care that there seems to be a difference, technically, between mayonnaise and Miracle Whip. I don't like it and nothing will change my mind. The weirdest part about all of this, though, is that we realised, over the course of our conversation, that all of the strangest recipes we know of are only weird because of the condiments involved... and usually, that condiment is mayonnaise. Peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches, crushed pineapple and mayonnaise on white bread, and of course the mayo-slicked strangeness of Coronation Chicken salad, almost everything we could think of was mayonnaise related.
So, because I can't ever leave well enough alone, I started to analyse what it is that makes mayonnaise so terrifically off-putting. So I listed the ingredients to myself and suddenly I realised: all of the ingredients of mayonnaise are in an average cake. If you added cocoa powder and flour and baked a jar of mayo, you'd come out with a chocolate cake! (By all likelihood, a terrible one, but a cake nonetheless). I mean, think about it: eggs, lemon juice or another acid, and oil. It's all the ingredients you add to a box of cake mix to make brownies! I'm not sure what this means, but I'm sure I've stumbled upon something, because seriously, eww.
Now don't worry, I'm not asking you to make a mayonnaise cake... yet. But I made my own rules for this blog, so I have no one to blame but myself when things go awry, and go awry they did when it came time for this salad. Luckily, I don't have a trifle dish (but I'm excusing myself since I know for a fact that Eleanor didn't have one either), and if I did, I don't think I would deign to defile it with this mayo monstrosity. Even more luckily (for you), I've tweaked the recipe below to make it less terrible and indeed, more delicious. But I'll forgive you if you don't rush right out and make it, seeing as it's more or less just 'house salad.'
Scotland's been hit by a heat wave of epic proportions this week, though-- yesterday was the hottest July 1st Britain has ever seen, and in a country where air-conditioning is considered an innovation that causes head colds, we're powering through 24 hours a day of mid-20s (Celsius) temperatures.
It's seriously amazing. So if you, too, are in the midst of a summer heatwave-- or you just need something healthy to pair with all the flag cake you're going to eat this weekend-- make this salad and enjoy it. I promise, tweaked as below, it's pretty delicious. Plus, it's an easy tweak to make it vegetarian (or vegan!) and still get all the flavour from the great veggies that are all in season this time of year.
3 spoons out of five. This is delicious, light, and healthy and I highly recommend it. But I have a hard time giving more than three stars to a recipe I have been making (unknowingly) since I first learned how to salad.
Seven Layer Salad
In large serving bowl, layer lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, peas, cheese, and onions.
Place dollop of mayo in the centre of the top layer.
Chill for 20 minutes, then serve with salad dressing of your choice on the side (the mayo will make any vinaigrette into a slightly creamier, less tangy dressing, instead of being the only flavour in the salad).
Yields 2 large dinner salads, or 4 petite side salads.
2 little gem lettuces, shredded
1 handful smallest tomatoes
1 c sliced mushrooms
8 oz frozen peas, thawed and drained
Sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
1 heaping spoonful mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
Salad dressing of your choice (we used balsamic vinegar with honey)