Why I Always Keep a Jar of Mayonnaise on My Desk
Just like Charlie Brown never gets to kick the football, I never get to eat a desk lunch that doesn't fill me with a deep sense of malaise. I spend all morning fantasizing about what I'm going to buy—it will be healthy but also delicious, and affordable—but when the time comes, I end up panicking at the cafeteria, blacking out, and returning to my desk with a confusing salad, where raisins clash with tuna and rubbery hard-boiled eggs ask, "Why am I here?"
When I sit down to eat, scanning Twitter to learn of the horrors I've missed during five minutes away, I consume the salad, reluctantly, and I wonder if there's a better way.
Reader, there is a better way. And it's keeping mayonnaise at your desk at all times.
Please stay with me.
Mayonnaise, that intoxicating emulsion of oil, egg yolk, and acid, is a polarizing condiment, and I get it. People take issue with its gloppiness; some call it bland; others cite traumatizing tuna salad experiences of their youth, leaving them too hurt to try it again.
Yet I have always cherished the rich flavor of mayonnaise—but, more importantly, its transformative proporties. A swipe of mayonnaise makes an otherwise dry cubano sandwich majestic; glops of it make deviled eggs my favorite food. Because its ingredients are so simple and so universally palate-pleasing (oil, eggs, and vinegar are excellent, case closed), mayo can help revive all sorts of bland meals, even though the condiment's very stigma is wrapped up in the idea of blandness.
Fortunately for mayo, and you, any perceptions of blandness dissipate when you whisk it with hot sauce, or barbecue sauce, and then mix it with that boring grilled chicken you put on your salad because you have an iron deficiency. Salad transformed! Or let's say in the afternoon, when you're feeling depleted, you go grab some French fries to bring back to your desk. Mix the mayonnaise with mustard—et voilà, you have a flavorful dipping sauce that some restaurants might call aioli and charge you millions for.
Desk mayonnaise only really occurred to me a few weeks ago, when I found an unopened jar of mayonnaise on the table at the office where people put things the don't want. Not believing my luck, I snatched it and cradled it during our morning meeting, then set it on my desk when I returned to my computer. That day for lunch, I fashioned myself a nicoise salad in the cafeteria, making sure to put the tuna and potatoes on one side of the plate, so when I returned, I could mix the tuna and potatoes with a dollop of mayonnaise and half a packet of mustard to make a lovely salad-within-a-salad.
The possibilities, really, are endless.
If you're turned off by most industrial renditions of mayonnaise, it's one of the simplest and most rewarding things to make at home. Prep yourself a container and leave it in your fridge at work. You don't even have to tell your coworkers if you think they'll make fun of you for it. We love this mayo recipe (our test kitchen manager tested it with great success—check out the article for step-by-step instructions), but there are many excellent ones out there. Kewpie, Japanese mayo, is fantastic, too—David Chang calls it the best.
I remember the first time I made mayonnaise, when I was living and working on a goat farm in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwestern France. (Long story.) I had never known how easy it was to make—or even mayonnaise's actual contents—and now I'm thrilled to have arrived at the next stage of my mayonnaise journey, which is keeping a jar of it at my desk.
And, for the record, 52% of people I polled in an informal Twitter survey said that having a jar of mayonnaise at one's desk does not, in fact, count as workplace harassment.
Of those of you brave enough to make it this far in the article, a) I salute you, and b) You may have concerns about leaving mayonnaise out on a desk, unrefrigerated. I am here to tell you, respectfully, that those fears are baseless. A 2016 study found that mayonnaise, especially those commercially made, does not have to be refrigerated, though you'll certainly want to refrigerate homemade ones. "Its acidic nature slows the growth of the bacteria associated with food-borne illnesses,'' according to NPD Group report, though refrigerating it will extend its shelf-life. But if you eat jars of mayonnaise as fast as I do, that's not a concern.