On Perfection…or not so much

I was raised in a culture that taught that perfection is attainable in this lifetime.  With some help, of course.  The first step was to train your mind to think only good thoughts.

Right…

As soon as you think that first imperfect thought, you realize this perfection thing is going to be hard.  And probably overrated. The thing is…if you’re a bit obsessive like I am, you don’t really know when to stop.  The quest for perfection is the perfect pathway to insanity.  Doing something well isn’t good enough.  Doing something almost perfectly is almost good enough, but not quite.  The closer you get to perfection, the farther it recedes into the horizon.  In my more OCD moods, I would start cleaning the kitchen and just keep going.  Once I started I couldn’t stop.  The stove could take an hour to clean, just by itself.  The closer you get, the more dirt you find, so there is no end to the process.  I just had to stop.  Just stop.

In college, with five children and no husband, getting straight A’s in all of my classes, I just had to stop.  I wasn’t going to be perfect.  The quest for perfection was driving me crazy.  I met a woman who told me something wise.  She called herself a “lazy perfectionist.”  She had the compulsion to try to make everything perfect.  As a woman who was raised in a certain era, that was expected of her.  She had ten children, also part of that territory.  And she was slowly going crazy.  That was when she decided to stop trying so damned hard to do something impossible.  She was a lot happier, spent more time with her children and less in her kitchen, and things were much better.  Because she stopped letting the ideal get in the way of her real life.

What does this have to do with cooking?  A lot actually, and something to do with blogging, as well.  I see a lot of beautiful blogs, labors of love, and well, of labor, too.  And I know we are comparing ourselves to what we see–people at their best, beautiful photos of homemade mayonnaise with a cute tag on it–really?  A tag on the jar that’s going in the fridge?  Isn’t it enough to make the homemade mayo?  I tried to take a photo of my homemade mayo.  Nope.  I’m a good cook, not a good photographer.  But seriously, I don’t have all day for this crap.  My life isn’t perfect, my kitchen is usually messy, and I don’t even have kids at home to blame it on.  It’s all me. I’ve given up on perfection as an ideal to aspire to.  I make good, healthy, often delicious food.  Most of the time it turns out well, but there are spectacular failures, too.  It happens.  When we look at all of the perfect, glossy photos of perfect, glossy food out there, it can make anyone feel intimidated.

When it comes to cooking healthy food at home, the effort is worth it.  But there are nights that ordering pizza seems to be the only sane option.  It’s a continuum.  We’re all in different places.  I’ve been cooking my whole life, but just this past year, I finally figured out how to make homemade mayo.  I borrowed this recipe from Melissa Hartwig of Whole30, (she has a cute tag on hers, but since I’m not going to post a photo of my perfect mayo, you’ll have to look at hers.)

Update:  My last batch of mayo did turn out perfect looking, so here’s a pic of the pretty stuff:

IMG_4160

The trick, as I learned after failing to make good mayo for 30 years, is to use a stick blender.  It also helps to add the lemon juice last, after everything else is mixed together.  I tried in my Vitamix, but I’m not quite there yet.

It goes without saying that you should use the best local eggs you can find for this.  I use light olive oil that I get from Costco.  It works just fine.

Perfect Homemade Mayo

  • 1-1/4 cups of light olive oil
  • 1 egg, preferably free range
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • about a tablespoon of lemon juice

I take the egg out of the fridge and warm it in a cup of warm water for a few minutes to bring it to room temperature.  Crack into a blender cup with a quarter cup of the oil, the salt, and the mustard powder.  Whisk together a bit until it’s blended and then, very slowly, add the olive oil as you keep mixing.  When it’s all blended together and looks like mayo, add in the lemon juice to taste.  It lasts about a week or two in the fridge.

See, you’ve just made something perfect, no pressure!

It works as the base for a lot of sauces and salad dressings, too–add various spices depending on what you’re serving it with.  Since my last batch didn’t all fit in one jar, I added wasabi to the leftovers for a spicy sauce.

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