I wrote this story about eight years ago for a magazine called Backwash Zine. My mom brought the story to my attention again today when I called to wish her a happy father's day. She called it one of her all time favorite stories, which I take as a very high compliment, as she adores Lewis Carroll, Dorothy Parker and other greats. It's a little long, but a fun read, even if I do say so myself. It is an investigative piece that follows the lives of two very similar women with yet another thing in common - a strange use of mayonnaise. Enjoy!
PS I have to mention I saw Nellie McKay perform tonight at Joe's Pub. She mentioned in her song "Sorry" that she was sorry for the judge and the justice system on the occasion that she saw them refuse to give Christopher water in the courtroom when he asked many times and then begged for it. To my extreme delight, she called Judge Nunez a "bitch" in front of a packed room full of people who would have eaten dog biscuits out of her hand if she'd asked them to. And I should also mention, her show was beautiful and terrific beyond words, even without the honorable mention of CXB.
Condiments in the Trailer Park
A Creative Journey
by Jessica Delfino
With the help of a tip from a reliable source, I discovered a place called "Common Law Gardens" in Dogcrap, NJ where two ingenious women have been experimenting with mayonnaise. So, I decided to go and do a little bit of investigative reporting. I figured if I was going to go butting my nose into their mayo businesses, I might as well have something to offer them in return. With a little bit of prompting, I got a few national mayo companies to supply me with a nations' supply of Miracle Drip mayonnaise and Hell-Boy's mayonnaise. Everyone loves the creamy goodness that is mayonnaise. How could Dogcrap turn me away when I came bearing gifts? With that in mind, my multi packs of mayo and I made the long trip by car to Dogcrap.
Mayonnaise is a pillar of what makes this country so great. For years, thousands of Americans have consumed billions of jars of its creamy goodness, still unsure even of how it is made, or what it is made of. All most Americans know about this 'miraculous whip' is that it is almost white and it tastes great on most anything.
On the day that I have chosen to visit Common Law Gardens, it is a sunny, temperate day. It is almost as if there are real frogs trapped inside the smiling, glass-eyed frogs that sit smooshed into the brown dirt spots scattered amongst the plush, plastic green tufts that slyly trick passers-by and neighbors into believing that they are glimpsing at what is called in some regions, the "front lawn." Crafty little wooden maidens rise up from a pole in the ground; they are bent-over in a row and convincingly appear to be digging worms to sell to the local tackle store; or, perhaps they are picking up cigarette butts that their guests have thrown all over the ground. Almost every unit proudly sports its own sign that offers up knowledge of the residential status of each trailer. "One old goat and one cute chic live here!" Indeed, they do. This is Dogcrap, NJ. Dogcrap is a small town, compiled mostly of mullets and mini trucks. Yes, a happy race of people make up the residents of this neighborhood, which seems to consist mainly of members of the same genepool. Like the mighty bumble bee, these fiery creatures only attack when provoked, unless, that is, they are drunk or high, then, like the mighty crocodile, they attack for the hell of it. But we are here today and no one seems to be attacking anything yet.
My first story begins with Edna Headlong, proprietor of her own mayonnaise based business. Edna is a short little woman; frumpy but kind. Edna answered the door in her work gear; a pair of tight fitting jeans that appeared as if washed by hand in a lovely stream in Mexico that flowed over rocks and stones before someone purchased them and handed them down to her. An oversized tee shirt with a darling but all too pixelated picture of what appeared to be her own offspring on the front topped her apple-shaped body. We could see through the fabric in her, let's just call them, 'stone-washed' jeans that her camel lips were flared; a sign of welcome in Dogcrap, so I knew that I was wanted here. I let her know that I wasn't there to take away her children, as she wrongfully assumed, but to share with her the magical, mystical, miraculous workings of mayonnaise. When I explained that I was there to write a report on her invention, she was both surprised and delighted. She asked if she could go 'make a doody' before we got started, and I allowed her to perform that duty. When she came out, without further ado, we got to work.
I offered her some free samples which she gladly accepted, and I showed her that I knew a thing or two about how to use mayonnaise as well. I showed her how one could mix mayonnaise and ketchup together to create a tangy salad dressing; how one could place mayonnaise on 'bread' under choice slices of deli cuts or how it could be mixed with chopped eggs, the delicious orb that comes out of a chicken's butt. She acknowledged that she was well aware of these modern mayonnaisical advances and commenced to show me a wonderful use of the product that has never ever been seen before. Her kids call it 'the fun dough' but she markets it as 'playonnaise.' It is a colorful dough-like substance that was created one afternoon when her kids came home from school with a recipe for dough that their teacher had given them as homework. Edna realized she was not in possession of well, ANY of the ingredients required to make the dough, and decided it was up to her to use her own ingenuity to create a like-substance. So successful was the experiment, it caught on. Soon, mothers all over Common Law Gardens were offering to trade her raggedy high tops and Pepsi bottles brimming with coffee brandy for samples of the colored goo. "It was as if I'd been given a pile of the most wonderful garbage that only I got to dig through," Edna commented on the experience. Edna realized that she was onto something and began packaging the substance in old vegetable cans which she sealed with a sandwich baggy and trash ties. Due to the lack of funding to cover the packaging design costs, she thought it would be clever to leave the actual vegetable label on the can, color the playonnaise in the can the same color as the vegetable that had once lived there, and call it after it's vegetable name. I liked "pea" the best. Clever, indeed. But this is the best part. When the kids were finished sculpting lovely action figures and their favorite vehicles from playonnaise, they could eat them, wet or dry. Kids have always fought with parents about eating their vegetables, but no more. Playonnaise makes consuming veggies both fun and delicious. Edna showed me some special little figurines made by her children that she held dear to her heart. Among them were the Incredible Hulk in "pea" who her oldest son wanted to someday become, and she herself had sculpted the life-sized head of Jerry Springer in "corn" and created his facial features in a rainbow of "beet" and "carrot". Might I add, the figure held a startling resemblance to the real Jerry. In Dogcrap, in the Common Law Gardens, and anywhere, recipes are treasured and cherished, and pirating recipes is an offense not to be taken lightly. I stumbled upon trouble in mayonnaise paradise, just two trailers down from Edna. She informed me of a neighborly bitch who had stolen the mayonnaise theme right out from under her nose and created her own foul-smelling concoction. She referred to the bitch as Judy. I decided to pay her a visit, much to the dismay of Edna Headlong. "That bitch ruins everything of mine!" were her parting words as I took my complimentary cans of "corn" and "pea" playonnaise and went on down the road.
I found Judy passed out behind the steering wheel of a rusty pinto parked in her driveway, stinking of gin and tobasco sauce. It appeared that she had slept there the previous night, and was not shocked when I woke her by pressing on the horn, as I was instructed to do by a strange, fuzzy little creature who called himself Son. I assumed he was her son, because he had called Judy his mom. Son excused himself because he had been involved in a bout of backyard wrestling with some local hoodlums, when the four or five barking dogs alerted him of my presence. Though it might seem strange to the layman, I learned that the 'drunken' state is actually the preferred state among the people of Common Law Gardens and all of Dogcrap. Once I told her that I had come to write a report on her mayonnaise magic, she rose to make my acquaintance. She picked a mostly smoked cigarette butt out of the vehicle's ashtray and toked on the filter while we spoke. She told me of a day when her family was very poor. She said her dad would make her and her sisters and brothers and cousins and nephews and nieces and friends and strangers that came over to hang out with her brothers and sisters and cousins and nephews and nieces toys, since he could not afford to purchase toys. He would whittle pipes and ice picks out of wood for the boys in the family, and he would make crayons out of whiskey and candle wax for the girls. Judy recalled her father's recipe and decided to put a new, modern spin on it by making edible crayons out of mayonnaise for her own children and calling them crayonnaise. This would be considered a crafty idea by anyone's standards, except her father's. There was a family dispute about altering the natural ingredients of his down-home crayons, and they haven't spoken since. Her recipe involved mixing wax, mayonnaise and miscellaneous leftovers and spices to give the crayons texture. The crayons were then used in a very creative manner. The kids could actually draw on their dinner plates, and then lick the plates clean, accomplishing three tasks; entertaining the children, feeding the children, and washing the dishes. "That Edna is a larr," she explained to me. She told me a deeper, darker story than the one Edna had delivered to my ears just moments earlier. "She's jist mad cuz her husbin spant the nott here erry nott last month. Ah came up with the ah-dear of usin' mayonnaise in the craown re-si-whatever you called it, to make usage of the leftover egg salad I made. And it made the craowns so smooth and creamy, I decided the mayonnaise was the thing that did that to 'em so I decided to do it again and then the thing went off, and we did nothin', I swear, officer."
Again, I offered up some tidbits of my own mayo-wisdom by showing Judy how it is perfectly acceptable to mix mayonnaise into a hollandaise sauce or use it in dips. Judy showed me her crayonnaise workshop which consisted of a dirty counter top and a bucket that had encrusted wax stuck to the bottom. She also showed me other ways she makes use of mayonnaise. "If you rub some in yer eyes after you smoke a crack or two, it takes the red right out. If you eat three or four tablespoons while givin' birth, it makes you feel so sick you don't even notice the pain. And when you rub it in yer hair and dip yer haid in a bucket a'water and shake it all around in the water, it makes yer hair as soft as a plate fulla cat hair and cigarette ashes." It couldn't have been put better in english. And what a tasty dish that must be. But that recipe was for another time and another occasion. She went on to explain that she feeds her son, Son, mayonnaise sandwiches for lunch just about every day. I can't even begin to elaborate on the nutritional content in a mayonnaise sandwich, which consists mostly of bread, mayonnaise and air, but I didn't really have time to anyway, because at that moment, her common law husband came home and he had a shot gun in one hand and a few of his own teeth in the other. That was my cue to run, er, leave.
So that was my mayonnaise adventure. I learned a lot on this journey. I learned about a little hole of a place called Common Law Gardens. I learned two fun, new ways to use mayonnaise. I learned that a town exists that is called Dogcrap. As you may or may not know, mayonnaise may not be great for your arteries, but no one can say it doesn't taste great. And that's what counts. Now, you and your cool suburban buddies may call me a 'mayonerd' but the fact is, I have always had a good old time sharing and learning all types of recipes with all types of people. Maybe next time, it'll be you. Until then, bon appetit!