One slice of apple pie, please. Hold the mayonnaise
The realization of just how much my nation, state and family home have changed in the past decade since I last participated in the ritual of Thanksgiving hit me during the second bite of this town’s famed “Sebastopol Farms Apple Pie.”
I probably should have realized that something was wrong on the first bite. There is so much evolution in the local diet here in California, however, that I hesitated to pass judgment. I mean, they now mix raspberries with the chipotle sauce that goes on enchiladas, while potato chips no longer exist in any familiar form; they come in “French Onion,” or “South of the Border” or “Tangy BBQ.” You cannot buy them without some form of value-added flavoring. Breakfast sausage now comes blended with “mango.” I kid you not.
With my food reflexes so fundamentally flawed, I just figured this was some kind of new apple variety, or something organic altering the apple pie basics. Yet as I sought to savor the pie, I realized that the innovative taste was something alien: In fact, it was mayonnaise.
You see, Thanksgiving – a strictly American holiday of family marking the first harvest festival of the Pilgrims who landed as our collective forefathers on Plymouth Rock in 1620 – is the holiday most resistant to commercialization. Christmas has its mass consumption and the Fourth of July has a turnover in fireworks worth billions, even Halloween costume sales each year are big business. But on Thanksgiving, few families, from the Rockefellers in New York to the folks in small towns like mine, ever put anything on the table with its branded label.
The butter gets its own dish on Thanksgiving. The mustard too is out of the jar with a small spoon for polite ladling. There is an explosion in sauces: salmon, three cheeses, jalapeno, caramelized pecan puree and sour cream with cilantro bits replacing the chives of my childhood.
It was only natural that I thought the bluish dish contained “hard sauce.” I think “hard sauce” originated with my late grandmother Cora. Indeed, it might actually have been the work of my late Aunt Olga. In either case, “hard sauce” was derived from clotted cream, a sort of sweet and crunchy hollandaise that always worked well on apple or pumpkin pie.
Instead, I merrily spread mayonnaise on my apple pie as animated family around the table proposed toast after cheer after salute. I was almost to the third bite before I understood.
When I arose from the table, I got zero sympathy as I ran gagging to the sink and disposed of the concoction on my plate into the composting container on the kitchen sink, a feature in most California kitchens now.
It is such a different country than the one I left in 2000. Or perhaps it just seems that way as I have not even been back on U.S. soil now in more than two years. Some things do not change in Sebastopol, a decidedly “progressive” town (pop. 7,000). The city council has bravely and unanimously condemned every foreign war since Grenada in 1983, and nuclear weapons are banned. The “asparagus and chicken stew” dog food at the local store has been a good seller for years.
But it is not such a different world that you should eat apple pie with mayonnaise. On this, you can trust me