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Egg Mayonnaise: Parisian Bistro Classic

What is it with Parisians and Ouefs Durs Mayonnaise? A bistro classic so beloved that it has a society for its preservation? Yes, it is called Association de sauvegarde de l’ouef mayo (ASOM) and it selects the best egg mayo in Paris each year. Perhaps it is a Parisian particularity, one of those foods you yearn for from your childhood, nostalgic nourishment. For me, the association is rather different.

When I was a child, hard boiled eggs were transported on picnics in their shells. At the beach they would inevitably end up covered in a fine layer of sand. At forest picnics they lacked even that added crunch. They always hurt as they struggled to pass down my oesophagus, more pain than gain. No crystals of Maldon sea salt accompanied our eggs. And certainly no home-made mayonnaise.

Hard boiled eggs Kitchen Journeys

My memories of egg mayonnaise take me on a journey to countless buffet tables in the 1970s where halved eggs would nestle cheek by jowl, their yolks having been mashed with salad cream and perhaps a pinch of paprika, before being artfully piped back so that they appeared frilly. Decoration with a sprig of parsley was obligatory. Thin slices of insipid tomato provided colour.

The alternative was the egg mayonnaise sandwich which was wrapped in greaseproof paper before being placed in my lunch tin. This sat in a hot classroom all morning until it was liberated at lunchtime when all heads swivelled to find the culprit committing an olfactory faux pas. Opening that lunch tin was like letting out a silent, sulphuric fart. You could feign ignorance but everyone knew it was you.

Egg Mayonnaise Bagel

The height of kitchen chic was the metal egg slicer which magically cut the egg into precise rounds which could then join its fellow stuffed eggs on the buffet. This time a blob of mayo would be placed in the centre of each disc of yolk or – better still – form the topping of an open sandwich. Very a la mode.

I never once had egg mayonnaise served up as an hors d’ouevres. So forgive me for not getting excited to see it on a bistro menu.  I ordered ouef mayo at A La Biche Au Bois inParis on the encouragement of the waiter who wanted me to taste a traditional Parisian dish. It’s not that it tasted bad, it’s just that eating two eggs before another plate of protein for my main course seemed de trop.

Ouefs dur au mayonnaise

No, for me eggs remain a breakfast treat or a light supper omelette, a mayonnaise free zone. If egg mayo is on my menu, I like it mashed while hot and mixed with a spoon of mayo, a sprinkling of sea salt, a good grinding of black pepper, finely chopped chives and served on top of a toasted bagel.

As for its preservation on the Parisian bistro menu, I can’t say that I am fussed either way although I do support the preservation of food traditions. Most of all, I would love to see the notes made by the egg mayo inspector. I suspect it would make fascinating reading.