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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

Homemade Mayonnaise #CooktheBooks #FoodieReads

This was inspired by reading Mastering the Art of French Murder (An American in Paris Mystery #1) by Colleen Cambridge. This is the April-May pick for our online Cook the Books group. Deb of Kahakai Kitchen picked this foodie cozy mystery. You can read her invitation here.

On the Page

photo from amazon

I wasn't sure what to expect when Deb picked this book. But it was the perfect mix of three of my favorite genres: historical fiction, foodie reads, and cozy mysteries.

Set in Paris, this post-World War II story centers on Tabitha Knight, a recent transplant from Detroit, who lives across the street from Julia Child, yes, that Julia!

Tabitha works as a tutor and is learning to cook from her friend Julia much to the delight of her Grandpère and Oncle Rafe. One evening, after a dinner party at Chez Child, one of the other guests turns up murdered in the basement and the murder weapon was a knife from Julia's kitchen. To add to the mystery, there is a note in the dead woman's pocket - Tabitha's name and address in her own handwriting. Tabitha scrambles to solve the murder when she and her friends find themselves in the crosshairs of Inspector Merveille's suspicions.

This was a fun, breezy read. I am looking forward to the second installation - A Murder Most French - that comes out at the end of the month.

Given that Julia Child is a main character in this story, there is a lot of food mentioned. A lot.

Tabitha laments the food of her childhood: "I had grown up on food much the same way Julia had: basic, boring egg noodles or boxed pasta; beef roasts with thin, tasteless gravies; too-dry roasted chickens, potatoes upon potatoes upon potatoes; and lots of corn and green beans. Thin-sliced white bread that came in a plastic bag; bread that was so spongy you could squish a slice, crust and all, into a ball the size of a cherry—and, of course, Spam. Fancy dinner parties in our world often amounted to grilled Spam topped with slices of pineapple. Sauces were cans of condensed Campbell’s soup, poured over meat or potatoes" (pg. 6).

At the market, Tabitha is given dating advice: "'You will never find yourself a man if you serve him wrinkling radishes or wilted greens, mademoiselle!' Madame shoved three of her radishes at me, and I had to admit, they were far superior than the ones she’d dashed to the ground. 'That’s very true,' Julia said with her infectious laugh. 'Men do not like to be reminded of anything that wilts or wrinkles or sags!'" (pg. 9).

I make risotto all the time, but this passage had me dreaming of braised ham! "Garlic soup, shrimp and scallops with braised rice—they call it risotto in Italy, but it’s the same as pilaf and just depends whether you add cream or cheese to it—and jambon braisé Morvandelle. That’s ham roasted in wine in a covered pan with a cream and mushroom sauce. I’m using some of your grand-père’s thyme and parsley. It’s going to be divine" (pg. 53).

But what sent me into the kitchen was Julia's battle to conquer homemade mayonnaise! "Julia Child had a mayonnaise problem. ...Julia had been bemoaning her mayonnaise problem for a few weeks now, and I couldn't help bu worry about what that meant in the grand scheme of things. After all, if Julia, who'd been taking lessons at Le Cordon Bleu, was suddenly having problems making mayonnaise - a sauce she'd been making for months with ease and perfection - what did that mean for me, someone who could barely boil eggs? The implications were ominous."

In the Bowl

I am typically not a mayonnaise fan. In fact, on rare occasion that I order a sandwich, I always request, "no mayo, please." But I am a sucker for homemade mayonnaise. Years ago I took a sauces class - from Chef Dave Wells - at WholeFoods. We learned the five mother sauces, we ate, and we drank. It was an unforgettable evening.

Homemade mayonnaise is very different from the kind you find on the shelf of a grocery store. For one, homemade mayo is not white. It's creamy, almost yellow. Its flavor is subtle; the mere fact that is has flavor sets it apart from the grocery store variety!

And, thankfully, it's fairly easy to make. Mayo is an emulsion of oil and egg yolks with a splash of acidity. I have long since lost my handouts from that cooking class, but I have made it by hand and a whisk and also in the bowl of a food processor.


  • 1 cup olive oil or other good-quality oil, such as walnut or sweet almond oil

  • 1 egg yolk

  • juice of 1 lemon

  • a pinch of salt (and pepper, if desired)

  • water to thin the mayonnaise


Combine the egg and acid in the bowl, whisking to mix. You can make mayonnaise in a food processor or by hand, with a mixing bowl and whisk. The key for either method: add oil very slowly, in a steady stream, while the processor is running or you're whisking vigorously.

If the mayonnaise starts looking too thick, add enough water to thin it to the consistency you desire. Add about a teaspoon of water at a time. When the oil is all mixed in, the mayonnaise should be thick and fluffy, with your whisk forming ribbons through the mixture.

If it never thickened and you're stirring a puddle, chances are you will need to start over. (Or, if you're still partway through the process, you can save the emulsion by adding another egg yolk, whisking vigorously. Add in remaining oil, plus extra for a double recipe.)

Adjust the seasoning with the salt and pepper and more acid, if desired.

Some Variations

If you add in fresh garlic, you end up with aioli. I use that as a dip for stuffed artichokes or spooned onto Arròs Negre {Black Paella} as Allioli a la Catalana or over Ekşili Balık, a lemony Turkish fish stew.

In addition to posting this for Cook the Books, I am adding this to the April #FoodieReads link-up.

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Deb Christensen
Deb Christensen
4 days ago

I love that you made mayonnaise! I'm considering it as part of my dish. I'm glad you enjoyed the book too!


Margaret Wuestenenk
Margaret Wuestenenk
7 days ago

I thought about doing mayo too! It was a fun part of the book for sure!!


Simona Carini
Simona Carini
Apr 14

I like watching as the deep yellow yolks lighten in color and thicken in texture as the thin stream of olive oil gets emulsified (I use an electric whisk). No matter how many times I repeat the process, it always feels a bit like magic :)


Wendy Klik
Wendy Klik
Apr 10

I was tempted to make mayo too but I thought if Julia had such a hard time I better stick with something simpler LOL

Camilla M. Mann
Camilla M. Mann
Apr 12
Replying to

It's really not that hard. LOL.

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