Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Robert St. John: Simply the Best

For the 26-plus years this column has been in existence I have typed over 1,000 words a week, every week, never missing a week. That’s over 1,300,000 total words published in your newspaper. These days, in addition to newspapers, this column is also consumed online and through email subscriptions.

In the early days I took controversial stances on a few topics. The posturing was lighthearted and never about anything serious but, at one time or another, I received hate mail from PETA, the Girl Scouts, people who eat possum, Hormel the manufacturers of Spam, and fans of Barbra Streisand. Those were the days before I found my voice and there was a lot of forced humor in the writing.

In 2011, I took a long overseas trip with my family. Over a six month period we travelled to 17 countries and 72 cities on two continents. That is when the worm turned in my writing and I found my voice. I had no other choice. I was in challenging conditions and the only option was to be true to myself and the words on the page. Since then, I have shied away from humor and have focused on writing what I know— food, travel, family, the South, and growing up in the South.

I feel blessed to have grown up in the South, actually the Deep South. Geographically and emotionally, it doesn’t get any deeper than the south in which I reside— the Piney Woods of Mississippi. I feel fortunate to be a sixth generation citizen of this area. The Piney Woods have been blessed by geographical proximity. We are one hour north of the Gulf of Mexico and benefit from the outstanding bounty of seafood that comes from those warm waters, and 90 minutes northeast of New Orleans, a city that is home to the most unique and flavor-rich food in the country.

We value faith, family, friends, food, and fun down here. Family and food are on my mind this morning. To be more specific, it’s mayonnaise.

Today I’ll take what might appear to be a controversial stance to some. But, unlike the old days, I won’t take the stance for comedic effect, and it is far from a controversial stance to me. This I believe to my core— Blue Plate mayonnaise is the best mayonnaise. Better than Hellman’s. Better than Kewpie. And yes, better than Duke’s. Period. End of discussion.

Southerners are religiously true to a product, team, or cause. It’s why football rivalries are so heated in this region. We believe deeply and devoutly in our teams.

Blue Plate mayonnaise is my team.

To someone from the Northeast or Pacific Coast, the American South is anything below the Mason-Dixon line. To those of us who live down here, the South is more complex than that. Virginia is considered the South, and on many maps so is Texas. West Texas and the Northern Neck of Virginia are worlds apart.

My South covers Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, The Florida Panhandle, Kentucky, parts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Louisiana. So, what does that have to do with mayonnaise?

The difference between South Carolina and Louisiana can be determined between their two most famous cities— Charleston and New Orleans. Both cities were settled early, both are port cities, both have loads of charm, enchanting histories, and storied pasts. Though Charleston was settled by the British. New Orleans was settled by the French. Therein lies the difference in the sentimentality, therein lies the disparity in the food.

The difference between South Carolina and Louisiana can also be determined by the mayonnaises that were born there. Duke’s was born in Greenville, South Carolina. Blue Plate was born and raised in New Orleans. A few years ago, Blue Plate moved its manufacturing to another great southern state, Tennessee. But the recipe and flavor profile are 100% New Orleans. It will always be a New Orleans mayonnaise in my book. I prefer New Orleans over Charleston and I prefer Blue Plate mayonnaise over Duke’s.

Duke’s has become all the rage as of late. I had never heard of Duke’s a decade ago. It wasn’t that I was disconnected. My life is food and the food business. I live in the Deep South. I don’t hunt, fish, or play golf. Food and restaurants are my hobby. It’s what I do. I have spent 43 years in the restaurant business and 62 years as a devout disciple of southern food. A few years back, when I began to hear a few chefs I know— along with a couple of regional publications— begin to mention Duke’s mayonnaise I wondered if they may be on to something. I watched as it seemed to become the trendy selection of a few southern foodies and food writers. I tried it. It wasn’t Blue Plate.

When I was a kid there was only Hellman’s and Blue Plate. Duke’s wasn’t available in this area. My mother used Blue Plate, her mother used Blue Plate, and her mother preferred Blue Plate. It’s in my genetic makeup by now.

Blue Plate is better, and I’ll die on that hill. Is it because they use only egg yolks? Maybe. Is it because of the bright acidity? Perhaps. Is it because the tanginess factor has been tweaked just right? Possibly. Is it because my family has been using it for generations? One could make an argument based on that assumption. But, in the end— and after all the newfound hype, bowl games, magazine features, and superstar endorsements for the other guys— Blue Plate just tastes better.

I was a part of a true blind taste test earlier in the year. Blue Plate won. To me, it wasn’t even close. It’s not just me. The food writers at “Epicurious” blind taste-tested more than a dozen mayonnaises and Blue Plate won out. That’s no surprise to me. But to all the Duke’s devotees out there— many of whom are my good friends— you might want to try a blind taste test for yourselves.

So, there it is. It will certainly be an unpopular opinion among a few of my contemporaries and colleagues. It’s been a couple of decades since I received hate mail because of this column, and I am ready to stand my ground against all the Dukies out there. I have acidity, viscosity, brightness, and flavor on my side. But don’t come at me unless you’ve done a blind taste test, side-by-side against the best commercially produced mayonnaise in the history of mayonnaise, Blue Plate.

Homemade is best. Blue Plate is next.


Comeback Sauce (Mississippi’s House Dressing)

2 cups Blue Plate Mayonnaise

1 cups Ketchup

1 cup Chili sauce

1 cup Cottonseed Oil

1 Large Onion, diced

1 /3 cup Lemon juice, freshly squeezed

4 Tbl Garlic, minced

2 Tbl Paprika

2 Tbl Water

2 Tbl Worcestershire

1 Tbl. Pepper

2 tsp Dry mustard

2 tsp Salt

Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Allow to sit overnight in refrigerator before use.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS