I remember from the few hours of science class that didn’t cause my eyes to glaze over that our DNA resembles a double helix.  Whatever that means.

The English major in me, the voracious reader and writer, has an easier time comprehending DNA by thinking of it as a little library, complete with ladders, floating about in each cell, where there are no shelves and all the books look like tiny jigsaw pieces and fit together as beautifully as the syllables in iambic pentameter.  And since I’m harboring a tiny parasite, apparently apple sized these days, I’ve been thinking a lot about DNA, what Honeydew will pass on to our baby, what I will, what I hope not to.  And in turn, I’ve spent plenty of moments staring blankly into the snow, which has fallen now for seven straight days, thinking about what was passed on to me, which authors are harbored in the library of my DNA.

Great cooks, Southern ones to be sure, comprise many volumes of my DNA.  I am not yet a great Southern cook, but I have the genetic potential and the desire, and I hope the parasite will also find satisfaction in feeding those he or she loves, and at least impressing those he or she does not love.

Though Uncle Brother Dear will surely groan, I think that one of the tools of a great Southern cook is mayonnaise.

Brother Dear has a hard time with the M word and can generally ferret out its presence in any recipe, even after his mother has gone to some pains to assure him that there is no M in X, there are only “eggs suspended in oil,” which is all mayonnaise is, after all.  She’ll dismiss his questions with, “just a binding agent,” no easy task, since Brother Dear is himself a great Southern cook.

So when not one, but two cases of beautiful mayonnaise arrived at the warehouse this fall, Brother Dear went running for the hills, and I went running for the family recipe book, grease splattered and mayonnaise smeared.  Because this mayonnaise was not just any mayonnaise, but the pinnacle of mayonnaises, the particular blend that brings out the sunshine in heirloom tomatoes, salt, pepper, and white bread, the binding agent that turns chicken salad into soul food, and the secret ingredient to chocolate cake so moist that a glass of milk would be overkill.  Duke’s Mayonnaise.  Acknowledged by the South and by Duke’s marketing department as “the secret of Great Southern Cooks.”  Unavailable within the great State of Montana.  Sent to me by my uncle Vince.

With the Duke’s, Vince included a note on the packing slip:

Howard, if you don’t know, passed away six years ago.  He was my youngest brother.  And I wonder what books we shared in our DNA libraries – surely there were many that one of us read and the other did not.  Perhaps I will get to see those stories again, sometime after next spring.

Thanks, Vince.

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