GMO with a Side of Mayo and Hollandaise Sauce, Please!


As soon as you hear “GMO” (Genetically Modified Organisms), what words pop into your mind? Unnatural? Sustainable? Evil? Or, even, nothing? GMO tends to be a source of confusion to the average person. In regards to safety, environmental issues, health benefits, and labeling, GMO have many facets to consider and often seem overwhelming. After reading arguments from both “for” and “against” GMO products, I cannot say that it gets any less confusing. Both sides of the spectrum present solid arguments, while also shedding light on unresolved questions as well. Therefore, to begin today’s class, there was no better way to highlight the complexity of GMO than with a heated, yet professional, debate.

Regardless of how each student felt towards GMO before entering the class, we were randomly selected to be “Team GMO” or “Team GMNO”. Here are some of the main arguments from each team:

Team GMO Team GMNO
·         It holds environmental benefits through association of conservation of tillage, preventing soil erosion, and reducing the need or irrigation (Lusk, 104)

·         Could prevent foods from becoming obsolete. For example, GMO saved the Papaya Industry in 1995 in Hawaii by altering the papaya’s DNA to create immunization from the Ringspot Virus that was destroying all papaya crops (Saletan)

·         There is no scientific proof that GMO causes health problems or diseases within the last 30 years

·         Cheaper than “Organic” foods (Lusk, 105)

·         Can provide supplanted nutritional value in foods that would not originally hold them, such as “Golden Rice” (Rice genetically modified to have beta-carotene, or Vitamin A) that was designed to feed malnourished people in Southeast Asia (Saletan)

·         If Anti-GMO protestors ever experienced hunger themselves, they would be outraged that people are denying them access to cheap foods that offer nutritional value. Question of privilege (Lusk, 113)

·         Why should the unknown nature of GMO frighten us so much that we end up doing nothing? We should develop it now for a time of crisis in the future.

·         It is an environmental hazard by producing herbicide-resistant GM products, in response to glyphosate resistant weeds, that would add highly toxic chemicals into the air and ourselves (Ji)

·         Although no scientific data yet, it may cause health problems and diseases in the long run as people age. “What is safe now may not always be in the future.”

·         Present-day science is unable to fully comprehend GMO – Potentially dangerous

·         Fruits and vegetables might become so altered by GMO that it will not be recognizable anymore – Possibility of no more nutritional value

·         When will GMO stop? Will it become a necessity for not only plants, but also the animals we eat as well? What will there be left to do if all our GMO products become irreversible

·         Issue of “consumer choice” and “human rights” where both farmers and consumers have no agency in controlling the food through “multinational corporations and governments” (Ji)

The nature of this debate was to not convince us that either side is “right” or “wrong” in how to approach GMO products. Instead, it gave us the opportunity to reflect whether our initial concepts of GMO flipped, remained the same, or falls somewhere in the middle. All in all, “GMO” remains a convoluted debate with no concrete answer. However, there was one argument presented today that stood out from the rest. It was given by our guest this week, Bruce Reisch, who is a grapevine breeder and geneticist at Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. He explained to us that our food has been modified by humans for centuries. As humans, we have combined or mated plants that would have never naturally occurred. For example, grapevines from Asia and grapevines from North America. The Asian grapevines are more resistant to viruses than North American ones, and they were purposefully combined for taste and disease resistance. This has occurred in apples, grapes, broccoli, and other plants for years. A similar argument can be said about corn. Corn has become entirely dependent on human intervention and cannot grow on its own in such a vast quantity or quality as it is currently. This has occurred without any involvement of Genetically Modified Engineering, and can also never be reversed. In the end, foods have been modified to feed our planet with or without GMOs It lends yourself to ask the question, should these ‘natural’ methods of food production be as criticized just as much as GMO are?



To mix things up a bit (pun intended), the next item on our list today was to talk about emulsions! If you are asking yourself what on earth are emulsions, just think of the salad dressing you put on your salad the other day. In the simplest terms – Emulsions are a mixture of two liquids that would normally not occur, such as oils and water. What allows one liquid to become dispersed in the continuous phase of another (such as oil-in-water or water-in-oil) are emulsifying agents. One of the most readily available emulsifying agents are egg yolks, which carry a special molecule called lecithin. Lecithin has one end that is soluble in oil (hydrophobic) and one end that is soluble in water (hydrophilic), making it a liaison between insoluble liquids that would normally try to separate from one another (McGee, 628).

Now, besides salad dressings, where can we find emulsions? As soon as you walk into the “Sauce” aisle of a grocery store! Today we focused on the two popular emulsions of mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce. You wouldn’t normally think of these two sauces as a remarkable chemistry experiment, but don’t be fooled. Making emulsions is not an easy task. Why? Because of precisely what we are doing –combining two liquids that don’t normally want to be combined. Through the creation of mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce, we witnessed firsthand the challenges to creating a successful, and delicious, emulsion.

Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise

First up, mayonnaise. This creamy, smooth sauce has become a normal household object in America as a topping for all sandwich options. When I think of Mayo, I think of Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise, with the iconic yellow and blue label with navy blue cap (Some of you out west would recognize it as Best Foods – same stuff). However, today’s class taught me that it is so much more than that. Have you ever tried homemade mayo? Well, here is the recipe how:

Apparatus: ·         Stand mixer (whisk attachment), Cuisinart, or hand whisk

·         Mixing bowl (for hand whisking)

Ingredients: ·         ½ egg yolk*

·         ¼ whole egg*
*For hand whisked, just use one whole yolk, rather than the yolk/egg combination

·         ½ tsp salt

·         ½ tsp dry mustard powder

·         ¼ tsp ground pepper

·         1/8 tsp sugar

·         2 tsp citrus juice (lemon or lime)

·         2 tsp water or vinegar (flavored, if you like)

·         ½ cup oil (or more as needed)

Potential Variables : ·         Garlic cloves

·         Rosemary

·         Sesame

·         Schmaltz– Rendered chicken fat

·         Extra virgin olive oil (to replace any water/vinegar/citrus juice)

Instructions: 1.       Place all the ingredients except for the oil into the mixing vessel. Begin mixing.

*For the hand-whisked version in a glass bowl, begin with ½ of the aqueous ingredients (citrus, vinegar)

2.       Drizzle in the oil, drop by drop at first, mixing vigorously

3.       Continue mixing vigorously while adding in the rest of the oil increasingly rapidly, eventually reaching a steady stream

*With the hand-whisked version, once it looks like completed mayonnaise, but only halfway through the addition of oil, add the remaining ½ aqueous material and finish whisking in the remainder of the oil

1. “Control” with balsamic vinegar. 2. Olive oil (with no vinegar) 3. Recovered mayonnaise from salad dressing 4. Red wine vinegar 5. Sesame additive and balsamic vinegar 6. Rosemary, garlic aioli and white wine vinegar 7. Schmaltz / garlic and white wine vinegar

We ended up creating six styles of mayonnaise utilizing different mixing techniques, assortments of vinegar, and additives. The crowd pleaser was the rosemary/garlic aioli mayonnaise. Who knew mayo could be so classy?

Slowly adding in oil drop-by-drop with whisking.

Adding in the oil drop-by-drop into the moving cuisinart.

The first important aspect of making mayonnaise is the act of mixing. As hinted above, emulsions do not occur spontaneously. They require energy to overcome surface tension, in the form of vigorous mixing. The second requirement is making sure that you don’t add the oil too quickly into the continuous phase (the water). Imagine dumping a large amount of oil into a bowl of water – no matter how many times you try breaking it up with your spoon, the oil droplets will always form a large mass with each other again. The same is said here. To avoid the oil from irreversibly forming a large mass, you add the oil drop-by-drop. This allows the oil molecules to individually interact with lecithin in the egg yolks to form a proper emulsion. As time progresses, the oil can be added in faster because the mayo is thicker and is thus contributes to breaking up the oil droplets.

The irreversible salad dressing – Take note in that it has the exact same ingredients as mayonnaise, just added together differently! 

The salad dressing transformed into mayonnaise with a little help of an egg yolk

So, how do you fix your mistake if you add too much oil at once? Another egg yolk! One of our groups purposefully disrupted the emulsion process by adding all the oil in at once, and they ended up creating salad dressing. No matter how long they would mix it, the salad dressing would never spontaneously turn into mayonnaise, even though that would be a cool trick. This is because with the introduction of so much oil at once, there is no way to spontaneously connect tiny, individual oil droplets to water molecules when they would rather just stick to themselves! We restored it by placing another egg yolk in a clean Cuisinart, mixing it up, and then slowly adding in the salad dressing drop-by-drop. It was mayonnaise again. Good as new!

Next up was the hollandaise sauce. This is an emulsion that involves egg yolk and liquid butter, and it goes great on eggs benedict. Here is how to make it:

Apparatus: ·         Tablespoon measure

·         Whisk

·         Small saucepan

Ingredients: ·         3 egg yolks

·         8 tbsp “fat”
Options: Butter, ghee, clarified butter, schmaltz, margarine, olive oil

·         3 tsbp “aqueous ingredients”

Options: 2:1 water/lemon juice, lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar of your choosing

·         Salt to taste

Instructions: 1.       Soften/melt the “fat”

2.       Whisk the egg yolks and the “aqueous ingredients” over low heat, stirring continuously

3.       After a minute or two, when the mixture is completely homogenous and frothy, begin adding the soft/melted fat a drop at a time, with vigorous whisking

4.       Continue adding the fat, increasing the speed of addition as time progresses

5.       Continue whisking over the heat once all the fat is added until the sauce holds appropriate consistency

6.       Remove from heat, add salt to taste, and serve

Adding in the butter drop-by-drop while vigorously mixing – You’re going to need two people for this!


The hollandaise sauce was also created with six different variations. We utilized four different kinds of “aqueous ingredients” and three kinds of “fat”. Out of all the different styles, the ghee hollandaise sauce stood out from the rest and it had to do with its moisture level. A disclosure about the “fat” options is that despite their logical association, they contain water in them. For example, butter is only about 80% fat, 15% water, and 5% other components, such as proteins and salt. This is what contributes to hollandaise’s creamy, liquid texture. Meanwhile, ghee is made up of entirely butterfat, where no water remains and the milk solids get strained out after they are browned. Due to the continuous phase in hollandaise sauce being water, the less water there is, the more the sauce will thicken. This lack of moisture is what contributed to its almost “clumpy” texture.

Hollandaise sauce with ghee

You know it’s a thick hollandaise sauce when you can turn it upside down!

If there is one thing that I learned from class today, it’s that store-bought mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce are nothing in comparison to their homemade counterparts. These are easy, tasty, and act as a little chemistry experiment! Next time you’re craving an emulsion, which I know we all do (even if we don’t know it), try out these two recipes. It doesn’t hurt that you’ll impress everyone around you, too.


Ji, Sayer. “Think the Anti-GMO Movement Is Unscientific? Think Again.” Waking Times. 25 May 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.

Lusk, Jayson. The Food Police: A Well-Fed Manifesto About the Politics of Your Plate. Crown Forum, 2013. Web.

McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.

Saletan, William. “The Misleading War on GMOs: The Food Is Safe. The Rhetoric Is Dangerous.” Slate Magazine. 15 July 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.



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