It’s hollandaise holiday at the senior center

Come to the Charlotte Senior Center on Jan. 15 to hit the sauce. No alcohol involved but the hollandaise sauce is sure to make you smile.

Literally, “from Holland,” in the nineteenth century this classic French sauce, was commonly called “Dutch sauce.”

The noted chef and culinary writer Escoffier classified hollandaise as one of the five “mother” sauces of French cuisine. Wikipedia offers this list of sauces derived from hollandaise:

  • Sauce au vin blanc (for fish): hollandaise with a reduction of white wine and fish stock
  • Sauce bavaroise: hollandaise with cream, horseradish and thyme
  • Sauce crème fleurette: hollandaise with crème fraîche.
  • Sauce Dijon, also known as sauce moutarde or sauce Girondine: hollandaise with Dijon mustard.
  • Sauce Maltaise: hollandaise with blanched orange zest and the juice of blood orange
  • Sauce Mousseline, also known as sauce Chantilly: hollandaise with whipped cream folded in.
  • divine is sauce Mousseline with reduced sherry in the whipped cream. Madame Benoit’s recipe uses whipped egg whites instead of whipped cream.
  • Sauce noisette is hollandaise made with browned butter

Billing this sauce as the “aristocrat” of French dressings, the New York Times offers over a thousand entries for hollandaise, with, as expected, numerous variations. They offer hollandaise made with lime juice, cayenne and ginger; hollandaise with hazelnuts; tomato sauce topped with hollandaise; and so on.

An article in early 1945 advised, “Butter supplies being what they are, prepared hollandaise sauce has been hard to find. Recently, however, we arrived at Macy’s just in time to see a shipment being arranged on the shelves. Forty-nine cents buys the jar.”

Transposing that cost to 2024 makes that sauce look pricey. At that time many people were squeezing a packet of orange food coloring in a plastic bag of margarine to turn the white mass yellow — so it would at least look like butter.

A sobering item noted that, on April 11, 1912, first class passengers leaving Queenstown, Ireland, would have found salmon with hollandaise sauce on the Titanic menu.

Writing a movie review, A. O. Scott complained, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is at its worst when it steps behind the stove. At one point, we are treated to a brief lesson on the five canonical sauces that are the basis of classical French cooking. One of these is hollandaise, which then appears to be prepared with olive oil, which would make it aioli, or perhaps mayonnaise, but not hollandaise. … This may sound like a small, pedantic quibble, but a movie that continually proclaims its reverence for the discipline of the kitchen and the glories of tradition should pay attention to such details.”

Please note: Because they care a lot about food, volunteer cooks at the Charlotte Senior Center pay a lot of attention to the details.

Yes, podcast character Judge John Hodgman weighed in, declaring in the Sunday Magazine, “Brunch defies time. So long as it is a weekend, wherever avocado toast, daylight and drinking meet, there is brunch. And unless it’s on asparagus, even Hollandaise sauce, eaten alone out of the fridge at midnight, is brunch. Hodgman brunch.”

Rather than trying this stunt, you’d do much better to show up at the Charlotte Senior Center for Monday Munch. Their hollandaise will be served over green beans, a vegetable with an interesting history. Remnants of the bean, Phaeolus vulgaris, have been found in Peruvian caves dating back to 6000 BC. Native American have eaten them for thousands of years. In the 16th century, these beans were introduced to the rest of the world from North America.

Nathaniel Hawthorne noted that “it was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil.” S. J. Perelman disagreed: “I have no truck with lettuce, cabbage, and any dietitian will tell you that a running foot of apple strudel contains four times the vitamins of a bushel of beans.”

Maybe Perelman would have sung a different tune if he’d had the chance to eat his green vegetable with hollandaise, accompanied by quiche Lorraine and pineapple upside down cake.

Noted magazine editor and author of many books, Sarah Josepha Hale noted, “Green beans, or string beans as they are usually called, must be done (boiled) till very tender — it takes nearly an hour and a half.” — Sarah Josepha Hale “The Good Housekeeper” (1839).

The taste of the resulting boiled-to-death mush is hard to imagine. Fortunately, the Hale words that we know today are the ones Thomas Edison recited on his newly invented phonograph, “Mary Had a Litte Lamb.”

Not surprisingly, culinary maven Alice Waters offers very different advice in “Chez Panisse Vegetables,” cautioning how quickly green beans cook.

Right now, green beans don’t seem to be on the menu at Waters’ famous restaurant, where a meal will set you back $175 plus service and tax. You might instead offer a beautiful book about the food insights Waters offers to a young person you know: “Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution” by Diane Stanley and engagingly illustrated by Jessie Hartland is a beautiful, informative book.

Then head over to Monday Munch, where the suggested donation is $5, the people inviting and the food delicious.

Monday Munch
Jan. 15: 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Viva la France. Quiche Lorraine, haricot vert, hollandaise and pineapple upside down cake.

Monday Munch
Jan. 22
To be announced. Meanwhile, enjoy this golden oldie: Bing Crosby singing “June in January”.