Kitchen Lab: Stuff White People Like

Because there seems to be nothing much to stereotype white people for other than being boring and obtuse, the foods white people are supposed to like are as boring as we are and none too imaginative. Wonder Bread. Mayonnaise. Hard boiled eggs. Sour cream. White, white, white, white. Derp!

I went looking for the origins of this whole ‘white-people-like-mayonnaise’ thing, and all I could come up with is a reference in the movie Undercover Brother. Not the most authoritative of sources. Regardless of who likes it, Wikipedia says that mayo “is a stable emulsion of oil, egg yolk and either vinegar or lemon juice, with many options for embellishment with other herbs and spices. Lecithin in the egg yolk is the emulsifier.”

An emulsifier is “a substance that stabilizes an emulsion by increasing its kinetic stability,” and an emulsion is a mixture of liquids that are not ordinarily blendable. An emulsion is inherently unstable and won’t just happen on its own. Even after a good stirring, the ingredients comprising an emulsion will eventually “revert to the stable state of the phases comprising the emulsion,” or separate. Vinaigrette salad dressings are a good example of this separation happening quickly; with a good emulsifier (and preservatives and refrigeration and whatnot) mayo stays (kinetically) stable for far longer.

So yeah, mayonnaise is weird. As an authentic white person (of some kind), I can say with some authority that something we seem to be fond of is taking weird stuff to picnics and pot lucks. I cannot even tell you the number of times I’ve witnessed a friend or family member scrambling before a gathering to make some kind of strange concoction that they never would have made for consumption at home. (What on earth is this green bean “casserole” with canned dried onions y’all seem so enamored with for winter-ish holidays?)

Jello salads, or (as we called them as kids) ‘Sticks and Leaves‘. Bean salads. Chicken or tuna salads. Tomato, potato, or corn salads. Pasta salads of varying kinds. This weird ‘ambrosia‘ thing with marshmallows. Anything with the word “salad” but specifically and deliberately missing any sort of lettuce-y greenery that one might think to be integral to the idea of a salad. What?

So to take as much of that all together at once, here I’ve got a pasta salad with a little cultural appropriation on the side. Because curry is delicious!

a newspaper photo of a pasta salad recipe
White people also like to snip recipes out of newspapers.

Now, I’ve not been very good about reminding you to get all your ingredients together before you get started, mostly because I’m not so great at it myself. This recipe calls for tuna, but whoa stinky so I used chicken. Or I would have, if I’d remembered to buy any. Vegetarian salad now! It also calls for cashew pieces for added protein, which I also forgot when I went to the store for grapes and sour cream. So, yeah. Make sure you’ve got enough of everything you need before you get started.

1 tbsp. whole cumin
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. lemon juice (I also forgot a lemon *facepalm*)
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper (fresh ground if you’re fancy)
8 oz. bow-tie pasta (farfalle, I like the bow-ties)
2 cups thinly sliced celery
1 cup halved, seedless red grapes
1 cup unsalted cashew pieces (I woulda just eaten them all anyway)
2 6-oz. cans tuna or chicken

salad dressing in a white bowl with a whisk
Curry starts orange or red, but turns things yellow. Discuss.

First, we run into another instance of toasting things that won’t go into the toaster. Well, I’m sure the cumin seeds would go IN to the toaster, the trick would be to get ’em back out without all the crumbs mixing in. So put the cumin into a small dry pan and shake ’em around over medium heat for a minute or two, until you can really smell ’em. Don’t just let the seeds sit there, then they get all burned on one side and that’s not toasted, that’s burnt. When you’re done toasting them, dump the seeds out onto a plate or bowl to cool off (and stop cooking in the hot pan).

Mix up the lemon juice (I used bottled), curry powder, mayo, sour cream, salt, pepper, and cooled cumin seeds to make the dressing. I usually mix it up in whatever big bowl I’m ultimately going to use to mix up all the pasta and other stuff, because I like doing less dishes.

large measuring cup with sliced celery, grapes and cucumber
It’s not an onion, but it’s got layers. A fruit-and-veggie parfait.

Cook the pasta. Read the box for directions. While that’s cooking, you can slice up your celery and grapes. I personally don’t care for that much celery, so I just sliced up 3 stalks which made about 1.5 cups. I also had part of a cucumber left over from the night before, so I sliced that up to make up the extra 1/2 cup.

Slicing grapes in half is pretty damn tedious.

When the pasta’s cooked, rinse it under cold water and drain well in a colander. I have multiple colanders, but they’re annoying to wash, so I just ran cold water over the whole pot until it was cool and then held my hand over the edge of the pot while I dumped out the water. This may or may not be more annoying than just using a colander.

If you’re using canned tuna or chicken, drain and ‘flake’ it. This basically means ‘break it into little not-can-shaped pieces.’ If you’re using fresh tuna or chicken, you should have cooked it already, so cut it up into pieces.

Dump everything into a bowl, and stir it all around until everything’s coated evenly in the yellow curry-cumin dressing. Eat it whenever you like, but keep the leftovers in the fridge.

Curry pasta salad with grapes, celery and cucumber
My coworker saw me eating this and said it looked awesome.

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and sticky public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around. If external links are your thing, here are links to Twitter and Instagram, and you can support her ongoing weirdness by buying her a coffee or six.

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  1. The only time I make stuff for other people to eat is for Book Club* (once in a while, I usually just buy something), so I’ll have to keep this in mind. It looks yummy!

    P.S. If you are ever in the Boston Area on a Book Club Saturday (consult the Skepchick Events calendar), be sure to join us. We have lots of fantastic cooks, nibbling on barbequed brontosaurus ribs is one of our main activities. 🙂

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