Why Won't The Great Mayo Debate Ever Die?
A chef considers the scorned condiment.
May 10, 2018 ● 2 min read
By Richie Nakano | Photo illustration ChefsFeed
On an average day in an otherwise unremarkable week, ESPN and Food Network host Jaymee Sire conducted a Twitter poll.
When it came to grilled cheese, which was better: mayonnaise, or butter?
First of all, the answer is mayo—it’s easily spreadable, browns more evenly, and imparts a mild tang that cuts through the richness of five Kraft singles (that’s a normal amount of cheese right?). This did not stop Twitter from losing its damn mind.
Her poll dragged in almost 6,000 votes (butter won, with 87 percent of the vote) but it was the vitriol in the replies that caught my eye; the reactions ranged between the bluntness of a solitary “yuck” and the hyperbolic “if I have to eat mayo I will hang myself.”
Okay, hold on.
I like mayo. It elevates sandwiches from two-wheat-sponges-holding-a-stack-of-meat-Frisbees to something you could eat every single day, happily. It binds and dresses potato and macaroni salad, and to a lesser extent, their hillbilly cousin, coleslaw. Oh, you like artichoke spinach dip? Yeah, that’s hot mayonnaise. It’s cheap to buy and easy to make and just kind of makes everything better.
People who think mayonnaise is gross confuse me. It’s eggs and oil. Who hurt you?
As your humble self-loathing anthropologist of the internet, I wanted to know what made their hatred of mayo so visceral. Three replies in, I got my first “#fakenews.” Two tweets later, that same person hit me with: “Mayo does not belong on a cheeseburger. Or a hot dog. If you want it on a deli sandwich, fine. But you are probably a terrible person.”
One person claimed it was made of fermented eggs (it’s not). Some said they wouldn’t eat it because they "can’t support Big Dairy" (there is no dairy in mayo). More than once, someone said that eating mayo straight out of the jar was disgusting—which aside from it having nothing to do with the conversation, I couldn’t argue with.
Mayo hatred isn’t some new phenomenon—but damn, why does it persist beyond sound logic? The common theme was the unsettling and gelatinous shelf-stable nature of the jarred stuff, or past encounters with old, congealed mayo. They had experienced the condiment at its absolute worst and were thus scarred for life. I get that, but we’ve all had bad food—bad burgers, bad pizza, bad sushi. I got violent food poisoning from a pork chile verde burrito once, but it didn’t send me tailing off into the alt-right of burrito opinions.
Do mayo haters have parallel textural issues? Does melty ice cream make their skin crawl? Not knowing the answer to this makes me want to run into the streets and yell “BUT WHAT IS TO BE DONE WITH THIS DELICIOUS FLAN I JUST MADE YOU?!” We easily accept other fatty dips and condiments as being good. Sour cream? Kinda gross, but also delightful! Crème fraîche? Sour cream with good PR. Hummus is the mayonnaise of bean purees. Nacho cheese is nasty, but I would definitely bathe in it. Anyone who’s ever had kewpie, or Duke’s, or silky, light-as-air handmade mayo knows the truth.
Mayo is more than the sum of its parts. And when done right, it is glorious.
The defense rests.