Note: This is not a piece of sponsored content, though it reads like one. I have not accepted compensation or gifts from big mayo. I’m just a husky dude who really likes mayonnaise.
When did it become so cool to hate on mayo? It’s almost like overnight half of the internet put it in their crosshairs and started hating on it like pineapple on pizza (which is also great, fight me). The Duke’s Mayo Bowl has me thinking a lot about mayonnaise today, as opposed to every other day where only a moderate amount of my daily thinking is devoted to mayo.
I’m not going to convince anyone who hates mayonnaise that it’s good. I’ve accepted that’s just not going to happen. However, I’d like to explain to you why I believe my beloved, off-white, fat-based food lube is the peak of human culinary achievement.
On the surface mayo functionally makes no sense. It’s the early gastronomic equivalent to putting potato chips in a Reece’s Cup, which, hey, that exists. However, instead of cramming random decadent crap together as part of a post-millennial marketing scheme, some beautiful 18th century French bastards were tinkering around with egg yolks and oil, and through the power of alchemy made a sauce of pure fat so wonderful it changed the world.
Early mayo was such a bizarre achievement that pharmacists thought it was a medicine, not a food. Mayo’s thick, gooey, naturally lubricating consistency became the base of many ointments. I mean hell, we even have the damn MAYO CLINIC in Minnesota celebrating the impact of mayonnaise on medicine. That’s an outright lie, but you believed me for a second didn’t you, because I’m making you have faith in mayonnaise’s power.
The truth is, I don’t really need to explain the significance of mayo historically. I don’t need to extol its virtues as the basis of tartar sauce, remoulade, ranch, or hibachi white sauce. I want to, because mayo is great, but I don’t need to.
Instead, let me explain what mayo meant to me as a kid. It meant one thing: Love.
I grew up not having a lot of money. My mom was a wizard who could stretch a penny so far I never even noticed we were poor until I became a teenager. She was absolutely determined not to make money something I worried about as a kid, and the easiest way for her to save it was packing my lunch. My lunch box was more or less the same every day. A refillable bottle of ice water which doubled as a cooling mechanism, a piece of fruit (whatever was on sale at the time) and a humble, often-limp sandwich containing three ingredients: Ham, cheese, mayonnaise.
It wasn’t like a lot of the other kids. There were no siloed off Ziplock bags of lettuce and tomato, lovingly packed together so the sandwich could be assembled fresh on the playground. Hell, I didn’t even get a Ziplock bag. They were too expensive. Most of the time my sandwich was double-wrapped in paper towel and secured with a piece of tape.
This method meant that by the time it was lunch the bread (which was often close to being stale in the first place) would be dry, the cheese would start to get hard and the meal would otherwise be inedible — except for one savior: mayonnaise. It brought it all together. It allowed the sandwich to be possible. It lubricated these sad, budget ingredients enough that I was allowed to get my mid-day sustenance, and while I was always bummed I didn’t get a bag of chips with my lunch, or perish the thought, a cookie, for the better part of a decade mayonnaise was my lunchtime friend. My hero.
I think this is why I get defensive when people say “mayonnaise is gross” or “how could anyone eat that crap?” in order to earn internet cool points. I know I shouldn’t get defensive over something this dumb, but it’s almost like insulting my childhood, or more aptly, insulting my mom, who sacrificed EVERY basic adult comfort like coffee in order to make sure she could deliver three square meals every day.
Mayo is the world’s most versatile sauce for a reason. It exists to bail out meals that would otherwise be terrible, and elevate ones which are already good. It can be churched up with spices and called an aioli, infused with exotic ingredients to make the menu of a boujee $17 sandwich shop ... it can also be cheap, hastily spread on a sandwich and put in a box before work in order to try and make lunch for a kid just a little bit better, knowing everything else in life was so difficult.
Enjoy the Duke’s Mayo Bowl today, and even if you don’t like mayonnaise, appreciate what it means to others. In the end, all mayo is good mayo ... except for Miracle Whip, which is a devilish hell substance that’s probably haunted.