“Miracle Whip is (the) gateway condiment(to mayonnaise).”
–George Young on Facebook 10-3-2013
Coming from Wisconsin, I grew up having mayonnaise in many different food items which I came to enjoy eating over the years: egg salad, potato salad(about 8 or 9 different variations), tuna salad, etc. I know that a certain percentage of the female population of my state looked upon mayonnaise as an excellent hair conditioning item. When I moved here to California, I found that suddenly I was running into mayonnaise being put on foods that I had never seen nor considered to be mayonnaise foods, including it being included on almost every sandwich I ate and served as a condiment for hot dogs and hamburgers. I have even witnessed individuals using it as a condiment with french fries in place of ketchup. The sight of fries being dipped into mayo takes some getting used to. It seemed that I had entered a land where there was a law which required that mayonnaise had to be included in every food served(I checked and couldn’t find one. Thank, God!).
So what is this obsession in California with mayonnaise? Was there some dark, desperate moment in the Bear Republic’s history that humble mayonnaise saved the state from disaster? I checked on the state government’s website and couldn’t find it listed as an official symbol. The only direct link I can find between mayonnaise and California was on Wikipedia. Under its listing on the item, I found this: “At about the same time that Mrs. Schlorer’s and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise were thriving on the East Coast of the United States, a California company, Best Foods, introduced their own mayonnaise, which turned out to be very popular in the western United States. In 1932, Best Foods bought the Hellmann’s brand. By then, both mayonnaises had such commanding market shares in their own half of the country that it was decided that both brands be preserved.”
Perhaps that is the answer. I know that California and the West has always maintained a friendly animosity towards things Eastern. Maybe the reason that mayonnaise is so popular and in such wide-spread use is that it is a living remnant of the time when Hellman’s was battling Best Foods for supremacy in the world of mayonnaise sales in the United States. Californians have had it built into their genetic code to use mayonnaise to make sure its native product didn’t lose out to the challenger from back East.
What has been most interesting since I publicized my idea to write this story for Sac Press on its contributors group’s page, it has set off a running dialogue between those who love mayonnaise on almost everything and those who hate it. It even led to the formation of a ‘Mayo-Haters’ group(all very good-natured fun, of course).
I find that having mayo on some foods which I am not used to having it on is a good thing, a learning experience which has made me a better person. This new found interest in mayonnaise and the unique California political culture has given rise to an idea: let’s join together to start a referendum to designate Mayonnaise as California’s official state condiment! If you want to join me in this effort, post a comment stating your interest. Start talking to your family and friends now. Get them interested in joining this mayonnaise movement also!