My relationship with mayonnaise is pretty standard in my opinion. I didn’t like the stuff as a child because it just looked and smelled weird. Eventually the gelatinous white spread found its way into a sandwich I couldn’t politely turn away, and after a couple of bites of what I think was a ham and mayo sandwich, I thought – meh this is alright.
It was only when I reached college that I truly embraced the condiment. The new world that college provided, with its plethora of ideas and opinions, shared generously by people of different races and culture, beliefs and ideals, led me to my new friend Joe. Ordering chicken and chips after a night out, he suggested I have my chicken and chips with ketchup AND mayo instead of just ketchup.
I cautiously agreed and portioned a little of both condiments next to each other, on the side of my box (not that weird paint mess the food people do). I swiped a wing through the ketchup into the mayo and took a bite. This time, it was way more than alright.
Ever since I’ve squirted, spread, and splattered the egg-and-oil condiment and the various forms it takes into many a savoury dish. My favourite kind is GBK’s baconnaise: I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m in love with the stuff, but I can argue that it is a staple in the condiment/food world.
A lot of people however just hate the stuff, no matter how it comes. Rachael Ray, Jimmy Fallon, and President Obama are all on record as mayo haters. Unaware of how deep mayonnaise split opinion, a little research led to some raher interesting discoveries.
William Ian Miller, law professor at the University of Michigan and author The Anatomy of Disgust, and Rachel Herz, an adjunct assistant professor at Brown University, offer their expertise to Huffington Post.
Herz claims that “its texture is what makes it most repulsive”: mayonnaise’s ability to wobble and not sit inert can create feelings of disgust. This is because movement often implies the coordinator of the movement is a living thing and “Living things can contaminate you”.
The fact that mayonnaise is just that: mayonnaise, but moving, disgusts a lot of people. Me included, when I sit and think about it. The main function of this disgust is a primitive instinct we feel to move away from things we find weird or alien. This is to avoid potential harm.
The sight, smell and taste also reminds people of bodily fluids. Pus, fat and other fluids are likely to repulse the strongest of stomachs, especially if it’s lightly infusing itself into your hot plate of food.
Miller backs this up saying “I suppose people are disgusted with mayo because it has the consistency of pus. Some things are more likely to generate disgust than others, and bodily fluids and rot are two of those things.”
Hatred of mayonnaise is often learned as well. Herz states:
“There’s no innate understanding that mayo is like a bodily fluid or that we should have an aversion to bodily fluids, but once we do have that association, it does really elicit a real emotion of disgust.”
This theory resonates most with my relationship with mayo as being brought up in a West African/British culture growing up, there wasn’t much place for mayo and the first time I had it, it felt very alien.
In the 60s, American scientists, started claiming cholesterol-rich foods are bad for the heart, saying they were “clogging the arteries”. Later on, reports of raw egg consumption (basically mayo) were linked to salmonella poisoning. The parallel rise of fast, convenient, tasty food meant that Americans grew up with a dubious relationship with the sauce.
Like it enough to eat the stuff from the little sachets or hate it enough to start a anti-mayo propaganda website called HoldThatMayo.com, with this information you’ll hopefully look at the yellow-white goo a little differently either way.