A couple weeks ago I ordered a street hotdog for lunch.
I put ketchup, mustard and relish on it and then I looked around a bit, in search of something else. That's when the guy beside me asked, "Do you have any mayonnaise?" Relief washed over me. I wanted mayo too—in fact it was the only sauce that really mattered to me—but I was too ashamed to request it myself. This is what happens when you live in a mayo-hostile world.
I love mayonnaise. I love how it's equal parts salty, fatty, tangy. As a kid I would put a heavy dollop of mayonnaise into my mashed potatoes and it wasn't until I was older I realized other people use sour cream. I've also put it on pizza, and even steak. Hell, last night I was out of dinner options (I'm following a low carb diet) so I ate hardboiled eggs with mayo, which, in essence, is mayo on mayo. The only time I've ever been offended by the presence of mayo was when a white curry professor showed me how to make coronation chicken. Mayo and curry do not make good bedfellows.
Before I continue, let's establish the facts: mayonnaise is a sauce made up of beaten egg yolks, oil, vinegar, and seasoning. According to Slate, it was likely a French creation that dates back as far as the 18th century. Actually those are all the mayo facts I have.
These days, we typically think of mayonnaise as a sandwich spread. But for some of us, its uses are infinite. Mayo is to dry/fried food what Crystal Light is to water, what Pitbull is to a J-Lo song, what lube is to... things that need lubing.
"My fave is mayo on fries," my coworker Kate said during a heated Slack debate over the merits of mayo. "The fry is the vessel for the mayo to enter you."
Jessica Pelletier, a Gatineau-based server who is so die-hard she has "mayonnaise" tattooed to her wrist, told me she will often put mayo on her plate and dip a burger into it.
Growing up "we always had the massive mayonnaise tub in my fridge and always had a back up in our cupboard," she said, noting her mom fully approved of the tattoo.
Despite our fondness for mayo, it's hard to open about it. I've fielded enough aghast looks to know that it's just easier to hide my mayo use, at times racing to scoop it into my plate and put the jar back in the fridge before anyone else came into the lunchroom. The anti-mayo crowd are a bunch of judgey dicks.
In fact yesterday's conversation got so intense our socials producer Sasha actually left the Slack channel. He believes mayo is "gross and uninspiring." "If bland had a flavour it would be mayo," he told me. Others, like VICE staff writer Allison, are even more dramatic about their "hatred" of mayo, likening it to a phobia that has brought her to tears.
"If it is plain mayo I will gag," she said, noting part of the problem is mayo's esthetic, namely "how it is so globby."
There's even a Reddit thread questioning why Americans hate mayo so much. (When I was in Amsterdam recently, I was given mayo with my schnitzel. Frankly it saved an otherwise inedible dish.)
One thing the critics love to say is they don't like OG mayo, but they're OK with sriracha mayo, wasabi mayo, or spicy sauce in sushi rolls. Hate to break it to you, but mayo by any other name is still mayo. Likewise, aioli, bearnaise, McChicken sauce, tartar sauce, chipotle, and probably a bunch of other delicious crap are also ALL MAYO. And what other condiment could be so versatile?
This mental gymnastics required to compartmentalize mayo and other sauces that are primarily comprised of mayo lead me to believe that the true beefs with the sauce have nothing to do with its taste.
Pelletier said she's observed that it's mostly men who hate mayo and she has a theory as to why.
"I think it's like a semen-like sauce; it reminds them of semen, and the creamy texture. They see it and they don't wanna eat it," she said.
She might be right but I also think it's just not "cool" to like mayo. You don't get cred for dousing your food with mayo the way you would with hot sauce, which btw is super overrated. People think it makes you fat (it actually doesn't, carbs and sugar do.) Let's face it: mayo is the Nickelback of condiments. As one fan recently told Daily VICE, there are people who admit they like Nickelback and people who are just liars.
If you're wondering why I'm writing this, I can't say I blame you. But I think my point is: it's time for mayo lovers to come out of the shadows. If there's anything I learned from doing very cursory research on this topic, it's that there are actually more people who love mayo than not. Put mayo wherever the hell you want—some people even use it for hair masks and facials. And one last thing: fuck Miracle Whip.
Follow Manisha on Twitter.