A viral article suggests that the condiment is over, but we have some thoughts
Mayonnaise is dead. Haven’t you heard?
We killed it. According to a viral article from the August issue of Philadephia Magazine called (deep breath) ‘The White Stuff’ and reposted online as ‘How Millennial Killed Mayonnaise’ it’s all our fault. Millennials and in particular millennial women are responsible for the end of the good, wholesome, old-fashioned mayo condiment, apparently.
Mayonnaise is dead. Long live Sriracha, kimchi, wasabi, banana ketchup, salsa, chimichurri, kefir, ajvar, gochujang and “relishes of every ilk and hue,” the article’s author Sandy Hingston moans.
Hingston begins her piece with an an ode to the halcyon days of summer, days of picnic feasts of macaroni salads and remoulade and devilled eggs.
But today’s lazy picnics are the stuff of baby boomer nightmares Hingston says, hands wringing in despair. No-one wants to eat her Waldorf salad anymore, liberally doused in the good white stuff. Millennials, this generation of bread and circuses, are mad for more exciting condiments, and not “pale and insipid” mayonnaise that is “not nearly exotic enough for our era of globalisation”.
Hingston’s main thesis if you read between the lines of her piece is thus: Firstly, that mayonnaise is on the decline because of some kind of reverse racism that prioritises global inclusivity over homegrown talent. It’s little surprise that in her article Hingston compares mayonnaise to, um, Taylor Swift. She might as well have continued that thought to its logical conclusion and just called mayonnaise the Donald Trump of condiments.
“Do you think 23andMe and MyHeritage and all those other DNA testing companies are flourishing because people want to find out their ancestors came from Aberdeen? Hells no,” Hingston writes, “they wannabe from Marrakesh or Manchuria or Malawi. It’s the same with condiments.”
Her second conclusion is that it’s largely the fault of feminism for mayonnaise’s decline. She does this obliquely by referencing how the condiment’s homemade origins, “whisked up by wives as needed”, before Big Mayo turned the dressing into an industry.
Hingston has two children. One is 25-year-old Jake, “a practical young man” and a “good son”. He eats mayonnaise. He “adores” macaroni salad. Hingston’s daughter, on the other hand, “loathes mayonnaise”. There’s no mention of whether she fulfills her filial responsibilities like her brother but Hingston does take pains to tell the reader that “she was a women’s and gender studies major in college.”
Now wait a second here, let’s back the truck up. Aside from the fact that Hingston is arguing that the death of mayo can be chalked down to feminism, far more problematic is her assertion that people are rejecting mayonnaise because they’re rejecting good, traditional American values.
In the article Hingston pats herself on the back for adding “a little fish sauce” to her stir fries and keeping a bottle of the Costa Rican sauce Lizano in her fridge but paragraphs later she moans that millennials are denouncing mayonnaise in favour of global condiments, when really they should be prostrate at the altar of Hellmans.
What Hingston doesn’t understand is that mayonnaise isn’t the great American condiment that she thinks it is. Chile is actually the third largest consumer of mayonnaise per capita in the world. Thanks to Kewpie you’ll find mayo in every Japanese pantry to squeeze atop of okonomiyaki, sushi, bowls of poke and skewers and skewers of yakitori. Go to any fry house in Belgium and there’ll be great vats of stuff to dip your chips into. We haven’t even waded into the delicious world of aioli. And anyway, mayonnaise was invented in France. It is a global condiment.
More importantly, the claim that mayonnaise is dead is misguided. Sales have only declined by about 1.5% year on year compared to say, an actual dying industry like DVDs and videos, which have fallen by about 13% year on year.
It’s 2018 and millennials understand that we can have it all.
We can have a fridge stocked with every conceivable condiment and dressing from every city in every country from all over the world.
We can have our fish sauce and our Lizano, sure. We can have our pesto, our mustard and ketchup, our salsas and soy, our chili and chimichurri, our sesame and hoisin and oyster and chutney and kibbeh and jerk and barbecue and curry and jam and, what do you know, a jar of mayonnaise kicking around in the back of the fridge, too, because here’s the thing about mayonnaise: it lasts forever. You only need to replace it about once every decade. Mayonnaise isn’t dead, it’s just one small part of our cosmopolitan, global diet.
Millennials can have it all, all those delicious sauces, all those finger-licking condiments, all that taste and flavour and variety and spice. We can have it all, and we can eat it too.