My mayophobe brother sees aioli as watered-down mayonnaise. "If you add garlic or tabasco to mayo of course it will be less objectionable," he says. "Just like putting arsenic in water makes it less objectionable than just straight arsenic.
Bring up the word mayonnaise (online or IRL) and it's a reflex for people to exclaim, "I personally hate the stuff! " The possibility of being seen as a mayonnaise lover is too awful to bear.
Feelings about mayo also seem to touch on post-structuralist psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva's ideas about abjection, the horror one experiences when facing a breakdown between the self and Other—the classic example of which is starring at a dead human body and realizing that even as you're alive, you're also dying. "Anything that reminds us that we are animals elicits disgust," Rozin once wrote. "Disgust functions like a defense mechanism, to keep human animalness out of awareness. " If humans remember they're animals, they'll remember they're also mortal.
But as a joke it goes back at least to the 1977 film Annie Hall, in which goy Annie has the audacity to order a pastrami sandwich with mayo rather than mustard—and the 1985 mockumentary The History of White People in America, which apparently features a white family that walked around their house holding their own jar of mayonnaise.
But the first commercial mayonnaise was invented by a New York Jew, and though it's not kosher to put mayo on a pastrami sandwich like Annie Hall did, mayo is a huge part of Jewish deli culture—whitefish or egg salad, anyone?
As the FDA notes, the eggs in store-bought mayonnaise are all pasteurized and then mixed with an acid like vinegar or lemon juice, which means that scientifically it's very unlikely that a jar of mayo left sitting out a while will really develop salmonella or any bacteria, as that mixture is not a welcoming environment for microbes.
Emily Dreyfuss covers the intersection of tech and culture for WIRED. "I don't want to be a hypocrite about my opinions about mayonnaise," he says, listing off the foods he no longer lets himself eat now that he knows they may secretly contain mayo: Big Macs ("I loved the Big Mac sauce!
It's un-American to force French things on an American! " But neither should those of us who like mayonnaise and all the dishes it enables be ashamed to admit it.
No cream cheese, no cottage cheese, no crema on any sort of Mexican anything; sour cream, no," says Jenny Gotwals, the lead archivist at Radcliffe's Schlesinger Library who co-founded the Wesleyan Anti-Mayonnaise League when attended the university in the 1990s. "But mayonnaise is its own special category of hell.
As my brother says, "It's un-American to force mayonnaise on me.
Mayonnaise as a meme for whiteness is huge on the internet: "Mike Pence is so white he finds mayonnaise spicy," is a ubiquitous example.
Some studies have even found that the acid in mayonnaise acts as a deterrent for bacteria, such that the more mayonnaise you put on your chicken salad, the less likely it is to spoil. (This makes historical sense, as mayonnaise belongs to a category of European sauces developed before the days of refrigeration to preserve food and enhance the flavor of food slightly past freshness.
Avowed mayo haters agree, and they don't just hate how that slime feels on their tongue—they hate how it looks, too. "I have a whole set of things I don't like, creamy white products mostly.
I tell him he's being a masochist, and denying himself something he likes for no good reason. "It isn't masochism," he counters. "It's just accepting the flaws in my argument and then saying there are consequences to your beliefs.
Damon Young, editor-in-chief of Very Smart Brothers, has written about the right way to make potato salad—and why he's skeptical of how white people make it—but crucially, the recipe includes mayonnaise. Just not too much.
I was planning to point out that he's a hypocrite who's been unfairly judging me my whole life for putting mayonnaise on BLTs when secretly he's eating it mixed with anchovies in the form of Caesar salad dressing.
The condiment's creamy whiteness makes Gotswals shudder audibly through the phone and makes my little brother, Ben Dreyfuss, declare mayo "sickening.