In an article entitled “How Millennials killed Mayonnaise, boomer Sandy Hingston wonders why, at her summertime family gatherings, few eat her formerly prized, mayo-slathered macaroni salad, Waldorf salad, or deviled eggs. In the face of generational change she notices what no longer appears on the condiment table:
I racked my brain for the source of this generational disconnect. And then, one holiday weekend, while surveying the condiments set out at a family burger bash, I found it. On offer were four different kinds of mustard, three ketchups (one made from, I kid you not, bananas), seven sorts of salsa, kimchi, wasabi, relishes of every ilk and hue …
What was missing, though, was the common foundation of all Mom’s picnic foods: mayonnaise. While I wasn’t watching, mayo’s day had come and gone. It’s too basic for contemporary tastes — pale and insipid and not nearly exotic enough for our era of globalization. Good ol’ mayo has become the Taylor Swift of condiments.
Well, I’m far from being a millennial but this comparison to Taylor Swift is unfair to Swift. Millennials may not have much income these days but they nevertheless have good taste.
Hingston can’t quite figure out why mayonnaise is no longer popular arguing that “mayonnaise isn’t bland; it’s artfully blended. It’s an evocation of the homogeneity of that old, dead American dream.”
That’s faint praise. After considering several implausible explanations for mayo’s demise, she settles on identity politics:
The only reason for this raging mayophobia is a generation’s gut-level renouncement of the Greatest Generation’s condiment of choice.
Ah no. The reason for the demise of mayonnaise is that it masks the flavor of anything you put it on, an effect made much worse when mayonnaise fans insist on shoveling gobs of it on even the most delicate of flavors. I had a fresh seafood sandwich the other day that could have been beef or liver, or beef liver for that matter, it had so much mayonnaise on it.
And as Hingston points out this was its purpose:
One of the reasons for mayonnaise’s early popularity, according to public health historian David Merritt Johns, was that it served to disguise flaws in the ingredients it coated — potatoes past their due date, flabby cabbage, tuna that was less than pristine. Young people like my daughter somehow seem to have extrapolated this masking function from condiment to culture; for them, mayo quite literally whitewashed America’s immigrants into eating dull food.
Yes they did and if mayo fans are now paying for it, well it’s a well-deserved comeuppance. They don’t call it the food revolution for nothin’.