Mayo is Not a Four Letter Word

We all have at least one in our lives: the mayonnaise hater. Ketchup-haters are all, “Naw, I’ll pass.” They don’t complain when ketchup finds itself on the burger, they just scrape it off and move on. Mayo-haters are different. They’ll let you know they’re unhappy AND make sure you know how much they HATE MAYONNAISE, complete with barfy sound effects. They even have a Hold That Mayo club.

mayohateMore times than I care to count, I have entertained mayo-haters not realizing it ahead of time. “Ewwwww, I’m not eating that because it has MAYONNAISE in it.” Then when someone gets two helpings of my potato salad (because it really is the bomb, so much so that I actually used “the bomb” in a sentence), they’ll say something again about being a mayo-hater. Heaven forbid there is a deviled egg anywhere in the vicinity of the mayo-hater.

Tip: If there is something I really just do not like and the host/hostess offers it to me, all I say is, “It’s my not favorite.” For example, if I am offered something with radishes I say, “No thank you. Radishes are my not favorite food.”

I haven’t been able to nail down why people so adamantly hate mayo. Could it be taste? It doesn’t really taste like anything. It’s eggs (which thankfully don’t taste like they smell), oil (which has no taste), and vinegar. It’s basically just a binding agent.

Could it be texture? I mean, it’s not cottage cheese (which I also love, but totally get why it’s gross) or oatmeal (I would actually rather starve than eat oatmeal). The texture is pretty neutral.

Is it the horrific lack of nutritional value? Mayonnaise isn’t good for you. I know. Bacon isn’t good for you either, but that doesn’t stop me one bit from eating it. Olive oil based mayonnaise is now readily available, and per tablespoon it has 100 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 1.5 grams of saturated fat. A tablespoon of traditional mayonnaise has 103 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 2 grams of saturated fat. You’re not really saving a substantial amount of calories by choosing olive oil or regular, so if you’re worried about being too piggy pants and want to save a few cents, go for low fat regular.

Wait, it’s that one time you got sick in 1986 because Uncle Fred had too many beers at the family picnic, left the jar of mayonnaise on the table, and then made you a sammich so you’d stop complaining about being hungry, isn’t it? It’s that. It has to be that. (By the way, in Oxford, MS we call that “Grove Poisoning” which is what happens when you come back to your tailgating tent after the football game, tear into the chicken tenders from that morning, and WHOOPS… the sauce is mayo based and you get sick. Granted, I don’t think anyone has ever proved the sickness comes from mayo. More than likely it’s the bourbon we drink all day mixed with the extreme heat.)

What IS it? And how can mayo-lurvers change minds and give joy to palates?

If you don’t eat mayonnaise, you don’t eat some of my favorite foods: pimento cheese, hot bacon & Swiss cheese dip (uh-huh, I did that, but you have to eat mayo), broccoli and raisin salad (the best spring/summer side dish on the planet), potato salad, Come Back sauce, coleslaw, and my all-time favorite, Rosalynn Carter’s pecan and cheddar cheese ring.

I hate to see anyone miss out on good eats because of one small ingredient.

Note: Miracle Whip is not mayonnaise, and should not be put on or in anything.


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About Emily Gatlin

Emily Gatlin is a former independent bookstore manager turned freelance writer. She writes about books, blunders, and noms at A Prose For Emily. Follow her on Twitter: @emilygatlin.

  • Shannon McIntyre

    I heart you. Mayo is the bestest. Ever since leaving Mississippi and Georgia where I grew up, I’ve also become acquainted with these weird mayo-haters, and I feel very sad for them.

    • Emily Gatlin

      Mayo lovers unite!

  • Christina Oseland

    I like mayo. I hate ketchup to the point of complaining about it like the mayo hater at the beginning of your article. I will also send food back at restaurants if there’s ketchup after I’ve asked them to leave it off. I really, really hate the stuff.

  • Michele G.

    I definitely call myself a mayo hater, but I think it’s more accurate to say that I have a strange relationship with mayo (i.e. I’m strange when it comes to mayo.) I love potato salads, pasta salads, cole slaw, tuna, deviled eggs, etc. I know all of these foods are mayo based but that doesn’t bother me. I’ll eat variations on mayo (e.g. chipotle mayo) that are colored/flavored differently. But if you hand me a turkey sandwich that is slathered with plain old, white mayonnaise, I can’t bring myself to eat it. I don’t know why. I like eggs, I like oil, I like vinegar, I like salt. There’s just something about white mayonnaise on a sandwich that grosses me out. But it’s the same for me with plain white sour cream, yogurt and cream cheese. I’ll eat dishes that these ingredients are a major component of, I’ll eat different colored/flavored variations on them. It’s the plain old white stuff that I don’t like and I don’t really have a rational explanation for it.

    Have you seen the episode of a show, I believe it might be “My Strange Obsession” or some such thing with the girl who is so deathly afraid of mayo, she’ll have a panic attack if her boyfriend brings it into the house? That chick is nuts.

  • cjshelley

    I hated mayo as a kid (like it as an adult) and I’ll tell you why: smell/taste/sound.

    It smells ACRID and sour. It smells like somebody smeared vinegar all over an already stinky foot. Even though I now enjoy mayo, the smell still makes me gag if I take the time to think about it.

    Now, the taste. I always liked things with mayo – deviled eggs, potato salad, etc – but it was when mayo became the dominant flavor that I turned my nose at it. Mayo, by itself, tastes just like it smells. Have you ever taken a spoon to a jar of mayo? I certainly hope not.

    Lastly, when one starts spooning or knifing the mayo out of the jar it sounds like you’re rooting through a jar of rotten carrion. It’s akin to a horror movie sound-effect when guts go “splat!”

    I remembered one last thing about why I used to loathe mayo. Inevitably, there’s a little bit that gets on the outside of the jar that turns translucent (!alien!) and it gets all over your hands. Now your hands smell like vinegar-covered athletes’ foot. congratulations.

    I overcame most of this as an adult, however, because it really does make everything better!

  • Laura

    Personally I hate mayo because it physically makes me gag when I taste it (this has happened when I have eaten stuff which I did not realise contained mayo, so it is not a preconceived thing). This is the only food I have this reaction to. Sure, I don’t like the taste of some foods but I don’t gag when I eat them.
    It really riles me that people assume everybody loves it. Here in Ireland it can be difficult to find a pre-packed sandwich or a sandwich at a function buffet without mayonnaise or coleslaw in it. Not all the time, but sometimes. That is not the case with ketchup. I think that has something to do with the vehemence of the mayo haters, I have starved all day at training days because I don’t want to make a fuss out of the fact that there is no mayonnaise-less food (not a good first impression to people that may be influential in your career). That kind of thing can make you bitter towards mayo! I have started to just bring my own food now and not assume that something will be provided.
    In any case some people do take it too far. Usually, I just ask for no mayo, and then if my food arrives with it, like a hot sandwich or burger, will scrape it and some of the bread off, so long as I have ketchup I can put over to disguise the vague remaining taste. Sometimes I send the food back if the amount of mayo is just too much. Hope that helps explain one mayo hater’s POV.

  • Kyle

    The one part of this article that I’d like to dispute to help the misunderstanding is that mayo does, in fact, have a distinct taste. I hear mayo lovers tell me all the time that their favorite condiment has no taste at all, but that’s because it does not disgust them.

    I am a mayo hater and I can taste it because it disgusts me. I can taste it so well that I get sick to my stomach the second I realize that I am tasting it. I’m not making a choice to hate it. My taste buds and my stomach are. So there’s your answer: it is the taste of it that grosses me out.