very once in awhile a writer is tasked with a subject that goes against the very grain of her being. This requires her to set aside her core beliefs, bias, and all that is sacred in order to fairly address the subject matter.
I am camped firmly on #TeamMayo, and yet I find myself reading articles likening my favorite condiment to bodily excretions of the worst variety. Fear not, dear reader, for I have come through the fire hardened with the uncomfortable combination of revulsion and craving, so that I may fairly present you both sides of the much-contested Mayo Debate.
In a recent Popular Science article, writer Kendra Pierre-Louis explains why an aversion to (delicious) mayonnaise is backed by science.
First, Pierre-Louis clarifies the difference between dislike and disgust. She uses red delicious apples, which she dislikes, as her example. If she were given a cocktail served with a slice of red delicious apple in it, she may take out the apple and discard it, but still drink the cocktail. Were she given a cocktail with a cockroach in it, however, even if the cockroach were removed, the drink would still disgust her to the point that she wouldn’t drink it. Disgust involves a physical, visceral reaction.
Clear enough. So far, we’re on the same page.
According to the food sensory consultant (that's a thing?) Herbert Stone, who Pierre-Louis interviewed, approximately 20 percent of people don't like mayonnaise.
Pierre-Louis’ main complaint is that mayonnaise is ubiquitous despite so many people not liking it. Fair point. She explains that even when a “less vile condiment, like a whole grain mustard—a condiment with dignity” is used, it often gets mixes with mayonnaise. “The powers that be cannot allow its presence to go unmolested. No, the mustard gets mixed in with mayonnaise in an abomination called mustard-mayo. Mixing Sriracha with diarrhea doesn’t improve the presence of the latter. Why would adding mustard to Satan’s sauce improve the situation?”
Well, that escalated quickly. She defends her comparison with science.
While Pierre-Louis fully admits that there has never been a study to see how many people are disgusted by mayo vs. how many people simply dislike it, she maintains that the (delicious) creamy condiment triggers our biological instinct to avoid it.
According to University of Pennsylvania’s Paul Rozin, a psychologist professor who has researched disgust for over 30 years, disgust comes from a biological need to protect us from contamination. He says, “Feces is the universal disgust, like the first disgust.” Rozin goes on to explain that we instinctively avoid other people’s excrement because it’s contaminated. We are disgusted by it to keep us safe. “Disgusting foods are contaminating,” says Rozin. “If you put a little bit of it in something, other people won’t eat it.”
That’s pretty much where the science ends with this whole “scientific proof” that mayonnaise is disgusting.
But that doesn't stop Pierre-Louis from viciously maligning mayo.
She writes: “It’s viscous quality is the sort of thickness that you’d get from fluid oozing out of a rotted carcass as anyone who has ever poked a rotted squirrel with a stick can attest … And the creamy appearance of mayonnaise isn’t dissimilar from what would emerge from say a popped zit. Delicious.”
Come on! This isn’t fair.
Mayonnaise is simply an emulsion of egg yolks, oil, vinegar, lemon, and seasoning. How could that possibly be bad?
It can’t be. And it’s not. Yes, I wholeheartedly support the decision to avoid the mayo-laden pasta salad that’s been sitting outside on a 90-degree summer day, but a world without mayonnaise is not a world in which I’d want to live. Likening this simple, delicious, and versatile condiment to the revolting effusions of dead rodents is bordering on libel.
Mayo is the most hotly contested condiment ever created by mankind. People had a lot to say about this article.