Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Condiment Wars

Humorist Robert Benchley's Law of Distinction states there are two kinds of people in this world. Those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don't.

I confess. I am a "two kinds of people" world splitter from way back.

This categorizing began for me as a very little girl when I first noticed that my original assumption, the one where the rest of the world was a carbon copy of my own family with the only variation being the different stage setting of their individual homes, was faulty.Without any blood relatives living close enough to visit regularly, my first tip-off to the amazing variety of "otherness" out there was discovered at the dinner tables of friends and neighbors.

Especially as I began to spend the night over at friend's houses, meal time became revelation time. What other families ate and how they fixed what they served offered me a fascinating glimpse into a realm of food possibilities I thought existed only in magazines.

What is boringly obvious to the adult was to my child self an earth shattering observation. Other Moms shopped in different grocery stores. Bought different brand names. Prepared different dishes or perhaps most shocking to me initially; prepared the same dishes we had at home but in a different way.

I still remember grinning as a second grader, sitting at her kitchen table with my friend Meredith for the first time, swinging my legs happily as I ravenously devoured what tasted just like my own Mom's deviled eggs. Only these eggs were mashed and chopped up, served between pieces of bread! They called it egg salad sandwich. I called it genius.

I could not wait to get home and share this startlingly innovative idea with my own Mom who was frustratingly unenthusiastic in response to my suggestion that the rest of our family be let in on this Egg Salad Sandwich secret I'd discovered.

Undeterred, I began angling for meal invitations to suss out the subtle and at times not so subtle variations on food themes as expressed at the tables of young girls in my acquaintance.

I'd try to assure our presence in the kitchen while lunch or dinner was being prepared. While a few especially bountifully stocked pantries shimmered with the prospect of choices galore, most homes had expressions of preferences clearly outlined by what was offered us by the Mom in charge as our meal or snack time options.

There were houses offering Coca-Cola, and others where only Pepsi products were found. There were those who favored sweet pickles and those who were all dill all the way. Potato or corn chips? Bunny bread or whole wheat? Ready made bottled juices or pitchers made from concentrate?

I began to see eating with my friends as a way to vicariously sample how other people lived.Nowhere did the dividing line become more clearly expressed than with condiments. There was never, in my experience, a home where any choice was offered between mayonnaise or Miracle Whip dressing. If you wanted white stuff on your sandwich you got whatever they had which I later realized was (probably) going to be whatever the Mom of the house (or whoever did the grocery shopping) personally preferred.

I grew up unquestioningly eating what my Mother liked best, Kraft Mayonnaise. The Hub grew up eating what his Mother liked best, Kraft Miracle Whip. They look the same. They are made by the same company. Is there a difference?

Well, yes. For starters Miracle Whip is sweeter to the taste, but has fewer calories. This is partly due to a lower oil content, which prohibits Kraft from calling it "mayonnaise".

According to Real Simple's blurb on the topic, Miracle Whip, introduced in 1933 at the Chicago World's Fair, was premiered by Kraft as a Depression Era lower priced alternative to mayonnaise.

That makes the choice even more compelling as a matter of taste preference. My ever frugal Mom recycled the syrup from cans of fruit into the pitchers of reconstituted fruit juice she served us rather than dump that liquid she has paid "good cash money for" down the sink.

She didn't buy any brand that was more expensive if there was an acceptable alternative taste wise. But she consistently paid more for mayonnaise and never, EVER bought Miracle Whip. She just didn't like the taste.

When the Hub and I established our own home together, after an aborted attempt to eat mustard alone, it rapidly became clear neither one of us would easily or happily abandon our childhood ideal of what was the correct white spread to slather on a sandwich.

Thus, a truly hybrid pantry home was formed between us, one where both Miracle Whip AND Mayonnaise would be ever present. It was too difficult to choose so we chose not to choose.

Clearly I am not the only one who has noted this tendency to stick with whatever a person grew up eating. The recent ad campaign by the folks at Miracle Whip is (rather ingeniously I'll admit) playing with challenging that treasured 18-34 year old cohort to rebel against the majority (presumably as represented by their parents) who typically use mayonnaise products as the go-to sandwich spread.I'm not the only one to find the idea of Rebel with a Jar amusing. No less trenchant a social critic than Stephen Colbert had this to say recently on the subject:

Your turn to throw a knife in the jar. When it comes to your own sandwich making, are you a mayonnaise or a Miracle Whip person? If you are all mayo all the time, do you have brand loyalty? Are you one of the die-hard Hellman's/Best fans or do you buy what is available or what is less expensive? I mindlessly bought Kraft for years because that was what my Mom liked until I did a taste test of my own and discovered I liked Hellman's better.

Do you make your own mayonnaise fresh as needed and eschew the big jar of white altogether? We're all friends here - weigh in with your comments and let's clear this up.

What goes best between two pieces of bread?


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Iris said...

My husband and I both grew up with Miracle Whip. I remember realizing I was eating real mayo at my best friend's house (around age 11)and thinking it tasted kind of sour and oily. But her parents were both college professors, so surely they had more sophisticated palates, I thought.

I've never bought Miracle Whip as an adult, and now I mostly buy mayo (Spectrum Organic) for my husband because it's so fattening, although I do like the taste now and will use a tiny bit on my own sammies sometimes.

I have another long-winded story from childhood re your two kinds of people theory, but mine is based on the two local phone prefixes available at the time, which I assigned (in my mind) to political affiliations... hee hee

TexasDeb said...

Oh, Iris. You have me completely intrigued. I'd love to hear your two kinds of people story. You want to guest blog it here? Put it on your own blog? Please. I implore you - don't leave us hanging....

jo said...

Hold the mayo:-)
Definitely hold the mayo!

Those two anyways. Has the composition changed significantly over the decades?
Unless either has a good proportion of true Dijon mustard from France, as does the one from our major supermarket Sainsbury's, I would never be tempted.

Actually most of my sandwiches are made from Ryevita and freshly whipped cream.

Over here in the UK Hellman's is now using free-range eggs. So they say.

healingmagichands said...

I have to say you would have a hard time categorizing Jim and me if you came and looked at the condiments in our refrigerator. The only mayonnaise you will find here is home made from farm eggs, lemon juice, dijon mustard, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. It isn't in a jar, it is a crockery ramekin.

Another big difference is that in this house there are absolutely no soda products of any kind. If my guests want something to drink, they are offered water, juice, tea, coffee, or home made beer or wine from our vineyard.

I'm not sure where I fit, but I feel pretty fit.

TexasDeb said...

Jo- I'd heard about Hellman's using cage free eggs in the UK - I think that is fabulous. And I realize I ought to be making my own mayo from scratch. I have plans for that....eventually!

HMagicHands - Welcome! So glad you decided to fit yourself into the comments section. There are times when I wish the Hub and I were further along in our journey towards more healthy eating. But, we are taking it a few steps at a time which means he stays on board with my efforts.