No condiment is so divisive as mayonnaise. Chances are you either love it or you hate it. There is no middle of the road. No argument, advertisement, bowl game, bribe, or religious appeal is likely to change your mind.
Edward Abbey, the eco-militant novelist and brilliant memoirist of Western landscapes never worried about offending anyone, and summed up one school of thought: “Mayonnaise … like hollandaise, was invented by the French to cover up the flavor of spoiled flesh, stale vegetables, rotten fish. Beware the sauce! Where food comes beslobbered with an elegant slime you may well suspect the integrity of the basic ingredients.”
Abbey knew the value of nature, but not so much food. He was about as sharp as Squidward Tentacles, because mayonnaise is a sublime instrument.
There is some debate about whether Spain or France deserves the credit for mayonnaise. American short story writer and journalist Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary in 1906, observed that mayonnaise is “one of the sauces which serve the French in place of a state religion.” Not much later, and almost precisely around the globe, the Japanese took up the same cause. Tom Robbins, more than a century after Bierce, reported: “The Japanese have become so smitten with the Western condiment – its texture as silky as a kimono, its tang as understated as the tang of Zen – that today they have a word for mayonnaise junkie: mayora.”
In sum, reasonable people must agree to disagree on the topic of mayonnaise. Certainly the smart sandwich proprietor always asks.
If you’re trying to avoid nightshades, mayonnaise is a condiment full of subtle tricks. It’s not like ketchup or yellow mustard, obviously loaded with nightshade ingredients. Instead it’s those last little additives that top off the flavor, the color, the feel.
Thank you, food science.
The ingredient list for many mayonnaise brands contains the less-than-enlightening phrase “natural flavors.” But close to half of the brands also contained paprika or paprika oleoresin, while many more contained modified food starch, which may (or may not) contain potato starch.
The fake mayo category is even more complex. None of the Just Mayo varieties come clean enough on the label, but 4 of the 5 Veganaise varieties read as nightshade safe. (I’ve been using the Grapeseed variety for a few years now, and find it’s a perfect replacement for sandwiches.)
That’s it for today. Be sure to subscribe to the newsletter, which is returning to its regular schedule in the New Year. Among the planned upgrades is a regular roundup featuring popular staples that only sometimes contain nightshades, helping identify the safe brands for you.