Mother didn’t actually lie to us. I don’t think.
She said it was mayonnaise. We called it mayonnaise. It
wasn’t all that complicated. Besides, it was white and creamy…. like you
expected mayonnaise to be.
And we put in on almost everything. Hamburgers. Hot Dogs.
Sauerkraut and wieners. “Baloney” sandwiches. Brown beans and cornbread. Vienna
sausages. Mom would slice a pear and put a dab in the little hole in the
When times were hard, we made due with a mayonnaise
We even tried it on the big three: Broccoli, cauliflower and
Brussels sprouts. It didn’t work. I’m telling you, nothing could liven up the
blandness of that trio. Mayonnaise was good… but it was not a miracle worker!
If we had chicken and dumplings, we’d complement that meal
with a slice of light bread smeared with mayonnaise as kind of a backstop. It’s
the way I still do it to this day.
But mostly we liked mayonnaise on tomato sandwiches. There
was just something special about fresh-picked vine ripe tomatoes, sliced thick
and piled between two slices of Colonial bread, with real, old-fashioned
mayonnaise applied liberally to the mix.
Kraft was our brand of choice. I know there were others.
Blue Plate. Hellmann. Duke’s. I don’t think they measured up. And I waffle a
wee bit here because I don’t know that for dead certain positive. I don’t ever
remember using anything but Kraft.
Now, here is where the “dark and stormy night” metaphor
enters this story. I’m rummaging around in the refrigerator after an exhausting
freshman football practice, hoping for a piece of leftover chocolate pie but
willing to settle for anything edible that might tide me over till supper.
I picked up the mayonnaise jar to move it aside when I
noticed it WASN’T the mayonnaise jar. It was Kraft Miracle Whip Salad Dressing.
I turned it around in my hand. I couldn’t find mayonnaise on either the front
or back label. Folks, there is a world of difference between an “aha” and an
“oh no” moment!
And where is Sigmund Freud or Dr. Seuss when you need them?
I confronted Mother immediately, “This is Salad Dressing!”
“I know son, it is the only mayonnaise we ever use.”
Only in West Tennessee. In the 1950s. Or maybe only in our
little town in West Tennessee. Or more likely only in a single house out at the
end of Stonewall Street in our little town in West Tennessee. In the ’50s.
And here is the real kicker. I don’t ever remember one time,
in our whole growing up days that we put this “salad dressing” on a salad of
Something like this could scar a teenager for life. Why
would anyone call salad dressing mayonnaise in the first place? And then
perpetuate the mistake meal after meal, year after year. We would have to be
the only family on God’s green earth that could misname a condiment ad
I have no idea the difference between the two. But
remembering how we were raised out where the road stopped, I can bet you the
salad dressing is the cheaper of the “mayonnaises.”
But this story runs much deeper than a sandwich spread. Is
there something else Mother didn’t get “just right?” I always thought Leon was
my older brother. But I’ve never seen any papers confirming that…
I know for sure that he didn’t act like nobody else in our
whole family. He claims aliens pulled him up into their spaceship once. Maybe
that was because they had dropped him on our doorsteps when he was a mere babe.
It will make you scratch your head. Come to think of it,
I’ve never seen any hard evidence that I came to the family naturally…
We didn’t wash our hair in mayonnaise (or salad dressing). I
know that is currently the fashion of the day. Listen, I’m a big believer in
to-each-his-own. But I draw the line when it comes to putting something in your
hair that can’t do a thing to help Brussels sprouts.
Thank goodness we use real Kraft mayonnaise in our house
today. I think. Cathy calls it mayonnaise. It looks like mayonnaise. It tastes
just like the way Mother served it…
I made a double beeline straight for the refrigerator. I was
pretty sure there wouldn’t be any chocolate pie in there. And I wasn’t ever as
hungry anymore as any single day I walked into the old house after football
But could it be déjà vu all over again?
I reached in and pulled out the mayonnaise jar… with the
Miracle Whip Salad Dressing label on it! And took a delightful measure of
comfort in knowing some things never change…