Why Was Mayonnaise Such A Staple Of The Groovy Era?

By | September 5, 2019

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Detail of something called the 'Welcome Home Salad' in an advertisement for Best Foods mayonnaise. Home chefs are advised to combine canned pear halves, grapes and cottage cheese -- then top with a dollop of mayonnaise. Source: (flickr.com)

In Cold War America, "mayonnaise on everything" was the rule. We've seen the t-shirts and memes that advocate "sriracha on everything" -- imagine that sort of ever-presence, but it's mayonnaise, and it's not a hipster trend, but a rule of thumb for decades. Mayonnaise on everything, mayonnaise in everything, everything plus mayonnaise, mayonnaisey things with a side of mayonnaise -- peruse old recipe cards or any copy of the Betty Crocker cookbook from the ‘60s and ‘70s and you get the idea that a recipe wasn't really a recipe if it didn't include mayonnaise.

Recipes back then called for heaps of olives, gelatin, and mayonnaise. Items like Eggs à la Goldenrod or Perfection Salad jump out as relics from another time, maybe even another universe - a place where it’s acceptable to put a cup of mayonnaise in a chocolate cake.

Today, these recipes have a definite ick-factor, but at the time they were a part of a culture that placed a thrift and resourcefulness above all else. They were atomic age dishes that came about in an era when Americans were putting World War II behind them and looking forward to the future. 

Depression era thinking never went away

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Source: (pinterest.com)

It’s an understatement to say that there wasn’t a lot to go around during the Depression. Mothers had to feed sometimes large families with very little food, and they spread out their recipes anyway they could. Enter: Mayonnaise. Made mostly of eggs and oil, and aside from a slight tanginess, it’s hard to assign a flavor to the sauce.

Adding mayonnaise to a pasta salad or mincemeat helps spread the meal out for a large family, maybe even for a couple of days. The people starting families in the ‘50s and ‘60s were raised in the Depression, or at least by parents who survived the era, and they definitely had the sensibility to make food last for as long as possible drilled into them. They chewed every bite of food 80 times and used mayonnaise as the basis of a meal.