Why Was Mayonnaise Such A Staple Of The Groovy Era?

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.