Phyllis Britt

Phyllis Britt

OK, be forewarned that some of you will think what I’m about to say is blasphemy. To you I must say, sorry about that – but not really.

We ran out of mayonnaise last week. Since even in this era of self-quarantine, we still have to eat, I decided to venture forth. I wanted to go to Lidl anyway because we long ago ran out of my favorite cookies from there, and I have been going through withdrawal without them.

Anyway, when I got to the mayonnaise aisle, I found myself once again facing a dilemma that most folks in South Carolina never even consider – mayonnaise or Miracle Whip.

You see, when I was a kid, my parents always bought Miracle Whip. I don’t know if their decision was based on taste or cost. One, Miracle Whip was always cheaper, and my family did not have a great deal of expendable cash in those days. Two, I think my daddy like the slightly sweeter, slightly tangier flavor of the mayonnaise alternative.

As a result, I did not grow up with any preconceived notions about this mayonnaise or that, and I really didn’t realize there were such strong feelings about which brand of mayo to buy until my children began to voice an opinion.

Since then, I’ve learned that Duke’s seems to be the brand of choice for most South Carolinians. It may be because Duke’s was developed in Greenville, S.C., by Eugenia Thomas Slade Duke. The product originally came out of a home enterprise. Mrs. Duke and her daughter, Martha, started selling sandwiches at Army canteens in the area, which were run by the YMCA, in order to make money for the family. Then soldiers at nearby Camp Sevier began asking for the sandwiches. (Camp Sevier was a National Guard training camp set up in Greenville to train soldiers during World War I.)

Apparently word spread quickly, and Mrs. Duke expanded her efforts. She began bottling her mayonnaise in 1923. From there the business grew so quickly that she apparently couldn’t keep up with the requests, so she sold her formula and the entire business to C.F. Sauer Company in 1929. The Sauer Company was eventually headquartered in Richmond, Virginia.

Maybe because of my family’s preference, I had never heard of Duke’s Mayonnaise until I started dating the preacher’s son at my church. Rev. Louie Vines had started out as a salesman of Duke’s Mayonnaise in Richmond. In fact, until moving to South Carolina I had thought Duke’s was started in Richmond.

Once my children expressed a distaste for Miracle Whip, I began buying Duke’s pretty much exclusively – having made that choice over other mayos on the market largely due to my loyalty to Rev. Vines, not particularly for the taste.

Through the years I’ve grown accustomed to the taste of Duke’s and to the flavor of mayo in general; however, I still insist there are a few things that reach a whole new level of flavor – for the better – with Miracle Whip.

And before you rebel entirely against the thought of using anything other than Duke’s, please hear me out. When you make coleslaw, do you add a little sugar? Most Southerners do. My mother figured out that with Miracle Whip, she could usually forego the sugar – and she didn’t need as much vinegar to give it a little more tang. Likewise, I still like the flavor of potato salad made with Miracle Whip.

And there are a few sandwiches that really do reach a new level of deliciousness with Miracle Whip, as well. As a kid, I loved bologna sandwiches made on white bread with Miracle Whip on one side and yellow mustard on the other. I can’t say if I still feel that way, because it’s probably been 25 years since I ate a bologna sandwich. In addition, there is nothing better than a fresh tomato sandwich made with Miracle Whip and pepper – no salt required with this combination. Finally, the must-have for me is on a banana sandwich – again, the combination of the sweet and tangy spread with the banana is perfection. Mayonnaise leaves a relatively bland fruit still blander on a sandwich.

Of course, I admit I have two friends who absolutely despise mayonnaise in any form – and they lump Miracle Whip in there, even though I agree there is a huge difference between the two. I don’t know if these friends really hate the taste of mayonnaise or have just decided they don’t want to eat it. I say this because of one incident. A former reporter at The Star was one of those in the anti-mayo camp. She had a housewarming party when she bought her first house, to which I brought a popular Vidalia onion dip – the one that is made with a cup of sliced onions, a cup of cheese and a cup of mayonnaise. I did not realize she really hated mayonnaise until later. She loved the dip and ate a fair portion of it. Then she asked for the recipe. When I told her what was in it, she almost immediately got sick. So, was it the mayo or the idea of the mayo?

All I can say for myself is I like Duke’s mayonnaise, but I still hold that there’s a place for Miracle Whip in this world – even in South Carolina. Try it. On the right things, it’s delicious.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my favorite cookies are Lidl Preferred Selection Butter Almond Thins – in a blue and white box and imported from Belgium. They are truly the best non-chocolate cookies I’ve ever eaten.