Great Mayonnaise Debate

I got a letter from Phillip in Sacramento, California, who asked an important question. And by “important,” I mean life-or-death important:

“Sean, which brands of mayonnaise do Southerners like best?”

I immediately spotted the small error in his question. And if you live in the same part of the world as I do, you probably spotted it too.

Phillip’s question suggests that there is more than one acceptable mayonnaise brand. But there is not.

There is only one officially approved mayonnaise of the Southern Baptist Convention. This mayonnaise comes in a jar with a yellow lid and it is the secret to living a rich, satisfying life.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I say anything else, please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t intend to be critical of other people’s mayonnaise choices. I would never do that. Just because you and I don’t see eye to eye on mayonnaise doesn’t mean that I think you are a communist. It simply means that you have strong tendencies toward communism.

So I don’t know much about Sacramento, but I’ve heard that grocery stores out West don’t carry the yellow-lid brand I mentioned earlier. This is a shame.

Then again, I suppose that mayonnaise probably isn’t part of Sacramento’s historical heritage the way it is here.

Early Californian pioneers probably had WAY more important things to worry about like taming the Western frontier, building sod huts, droughts, and surviving destructive Grateful Dead concerts. Whereas our ancestors in the Southeast were primarily concerned with perfecting our congealed salad recipes.

Still, I’ll bet that Sacramento is probably like many cities. The stores probably sell many jars that LOOK like mayo. But don’t be fooled. Even though these jars appear to be filled with mayonnaise, the jars actually contain noxious commercial automotive lubricants.

I base this statement on a study conducted by a major university last year wherein scientific researchers discovered that most people in the U.S. who admitted to buying Hellmann’s or Kraft brand mayonnaise claimed to use these products to grease the rear axles of their trucks or tractor trailers.

And let’s not even get started on Miracle Whip. My childhood friend’s mother once made several of us boys ham sandwiches with Miracle Whip. There is nothing more sacred to kid-dom than the Ham Sandwich. Especially if we’re talking about spiral-cut smoked Virginia ham.

But when my friend’s mother assembled the sandwiches, she covered the bread with three inches of white miracle slop, then attempted to pass them off as food.

My cousin, Ed Lee, took one bite and started to cry.

“What’s wrong?” said my friend.

“Your mom uses Miracle Whip,” said Ed Lee.

“So?”

“So I’m sure gonna miss your mama when we’re all up in heaven.”

Also, I know a lot of people who use Hellmann’s. And believe me, I’m not here to pass judgement on anyone simply because their tastebuds are smoking crack.

My mother-in-law, for instance, uses Hellmann’s for her deviled eggs. I once asked why she did this. She said, “Anything that’s been deviled needs a little Hell in it, too.” Then she laughed and licked a white glob of automotive lubricant from her finger.

After I received Phillip’s message, I decided to make a sincere attempt to understand the age-old mayonnaise debate by conducting an experiment.

For help I enlisted my friend, Billy, and his wife, Miranda—two noted Hellmann’s abusers. Billy and Miranda also invited their son, Lee, to participate. Lee is seven years old and spent most of the experiment being bored senseless and digging in his drawers. Also my wife joined us.

We all did a blind taste test in Billy’s dining room. His mother prepared several mayonnaise intensive recipes using most of the top brands. She placed food samples on a table. The five of us got busy.

First we ate the deviled eggs. We sampled each one then wrote our score on slips of paper.

Then came pear salad.

I’ll pause here. I realize that they might not have pear salad in Sacramento. So I will describe it. It is a canned half pear with six cups of mayo dolloped in the center, topped with cheese, and covered in the Joy of the Lord.

After that, came potato salad. Which is a litmus test for mayonnaise.

When we finished our experiment, we folded our paper slips and placed them into a hat. It took two seconds to tally votes. And do you know what we found? Drumroll please. Every single person in the room unknowingly voted for…

Duke’s mayonnaise.

A close second was Blue Plate. Which surprised me—I did not come from a Blue Plate family, we didn’t have that kind of cash laying around.

Third place went to a jar of Vaseline.

Fourteenth place went to Hellmann’s.

Kraft got one vote. And I don’t want to point fingers, but whoever voted spelled it wrong, which makes me think it might have been a seven-year-old who is a notorious Elmer’s Glue eater.

Nobody in our group even touched the deviled eggs made with Miracle Whip because they had already burned a hole through the table and were glowing neon green.

So I hope this clears things up for Phillip in Sacramento. More importantly, I hope that anyone out there who disagrees with the results of our experiment remembers that just because we disagree, doesn’t mean that you aren’t completely insane.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go lubricate the axle on my truck.

60 comments

  1. Sandi. - February 12, 2020 7:22 am

    When Duke’s mayonnaise goes on sale I do buy it, and it’s the only mayo brand with NO SUGAR listed among the ingredients. You’re right about it being wonderful-tasting, Sean. My dear mother always used Kraft, so we kids grew up eating that. Blue Plate and Miracle Whip were not allowed in our house. And please don’t roll your eyes out loud when I admit that sometimes I buy the Aldi’s brand of mayo, called Burman’s. If you, Jamie and Mother Mary will come dine at my home in south Florida, I promise to buy a large jar of Duke’s and serve it dolloped on pear salad!

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  2. Steve Winfield - February 12, 2020 8:41 am

    Well…, I’m kind of a “anything but Kraft guy. Dukes is good, so is Blue Plate. I’ll buy Hellmans if the only other choice is Kraft.
    The store brand at Sav-a-Lot, (where I grocery shop), is “Portman’s”. It’s made in Earth City, Missouri. Very thick & rich & get this, it’s $1.99 a quart. Around here Duke’s is usually about $3.49. Some of the others are getting close to $5. That half price Portman’s taste pretty darn goo1000d.
    We don’t use very much anyway. Potato salad or deviled eggs maybe once every other month. We rarely eat sandwiches. Homemade burgers once a month. I put a dallop in my homemade mashed potatoes but I make those about once every other month too.
    We’re a household that realistically uses no more than 4 quarts a year & we’re not at all “brand specific” about it.
    I do 99% of the cooking here & 100% of the grocery shopping. If the cheap stuff is acceptable then that’s what I’ll buy. There’s only a few things we’re picky about. 80% of what’s in the cabinet & fridge is store brand & the whole family is very happy with the meals I prepare.
    Oh yeah, the Kraft. Kraft has about 5 times as much lemon as all the others. Just too much lemon for mayo.
    So the debate continues.
    Film at eleven.
    Love, Steve

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  3. Steve Winfield - February 12, 2020 8:47 am

    God only knows how that 1000 got in the word “good”. ?
    99.999% positive that I didn’t put it there.
    Oooo! Spooky.

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  4. Leslie in NC - February 12, 2020 9:30 am

    My Georgia born grandmother used to make homemade mayo using just eggs and oil. It was practically inedible, to dollop on her equally inedible tomato aspic. I’m a long time Duke’s girl!

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  5. Lisa - February 12, 2020 9:45 am

    Nothing but Duke’s in this family! Keep writing, my friend. Keep making us smile. Thank you.

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  6. GaryD - February 12, 2020 9:55 am

    If it ain’t Duke’s, it ain’t mayonnaise.

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  7. Cynthia Harmon - February 12, 2020 10:17 am

    Duke’s and only Duke’s in my house.

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  8. Ronnie - February 12, 2020 11:00 am

    Dukes in our house too!! Nothing else!!

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  9. Patricia - February 12, 2020 11:04 am

    Sorry Sean, your wrong. I grew up in Alabama with a Floridian Mom who only served Blue Plate. And you know Floridian’s like their banana mayo sandwiches. I’ve lived in several states in the south and never heard of Duke’s until I moved to North Carolina in my 40’s. Duke’s never advertised in Birmingham in the 70’s.
    Have a nice day Sean.

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  10. MRussell - February 12, 2020 11:37 am

    Dukes only at my house! There is no other mayo that comes close! Thanks for settling this debate once and for all with your experiment, Sean. Not that it has ever been a debate in my house. My husband wouldn’t have anything else either. And don’t even get me started on ketchup!

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  11. Sheila Bolyard - February 12, 2020 11:50 am

    Hi Sean. I had never heard of Dukes until I started following your column. Now there is a jar in my fridge. Thanks. Sheila

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  12. Connie Havard Ryland - February 12, 2020 11:59 am

    Don’t think I’ve ever had Duke’s. We are pretty much a Blue Plate household. I think I may have to try Dukes next time.

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  13. Nita Wright - February 12, 2020 12:00 pm

    I’m a Blue Plate girl myself……my Granny used it, and my Aunt Bonnie used it, and my Mama used it…..but I view all my brothers and sisters who use Duke’s with all love and grace. It is right up there!

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  14. MaryJane Breaux - February 12, 2020 12:12 pm

    Back some years ago Duke’s was not available in Dallas. So every trip I made to Louisiana & Mississippi I loaded up my treasure. Now I’m craving deviled eggs!

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  15. Naomi - February 12, 2020 12:14 pm

    I’m a southerner and I guessed Duke’s before I read it on your blog. However, my husband is rather “tight” with money so we buy the store brand. We have two large German supermarkets near us and that’s where we shop. FYI: In Holland, they put mayonnaise on French fries.

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  16. Angela Cochran - February 12, 2020 12:27 pm

    Blue Plate here!

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  17. Scott - February 12, 2020 1:00 pm

    I am surprised, no love for Bama mayo, Sean?

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  18. Jean - February 12, 2020 1:12 pm

    Miracle whip was served in my family….for me…there is none like Duke’s Mayo….Hellmans if I cant get Duke’s. I am not a happy camper if I cannot get it.

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  19. Margo Green - February 12, 2020 1:22 pm

    Our musician son, along with five other musicians, graduated college and left South Carolina headed to seek stardom, in Seattle. We visited them at Christmas and in addition to our luggage, we carried a case of Dukes Mayonnaise to them at their request.

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  20. wendyswordsweb - February 12, 2020 1:31 pm

    “and covered in the Joy of the Lord”..I can’t stop laughing!!! Growing up I was raised in a Hellmann’s family due to being from the north, we moved to Florida and it wasn’t until I married a native Floridian and learned better that I became a Duke’s girl. We are now WFPB, so no more mayo in our home but I have fond memories of that yellow lid.

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  21. Gloria Rose - February 12, 2020 1:56 pm

    I lived in Pennsylvania for almost 15 years. Dukes mayonnaise was not sold in any store. I made the trip back to Virginia about every 6 weeks to visit my Mama, stock up on Dukes and get some King’s BBQ. I loved my Mama but needed the mayonnaise.

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  22. KATY - February 12, 2020 2:02 pm

    💥💥Dukes has arrived in Binghamton NY! Guess I’ll have to try it since all we have had up north here is Hellman’s and Miracke Whip ! Does Dukes taste better because of more eggs? 💥💥

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  23. Jane Hale Hopkins - February 12, 2020 2:33 pm

    You use your special gifts to spread joy. It’s really beautiful.

    And I just had a turkey sandwich with Duke’s for breakfast. Seriously.

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  24. Joe Patterson - February 12, 2020 3:02 pm

    Love you man I am trying it today My wife may divorce me but at least I will have a first class bologna sandwich Many of my friends have been raving about Dukes for years.

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  25. Clonnie Kujawa - February 12, 2020 3:03 pm

    So funny! My Mama was loyal to Kraft and I grew up hating mayonnaise. My Yankee husband just hated mayonnaise period. I started hauling jugs of Dukes from MS to Ohio. I was worried about how much I could legally take across state lines so I had to obey the speed limit and not draw attention to my minivan hauling mayo. Now I live in the Florida panhandle and can open carry my Duke’s. Life is good!!

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  26. Celia - February 12, 2020 3:19 pm

    Had Duke’s on our pear salad last night. Sadly our grandchildren do not understand the appeal of pear salad which was an every Sunday side dish growing up in South Alabama. However, I grew up having only Kraft in our kitchen. I’d never heard of Duke’s until moving to Georgia so I wonder if it was advertised or readily available 50+ years ago in rural South Alabama.

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  27. Jimpa - February 12, 2020 3:24 pm

    Even Jimmy Buffet likes Dukes. He sings, “Dukes on Sunday.l

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  28. Shirley Gerald - February 12, 2020 3:26 pm

    Spot on!!! I laughed all the way through your column!

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  29. Dee Thompson - February 12, 2020 3:40 pm

    When I was 8 years old and we moved to Knoxville Tennessee we could not find Duke’s mayonnaise in the store. My parents were horrified. It was 1971. There was no Amazon. There was the A&P. We used Hellman’s for years, until we could get Duke’s and once more be right with the Lord. Now I keep at least 2 jars of Duke’s in the house at all times, just in case of emergencies. / I have a friend who swears by Blue Plate, and to be honest my Memaw preferred Blue Plate, but they had lived far away for years [Pittsburgh and Oakland].

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  30. Shelton A. - February 12, 2020 3:53 pm

    I grew up eating nothing but Duke’s. MY grandma used Duke’s. When I die, there will be a jar of Duke’s in the fridge.

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  31. Tim House - February 12, 2020 4:05 pm

    Well, darn… I guess I turned into a pariah. 🙁 I grew up on Miracle Whip, and love it. And no matter the brand, I have a hard time tolerating much Mayo. But then, Being born in Roswell N.M., and raised in the Rockies (Los Alamos, N.M.) might have a lot to do with that. Been over 35 years here in the South, though, since then.

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  32. Carey - February 12, 2020 4:07 pm

    Yes! I m in Colorado where they don’t recognize the sanctity of mayonnaise. The only place that I’ve found it is Wal-mart. If they didn’t cary it then I would start a movement that would demand that they move their southern headquarters to Portland!

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  33. Paula Beard - February 12, 2020 4:19 pm

    I am so excited! I stopped using Duke’s years ago because it contained high fructose corn syrup, which of course causes every illness known to man. I just investigated, and they removed it in 2018. I can buy it again! Yay!! Thanks, Sean!

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  34. Kathy Burgess - February 12, 2020 4:28 pm

    DUKES…..I live alone and eat lots of sandwiches. I would buy Dukes if I couldn’t afford the bread…lol

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  35. Tammy Moody - February 12, 2020 4:30 pm

    No Duke’s here in the frozen North of IL. Or Tetley tea. Being the daughter of a saved in the Baptist Church, Southern Momma, I order these things from Amazon. The search is still on for pimentos…

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  36. Ala Red Clay Girl - February 12, 2020 4:37 pm

    I bought Hellman’s for years because I dated a boy in high school/college who was from the Hellman family. Now I buy either Duke’s or Hellman’s which I guess sounds like heresy. However, I have to agree with what seems to be the consensus here: I’ll do without rather than use Miracle Whip. It is awful!

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  37. Linda Moon - February 12, 2020 5:08 pm

    Southern Baptist Convention…..someone I know and love was a significant part of that convention long ago. He might have approved of my mayonnaise choice, but he definitely disapproved of my dancing. Mother Mary’s reason for choosing Hellman’s sounds good to me. Thank you, Sean, for not passing judgement on my dancing or mayonnaise choice of Hellman’s. You’ve reassured me that I’m reasonably sane and that you are, too!

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  38. Martha - February 12, 2020 5:24 pm

    Only Blue Plate in my house but of course I live in Louisiana, land of the plenty !

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  39. Jennifer Stultz - February 12, 2020 5:26 pm

    Oh, YES!!!! You are my hero for sure now!!!!
    Any others besides Duke’s belong in the Mayo Clinic!!

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  40. Dawn Bratcher - February 12, 2020 6:09 pm

    I am a native Mobilian, but we had to buy on the cheaper side of things when I was growing up, so I was not introduced to Duke’s at a young age. I had never noticed it until just recently and now you are touting its goodness! I will just have to try it!

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  41. John Thurmond - February 12, 2020 6:20 pm

    Just for the record Miracle Whip is not even mayonnaise it is actually salad dressing hence the sweeter taste. So you really can’t compare Miracle Whip to mayonnaise, and growing up we kept both in the fridge. As a youngster I liked Miracle Whip probably because it had a sweet taste. However, I now like mayonnaise and like the olive oil type best. Anyway, I do not remember Duke’s being in grocery stores until recently especially since they have started advertising quite a bit on TV. I have lived in Mississippi all my life.

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  42. Ken Dunn - February 12, 2020 6:37 pm

    Duke’s only in our family. My mother-in-law only wanted Kraft’s. My grandparents ate Miracle Whip Salad Dressing because they were very poor and that’s all they could afford. Can’t get enough Duke’s on pear salad !

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  43. Hank - February 12, 2020 6:38 pm

    I am not anti Hellmans but I did buy two jars fo Dukes yesterday- Blue Plate is big west of alabama since it is made in new orleans

    Dukes All the Way……

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  44. Tommy - February 12, 2020 7:39 pm

    Sean, i always considered you borderline morally acceptable until you put down Miracle Whip. I grew up on it & cannot stand mayonnaise. & when you put in an order at a restaurant they smother it with mayonnaise until it squishes out the sides. Yuk. So i just say No Mayo. Ah, my mom’s cabbage slaw with just enough Miracle Whip to make it good and slick. And maybe add some carrot strips and cauliflower, broccoli, raisins and chopped nuts. Ummmmmmm! But now i find that you’re at the root of the conspiracy to destroy America.

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  45. Steve Moore - February 12, 2020 8:02 pm

    Come on Sean… Everyone knows it’s Dukes – why even pose the question? Oh yeah – the question came from California…

    -Steve

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  46. Linda Chipman - February 12, 2020 8:21 pm

    I lived in Houston, TX for ten long years – no Duke’s. But now I’m back in God’s country otherwise known as Georgia and once again I have my Duke’s.

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  47. Tammy S. - February 12, 2020 8:24 pm

    I learned real quick when I married my husband and he moved me 10 hours away from my family in Tennessee to North Carolina that it would be nothing but Duke’s mayo from here on out. Duke’s Mayo and Carolina Tarheels!!! 30 years in and I think it’s been a choice all the way around.

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  48. Cassie Levy - February 12, 2020 9:07 pm

    Being raised in CA by a southern mama, we did not have access to Duke’s Mayonnaise, White Lily Flour or self-rising cornmeal. Moved south 2 years ago and all three now have an honored place in my home.

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  49. Robert Chiles - February 12, 2020 10:52 pm

    I keep an extra one in the cabinet so I don’t get the shakes when we get close to the bottom of a jar. We always took several quarts back up north when I was going to seminary in Chicago. We’d go to parties and take hot artichoke dip made with Dukes and everybody would rave. They’d ask for the recipe, and when they made it (with Hellmans or whatever), they’d say, “Ours didn’t turn out as well as yours.”
    A friend of mine (of blessed memory) went to a home show in Spartanburg a few years ago and there was a fellow from somewhere up north with a booth selling immersion blenders. He was whipping up salsa and guacamole and said, “You can even make mayonnaise.” So he poured some oil, cracked some eggs into it and squeezed a lemon and spun it up. He asked for a volunteer from the 20 or so people gathered around and a fellow strode up and tried a finger-full. “It ain’t Dukes,” he said. The vendor said, “What’s Dukes?” The taste-tester said, “Mister, you might know about immersion blenders, but you don’t know **** about mayonnaise.”

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  50. Lonna - February 13, 2020 1:42 am

    😂 I haven’t found Dukes in my part of the world yet, but I’ll be looking now!

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  51. Dianne DeVore - February 13, 2020 4:16 am

    If you are truly a Southerner, then there is only one mayonnaise and that is Duke’s. Great article, Sean.

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  52. Gretchen - February 13, 2020 4:43 am

    One of your best!!!!

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  53. btwnthecoversJill Altman - February 13, 2020 12:10 pm

    I still remember the first time I had Dukes. My mom used Miracle Whip and I didn’t know better but I ate lunch at my neighbors, egg salad sandwiches, and it was an epiphany. Thank you Dukes!

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  54. jean McCamy - February 13, 2020 4:53 pm

    Loved this and I, too, grew up eating Duke’s. However, soon after I was married, I brought home a jar of Duke’s and opened it to discover a tooth inside (and not a very healthy looking tooth at that). That was my last purchase of Duke’s. Stray teeth can be a real turnoff. But there is no Miracle Whip in this house.! Terrible stuff.

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  55. Judy OBar - February 13, 2020 5:22 pm

    Absolutely love it! Have to admit that I have never even seen a jar of Duke’s mayonnaise. Will remember to look for it the next time I shop for food.

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  56. Linda Vaughan - February 14, 2020 6:04 pm

    I laughed hysterically reading it to myself and then continued to laugh hysterically as a read it to my husband and his guests.

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  57. Kathi harper-hill - February 14, 2020 10:01 pm

    I was raised on Blue Plate, and of course I love it the best. Dukes is okay. The rest is a pure- t sin.

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  58. Prof - February 16, 2020 2:29 pm

    I’m a little late to the party, but got a particular kick out of this column. Ironically, being in a mixed marriage (my bride grew up on Miracle Whip) I’m sometimes on the hunt for good mayonnaise and was pleased to discover Heinz has an offering now and it’s pretty good, but one fine day I was in our local Walmart and saw a different brand. Duke’s. Huh. Never heard of it, but why not? Very, very good and I don’t know how it is that we just happen to have it, albeit in one location that I’ve discovered here in southern Colorado. I also have the luxury of seeing Pike’s Peak from our kitchen window and often think of you. Thanks, Sean.

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  59. Allen Berry - February 16, 2020 11:38 pm

    Oh no! My Maw Maw used to use Miracle Whip! I… I feel faint! I gotta go! I’m headed for the ER!!!

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  60. F D Lester - February 19, 2020 11:22 pm

    Fact: the C.F. SAUER Company of Richmond, VA, is the manufacturer of BOTH Sauer’s Real Mayonnaise (since 1887) and Duke’s Real Mayonnaise (family recipe since 1917).
    The only difference is that Sauer’s has sugar and Duke’s does not. Discriminating customers can taste the difference! Buy Hellman’s only if it’s on a really good sale.
    How I miss pear salad made with home canned pears!

    Reply

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