The TV Made Me Say It: Jarred Mayo is the "Real" Deal

Have you seen this television ad?

I got a real earful while watching the tube one night last week. Here's how the ad begins:

What if we all said No? No to fake food. No to over processed food.
No to food that’s not fit for our kids.

For a hot second, I thought, this could be interesting television, bring it on.

And then in a bat of an eyelash, the “no to fake food” became a Yes to real. Yes to Hellmann’s.

It was the television-viewing equivalent of slamming down the brakes of your car on a pile of wet leaves.

Say what?

Let’s put aside the part that I find jarred mayonnaise the most repulsive food known to man, and that if you ever serve it to me intentionally, you will no longer be my friend.

But real? When did white congealed goop in a jar become real?

Apparently, last year, when Unilever, Hellmann’s corporate parent, launched a massive online ad campaign, “In Search of Real Food,” in partnership with Yahoo! and the Food Network’s Dave Lieberman as the virtual host/emcee. (The Ethicurean’s Bonnie Powell shares her experiences of being pursued last summer by Ogilvy ad execs for her thoughts on “real food.”)

This summer, the mayo baton was passed to celeb chef Bobby Flay, who’s been executive producer of this project from get-go. (The web videos are now called “Real Food Summer School With Bobby Flay.”)

But I ask you, no matter what you think of mayo and its place in the kitchen, doesn't the notion of casting a white goopy condiment as "real food" seem a little, well, jarring?

Even this avowed jarred mayo hater has been known to make her own egg yolk emulsion and slather it on turkey sandwiches. You want a taste of the real stuff? Below, recipe notes from James Beard, the godfather of soul, American cookery, who "learned how to make mayonnaise when I was just about tall enough to reach the work table" using a fork and elbow grease to emulsify.

Mayonnaise: Food Processor Method

From "James Beard's Theory & Practice of Good Cooking"

1 whole egg
1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper (he doesn't specify black or white -- use what you like)
For his "blender method," Beard adds 1/2 teaspoon of dry or Dijon mustard, which I think is a nice touch
1 1/2 cups olive or peanut oil

With the metal blade in place, add egg vinegar, salt and pepper to the beaker. Process until blended, two to three seconds. Continue processing and gradually pour oil through feed tube, slowly at first. As mayonnaise thickens, the sound of the machine will become deeper. Taste for additional vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until needed. Will hold for a week to 10 days in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 3/4 cups.

Before you go, take our poll and weigh in on the white stuff:

By Kim ODonnel |  November 11, 2008; 9:22 AM ET Kitchen Musings
Previous: Meatless Monday: Meet the Beet Quesadilla | Next: Thanksgiving Chat Hotline


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I just saw this add for the first time this morning and had the exact same reaction. I generally find mayonaise repulsive, except in tuna salad which I only have rarely - I don't bother to make my own mayo since I only use about 2 tablespoons at a time, so Hellman's it is.

Posted by: NewtonMom | November 11, 2008 11:01 AM

Hello Kim

I'm too lazy to make mayo. But I refuse to buy the jarred version, because all the bottled mayo I've tasted here in Hawaii haas been rancid! My choice: pseudo-mayo, called Vegenaise. I find it in a cooler in a health food store.

Posted by: davidlewiston | November 11, 2008 12:50 PM

Isn't Hellmann's a kitchen staple? I've wanted to make my own mayo and alioli, but I've always been leery of raw eggs. Now I see that the risk is actually small, so maybe I should go for it.

Posted by: davemarks | November 11, 2008 1:08 PM

Hey Kim, this is Kim from Nebraska, whom you met on your cross country trek. I noted that in today's chat, you mentioned the Hachiya persimmon. I'm always a little proud to note that is my last name. It's an unusual name, even in Japan, from where my grandparents emigrated in 1918. To my knowledge, the person who developed these persimmons is unrelated to me, but I always swell with pride when I see that name on the fruit sticker.

For the record: mayo is OK by me, but I don't eat very much of it.

Posted by: khachiya1 | November 11, 2008 2:54 PM

This sort of blows my mind ... My interpretation of 'real food' is 'from scratch' or at least not from a jar.

I will admit I rarely make my own as I don't have time and jarred condiments definitely have their place! However! Passing them off as something they're not is a bit disturbing.

Posted by: nicspir | November 11, 2008 2:58 PM

Kim! How is the weather over there? How cool that your last name is connected to the persimmon. Now, spill: when was the last time you ate one of your namesake fruits?

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 11, 2008 3:06 PM

Hey, Kim. Great chat today. I occasionally like mayo on a burger or Italian sub, but we don't eat a lot of it. For tuna salad, I strongly prefer either Caesar or Ranch dressing. Lots more flavor.

FYI on the Campell's Chicken Soup. Mr Gay relented when he heard a chatter mentioned grilled cheese! So the red peppers are roasting, the tomatoes are simmering, and fresh rye and swiss are ready to be grilled! Thanks to the chatters for saving my relationship. ;-)

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | November 11, 2008 3:25 PM


I'm curious. I live in the western U.S. although I grew up in the eastern part. I have never seen a Hellman's commercial as long as I've been here. The reason, and also why you'll never find it in the stores, is that it is called Best. "Bring out the Hellman's bring out the Best".

Hellmann's is known as Best Foods west of the Rockies. Hellmann's started on the East Coast and in California Best Foods marketed their own mayonnaise. In 1932, Best Foods bought out the Hellmann's brand. By then both mayonnaises had so many fervent fans in their respective halves of the country that the company decided that both brands and recipes be preserved.

So my question is - where did you see this commercial? Not in Seattle, I presume.

Posted by: elyrest | November 11, 2008 4:14 PM

Elyrest, Seattle is exactly where I saw it! Right here at Casa Appetite, Girl Scout's honor...I know, there are many odd pieces of this puzzle.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 11, 2008 4:22 PM

I have always wanted to make my own mayo. I saw an Argentinian brand at El Patio that contained lime juice and olive oil and sounded really good. Is there any difference in the acidity of the lime from lemon?

Posted by: tresa_mie | November 11, 2008 9:52 PM

If Hellmann's mayonnaise is the "real food", I have to wonder what they are accusing of being "fake food"? The fat free stuff? Some other sandwich condiment? Weird. My teenaged son loathes mayo and will not eat anything that contains it. I do use it in a few things -- tuna salad, pimiento cheese, tartar sauce -- but he doesn't like those things anyway. For the record, I have not seen the ad, but will be watching for it now.

Posted by: margaret6 | November 12, 2008 7:37 AM

For tuna a little Helmans, some Tiger sauce and then some tabsco.

Hate mayo on burgers. Only thing mayo goes in for me is tartar sauce, on turkey sandwiches and tuna.

Posted by: omarthetentmaker | November 12, 2008 10:49 AM

Hey Kim:
Actually, we do make a little habit of eating namesake Hachiya persimmons each year when they appear in the markets. You have to eat these when they are really mushy, almost as if they are on the verge of spoiled. I kind of like to squish the fruit on top of ice cream. I actually got the folks at my small locally owned grocery store to GIVE me a couple of Hachiya persimmons for free once when I pointed out they had my name. I am shameless on stuff like that.

Our weather is cold and rainy. Thanks for asking.

Posted by: khachiya1 | November 12, 2008 3:19 PM

I like mayo. I even like jarred mayo, if only because it doesn't spoil before I finish it, unlike homemade. But I would never call it "real" food, regardless of what it says on the label.

Posted by: magicdomino | November 15, 2008 11:11 AM

I make my own mayonnaise and aioli for the most part, but I really don't have a problem with Hellman's in a pinch, especially if I'm going to doctor it up with a little pimenton, or saffron, or some herbs. The ingredients are just about what would go into homemade mayonnaise, except I wouldn't use soybean oil - I'd use a blend of sunflower and olive- I'd probably use less salt, and I wouldn't use sugar. I also wouldn't use a preservative, but that's part of the deal with Kraft, eh? The whole eggs stabilize the mayo more than egg yolks alone - Thomas Keller recommends using whole eggs in his aioli recipe.

Here are the ingredients, right off the label:


Posted by: kgirl2 | November 18, 2008 12:08 PM

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