Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hold the mayo

Roger Green recently wrote about “Mayonnaise and other important topics”. Mayonnaise isn't really important, of course, but it reminded me of one of the finer points of adjustment to expat life: Food choices. And mayonnaise choices.

When I arrived in New Zealand, the brand of mayonnaise used by most people that I knew was from Eta (a brand of Heinz-Wattie’s). I thought it was too sweet and too runny, so I didn't use it. Awhile later, Hellmann’s mayonnaise suddenly showed up in our grocery store, replaced soon after by Best Foods Mayonnaise (it’s the same product with different names). This was probably after Unilever bought Best Foods in 2000. It was the sort of mayonnaise that I liked.

We eventually settled on the Light version because it had half the fat of the regular version. One day, I happened to see a jar of it and a jar of Eta side by side and I compared the labels. It turns out that the Light version of Best Foods had about the same fat and sugar content as the regular version of Eta. That reminded me how different countries can have very different tastes.

Time passed, and we drifted away from mayonnaise. I later tried—and liked—Heinz’s “Seriously Good Mayonnaise”—in fact, there’s a jar in the fridge at the moment, though it may be a bit elderly by now. Mayonnaise, it’s fair to say, isn’t much of a "thing" for me anymore.

When I was growing up, my mother used Kraft’s “Miracle Whip” (though I have no idea why), and it was all I knew. Because of that, I don’t dislike it as Roger does, but, then, I haven’t had it in many, many years, so who knows? Things may have changed. I could get it from Martha’s Backyard, though I never have. I could also get Velveeta there, but haven’t done that, either. Some things are perhaps best left in the past.

As I’ve said previously, when I first arrived in New Zealand I had to find substitutes for products I knew and liked, though many of the ones I liked in the USA later showed up here, thanks to the brands’ multinational owners. Best Foods Mayonnaise was one such product.

I’ve also said that my tastes have changed over time, and I don’t necessarily still like the products I did when I lived in the USA. That’s probably inevitable as we adapt to our surroundings, and as our tastes change over time, which happens to most people.

I think that the globalisation of food product brands can make things easier for expats trying to adjust, but I wonder if it really serves us to have the same things in nearly every country. If variety is the spice of life, then the world is becoming a pretty bland place.

Obviously mayonnaise isn’t an important topic (for me or Roger), but it IS an example of how things have changed over time. When Best Foods Mayonnaise arrived in New Zealand, I was thrilled to have something I'd liked in my homeland. Now, I wonder if maybe it’s emblematic of the slow “banalisation” of the planet.

Whatever, mayo like all other condiments is a matter of personal taste. I couldn’t possibly care less about what someone else likes or doesn’t—just as long as I can say “hold the mayo” if I want to.

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