The day after Thanksgiving is known for two things. For those with materialistic inclinations, Black Friday is a day to shop till your AMEX hurts. For those who prefer couches, televisions, magazines and food, this is the greatest sandwich day of the year. But the biggest question isn't what is the best order to layer turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. The biggest question is what sandwich condiment will you choose.
Chances are you made up your mind long ago and have no interest in changing it. Me either.
My old man was a Hellmann's guy. I have distinct memories of him applying mayonnaise to practically everything, but especially burgers, sandwiches and plates of salt-and-peppered tomato slices straight from the garden. He worked mayo like a baker works frosting, sculpting creamy ridges with the edge of a butter knife till the entire surface of the sandwich bread, bun or whatever he was slathering, was covered in a layer of mayo no less than a quarter-inch thick.
My mother had a taste for the sweeter side. If she was making deviled eggs, potato salad or other recipe that called for it, she'd dutifully use mayonnaise, but for her own personal sandwich my mother preferred the tangy zip of Miracle Whip. I can still see those two glass jars side by side in the refrigerator. In the world of processed-emulsified-condiments, I lived in a house divided.
When I was young, I sided with my mother, using Miracle Whip on everything it should be used on, and probably a few things it should not. But as I got older, my tastes changed. When ketchup no longer appealed as a burger condiment, the images of creamy mayonnaise extruding from the sides of a bun as my father pressed it into place naturally filled the gap. When I learned to appreciate the flavor of hand-cut, fried potatoes, ketchup lost to mayonnaise again. What better for pairing with french fries than the classic French dressing?
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Eventually mayo took the place of Miracle Whip, too. But as I completed my transformation there is just one sandwich that never quite tasted right with mayonnaise. Each year, the day after Thanksgiving, when I gather leftover remnants from the previous day's bounty and cram them between two slices of bread, Miracle Whip is hands down my condiment of choice.
I think it's the sweetness. While a significant dose of vinegar creates the "tang" most people perceive when tasting Miracle Whip, it actually contains more sugar than Hellmann's mayonnaise. Maybe I prefer it because that sugar subtly mimics the sweetness of cranberry sauce that goes so well with turkey, stuffing and whatever else I decide to pile on that day's sandwich.
Or maybe it's a nostalgia play. The taste of Miracle Whip and turkey takes me back to the holidays of my childhood, when my biggest problems were figuring out how to get out of washing the dishes and winnowing down my Christmas list. Turkey, dressing and Miracle Whip compose the flavors of lost times.
Whatever the reason, I don't think I'll ever be persuaded to change my mind. And chances are, you won't be either. So this Leftover-Turkey-Sandwich-Day, while your friends and family wonder the shopping malls of America securing more debt, look deep into the jar of your chosen condiment and reflect a bit. Chances are there's some history there.