THE BOSTON GLOBE – Each summer, when the first tomatoes begin to blush, growing sweet and heavy on the vine, tomato sandwich season begins. And with it comes a sudden increase in conversation — or more likely, debate — about a certain creamy condiment.
Some people require a slathering of mayonnaise on every dish, while others shudder at the thought. But very few are indifferent. Those who decide to dollop have strong opinions about food pairings and specific brand loyalties.
In New England, people seem particularly passionate about the condiment. Perhaps because it’s used in cold lobster rolls, a summer staple. (Hot lobster rolls contain butter instead.)
Or perhaps it’s out of pride for the regional mayo brand, Cains, often referred to as New England’s favorite (though a Globe poll poked some holes in that claim).
Whatever the reason, people here are connected to mayonnaise, the top-selling condiment in the United States, bringing in $164 million in 2021 alone. (Second place? Ranch dressing.)
But what foods do they slather it on? Which brands do they reach for? After talking to dozens of local chefs and foodies, the Globe found answers.
But first, what exactly is mayonnaise?
The condiment, invented in France, starts with egg yolks in a bowl. (Yes, there are raw eggs in mayonnaise. No, they will not give you salmonella.
The eggs are usually pasteurized, and the acidity from the vinegar protects against bacteria.) As the yolks are beaten, oil is slowly added until a thick cream, or emulsion, forms. Then lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper are whisked in.
At this point, the condiment is ready to be consumed, but it can also serve as the base for dozens of other sauces. Add pickles, anchovies, and horseradish, and it becomes a remoulade. A generous portion of garlic, and it’s an aioli. Throw in chopped capers, pickles, and herbs and you’ve got a tartar sauce …