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We Need to Talk About the Great Mayonnaise Inflation Mystery

Burford brown eggs, miso mayonnaise, truffle crisps and salad cress at Sons + Daughters.
Photographer: James Ramsden

Mayonnaise is no stranger to controversy. France and Spain have duelled over who can claim credit for the mother of cold sauces. At the same time, the fat-laden filling has been attacked by public health officials, described as the “devil’s condiment,” and criticized as being synonymous with the pedestrian palates of Middle America. At Katz’s Deli in New York, customers are warned to “ask for mayo at your own peril.”

Now mayonnaise is at the heart of a new debate, one that has the potential to be even more divisive than whether or not it deserves to accompany pastrami. As inflation ticks to the highest level in more than a decade, the slimy spread has been caught up in a highly emotive argument over recent price increases and who’s to blame for them. 

The great mayoinflation controversy began humbly enough with a local news report focused on the impact of food inflation on nearby restaurants. “I am paying $200 more a week in mayonnaise,” the owner of The Sherwood, a self-described “neighborhood restaurant” in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, told NBC affiliate WXii earlier this month.

The comment was soon picked up by the official Twitter account of the North Carolina Republican Party, which tweeted the $200 stat with a quip about “Bidenflation.” Soon the tweet was smeared across social media as people pointed out that based on official inflation rates — the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was 5.4% year-on-year in July — the restaurant would have to be going through gallons of the stuff in order to be spending an additional $200 a week.