Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

April 16, 2013

Can't we all just get along?

By Mike Redmond

— I look around and I see a country divided, two sides facing off in bitter opposition, neither showing the slightest inclination to compromise or indicating any interest in closing the rift between them.

I wonder: Is there any way, any way at all, to bridge the gap between Mayonnaise People and Miracle Whip People?

No kidding: When it comes to the white stuff people put on their bologna sandwiches and in their potato salads, people act like there is religion involved. It's almost as if Mayonnaise People hold themselves to be keepers of the One True Faith, the abiding and unchanging rock to which American lunches are anchored, while Miracle Whip People believe a new covenant was formed when Kraft introduced the product in 1933, at the Chicago World's Fair.

In fact, people can be more religious about this than they can about religion.

My brother-in-law married into a Whipped Cream family but will allow nothing but Cool-Whip on his pumpkin pie. Similarly, his kid (also known as Denephew, of Deniece and Denephew) has to have his own boat of made-from-an-envelope gravy at Thanksgiving dinner, and will not touch the homemade gravy lovingly prepared each and every year by his talented uncle (also known as me).

Mustard gets even more complicated. First, you have to negotiate the doctrinal minefield between Brown Mustard People and Yellow Mustard People. Then you have to preside over the disagreement between the Church of Grey Poupon and Mister Mustard Tabernacle, or Our Lady of French's and Plochman's (Reformed). I've witnessed serious marital discord on this very simple question: Do you want mustard on your hot dog?

Far be it from me to say mixed marriages never work, but I do think Condiment Compatibility is something we ought to be looking at in pre-marital counseling.

Why do we get this way over something so seemingly inconsequential? I think it is because we are tribal by nature. Seeking congenial relationships with compatible people, we naturally form ourselves into groups based on shared interests and beliefs. And then, because we still struggle with the whole live-and-let-live thing - we are only human, after all - we feel called to defend these interests and beliefs from those who do not share them.

Or, to put it the short way, we're ridiculous and we obviously do not have enough to do.

Where Mayonnaise vs. Miracle Whip is concerned, the disagreement diverts us from serious questions, such as Should we be eating this stuff in the first place? and Have you ever seen what goes into bologna? and What kind of wine should you serve with a fried bologna sandwich?

Occasionally, our tribal instincts do us credit. When we all come together as one Supersized Tribe of Americans, we're pretty impressive. We've saved the world a couple of times doing just that. The thing is, we have to get over our differences to accomplish anything and we don't seem inclined to do that these days.

As for me, I'll continue my own ecumenical work. You see, I use both mayonnaise AND Miracle Whip, and occasionally I interchange them. Perhaps in this way I can set a good example.

I draw the line at Cool-Whip and packaged gravy, though. That stuff is vile.

What can I say? My sister married a member of the Philistine tribe.

© 2013 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.