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Hold The Mayo!

It has nothing to do with being Jewish and everything to do with being a New Yorker, which so very many were and/or are.

Like everyone else, we carried that culture with us wherever we went. We had mayonnaise with salad sandwiches (tuna, chicken, egg, etc.) and mustard (yellow or brown) on meat sandwiches, except for chicken which was usually eaten with mayonnaise. Hot dogs and all cold meats were served with mustard, and hamburgers always came with ketchup. If you didn't specify something else, that's how the sandwiches were made.

Since most Jews ate kosher sandwiches in kosher delis, and those came with mustard and pickle, the delis never bothered with mayonnaise. The salad sandwiches, mostly pareve, were usually on toast or white bread, sometimes on rye, but meat sandwiches ordered in the deli were made either on seeded rye bread (Jewish, same as Polish), or a crusty club roll. They may originally have been catering to Polish and Russian tastes, or German, more likely, but it became classic New York food early on.

The only mayonnaise dishes I ever saw served with meat were potato salad and cole slaw, but if one ordered fries, they came with ketchup. This kind of eating was characteristic of New York Jews, so much so that many took it to be characteristic of Jews everywhere, and expected it to be served in Israel in the 1950s, where there was no such thing at all anywhere.

Posted by Carolyn C. Gilboa