Food You Can Eat: A Curious Mayo Ad From 1948

Consumerism-boosterism from the pre-Internet era

From soup to nuts indeed. Image appeared in Life Magazine, 1948.

It’s summer! Well, not technically, but psychologically. And you know what that means: mayonnaise, all the mayonnaise, mayonnaise spread everywhere. Slathered on sandwiches; generously combined into potato, egg, macaroni, and tuna salads; in any number of cheese, chips, and vegetable dips; you can’t get away from it. But what other uses does it have? I decided to find out.

Google Books has the entire Life Magazine library scanned and available for free. Out of boredom, I picked the October 18, 1948 issue to browse through. The big story was that since the polls showed that Truman had no chance of being re-elected (why waste the money on an election? was the undertone) attention must be paid to the Senate and the House. Truman of course won the election, in a huge political upset. In hindsight we know what went wrong: Gallup conducted telephone polls, in an era when people would pick up the phone and chat with perfect strangers, but even by 1948 telephones weren’t ubiquitous and skewed toward the middle and upper classes. Truman won the phone-free vote, I guess.

On a lavishly illustrated spread covering pages 72—73 appeared an ad for a product called Real Mayonnaise. Oh? What is that? Well, at the time “in the west” it was a product put out by Best Foods and “in the east” by Hellmann’s.

Imagine it. It’s 1948. The boys are home from that endless, bloody war! There are cars and tract houses and furnishings to buy. Televisions! (Which were actually available pre-WWII but very expensive and with little programming, all of it local.) No ration books so you could buy clothes again without doling out coupons. And food. Including Real Mayonnaise. 

So tell this Gallup pollster which delicious food you, American housewife in 1948, will make first?

Meat balls

Prepare you favorite “meat ball” recipe and form into 12 balls and sauté slowly in 4 tablespoons Real Mayonnaise. Tastes like more!

Author’s note: I think I would do this.

Fruit Juice Mayonnaise

Fold 1/3 cup Real Mayonnaise into 1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped. Stir in 1 tablespoon fruit juice and 2 1/2 tablespoons confectioners sugar. It’s smooth!

Author’s note: This is shown in a ramekin in the middle of a full bowl topped with what looks like parsley, ringed with sliced peaches and what I think are halved artichoke hearts, each with a cherry in the cavity. I have no idea what lurks beneath. I’m guessing iceberg lettuce and halved cherry tomatoes. So this is a dressing/dip, not a proto-smoothie, as I had first feared.

Mock Hollandaise

Prepare 1 cup of white sauce. [This was a favorite from the era. A white sauce is basically a simple béchamel, flour, butter, milk]. Just before serving, stir in 1/3 cup Real Mayonnaise. Excellent on a wide variety of hot vegetables. This sauce hits the spot.

Author’s note: Make a “Real” hollandaise. The mayo is providing the egg but other stuff you wouldn’t necessarily want.


Mix 1/2 cup orange marmalade, 1 cup grated carrot, with 2 tablespoons Real Mayonnaise. Spread on 6 slices of raisin bread and top with additional slices of bread. Ummm…good!

Author’s note: No, not good at all. But what you can do is make its wonderful mid-century cousin: spread cream cheese on slices of date nut bread and eat open-faced or as a sandwich. This, I know from research, was an Automat favorite. No Real Mayonnaise necessary.

Toasted Nuts

Mix 2 tablespoons Real Mayonnaise with 1/2 pound shelled nuts; spread in shallow pan and bake in moderate oven (375 degrees Fahrenheit) 15 to 20 minutes; stir often. Spread on brown paper; salt. A treat!

Author’s note: I don’t know but I think I’m giving this one a thumbs down too. It’s interesting that the recipe specifies 375 degrees Fahrenheit. At first I thought maybe this was for Canadian readers, but Canada didn’t adopt the metric system until 1970. In 1948 American forces were scattered around the globe, so maybe Life Magazine appeared in PXs in Western Europe and Occupied Germany and this was a head’s up for service wives stationed at the huge bases overseas. Who knows. “Real” Mayonnaise never tells.



  1. The fake Hollandaise strikes me as weird because it’s a lot of extra work when mayo all by itself is perfectly fine on veggies. It would be sort of like making an elaborate blue cheese dressing sauce for chicken wings instead of just using straight blue cheese dressing.

  2. Hi DeadSplinterites, this is a PSA on behalf of SplinterRip who really needs some DOT substitutes. They do not need to War and Peace. He says:

    “…on the other hand this is likely the last of these you’ll hear out of me until next week…I think the degree to which I’m currently meant to be in too many places at once looks like making it implausible that I’ll manage one of these on Thursday…or over the weekend

    …which makes this part unhelpfully short notice…but if anyone with the available time & the ability to concoct something above the line felt they could fill in for either of those slots I’d be exceedingly grateful?”

    Please DM him if you can help the fellow out.

  3. Oh, Cousin Matty!

    Those aren’t artichoke hearts with maraschino cherries on top–that’s the MidMo Eldritch Horror of canned half-pears, as commonly used in things like Pear Salad!😳🤢🥴💖💞

    Here’s another, with pictures, making it look like some sort of abominable bloody-spider-eye, staring back at you from the void;



    Also, in my Google to find the… momentos of mid-century malaise… I ran across these websites, which I thought you may enjoy.

    What with their emphases on mid-century rationing, “new” foods, and… shall we say…. *creativity*?



  4. When my father was at the War College in RI, he made friends with the heir of the Seidner mayonnaise company.  He was a quirky man but he remained friends with our family for years and eventually thought of me like a son.  He told me once he was going to leave me the recipe/company before we had a falling out, it didn’t happen.  Thought the recipe may have died with him since he didn’t have any heirs but sounds like company still kind of exists?  I hadn’t thought of him in years.


    • What a wonderful thing to be, heir to a mayonnaise company. Tucker Carlson’s family money comes from Swanson frozen foods. There was recently an infuriating murder (it was more like manslaughter) where this 20-something dumb bitwoman was caught on camera pushing an elderly woman to the ground, who later died of head injuries. The victim was quickly identified as a beloved voice coach whose clients included Debbie Harry. It took a while to track down the perp, but she was identified as someone who had gotten very drunk, had a fight with her fiancé, and committed the crime. She was described as the septic tank heiress, because her father built and ran a hugely successful septic tank business on Long Island.

      This is important to me because I realized I would put aside my powerful, irrational snobbery and innate embarrassment at the benefits that would come from that, and would indeed swap places with her (minus the manslaughter) if I too could be a septic tank heir.

      Needless to say the tabloids had a field day with this, and many of her high school classmates came forward to describe what a vile creature she had been all along, complete with hair-raising examples. I would hope that I would have acted as a kinder, more modest, high school-age septic tank heir.

  5. I love mayonnaise! This post has impeccable timing because I ordered fries yesterday purely as a vehicle for mayonnaise consumption (Pommes rot-weiss).


    That being said… Mayo Smoothies 🤮

  6. I am SHOCKED and APPALLED that chocolate mayonnaise cake was not included in that double page spread.

    Welcome to the Midwest, if you can add mayo to something you do.

    Not if you should add mayo, but rather if you can. 

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