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David Lissner
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Miracle Whip: Boon or blech? Fans and foes mix it up

Miracle Whip

It may be America’s most controversial condiment.

Even the deserved denunciation directed at people who put ketchup on hot dogs pales next to the hate-filled smears of Miracle Whip lovers by mayonnaise partisans. Over on LTH Forum, where the debate is now raging, area foodies are bandying about phrases like “unholy spawn” and “evil stuff.”

Northfield-based Kraft Foods, the manufacturer, has deliberately turned up the heat, encouraging Miracle Whip fans to fight back with its current ad campaign, promoting the dressing as “our own unique, one-of-a-kind flavor” and featuring taglines like “Don’t be so mayo” and a social-media app called “Zingr” to encourage pro-Whip solidarity.

“We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip,” declares LTHer seebee, but in case you’re one of those who hasn’t noticed, Miracle Whip is sweeter and tangier, as well as lower in fat and calories, than mayonnaise (which Kraft also makes, along with several other manufacturers, notably Hellman’s). Once upon a time, it was also less expensive, but now the two condiments typically cost about the same.

1933 ad in “Smart Savories from A Century of Progress”

1933 ad in “Smart Savories from A Century of Progress”

A lower price was one of its goals when Kraft introduced Miracle Whip at the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. According to Kraft archivist Becky Haglund Tousey, the creamy new product was intended to help make “fresh foods such as fruit, vegetables and salads better tasting, more appealing and less expensive to Depression-weary consumers.”

The spread, “a first-of-its-kind product that was a blend of existing mayonnaise products and less expensive salad dressing,” Tousey said, was the result of new Kraft technology, a patented “emulsifying machine,” invented by Charles Chapman. “The machine, informally called ‘Miracle Whip’ by Chapman, ensured that pre-measured ingredients (including more than 20 different spices) could continuously enter the appliance and become thoroughly whipped and blended.” The machine was exhibited at the fair, smoothing its namesake brand’s route to success: Within 22 weeks, Miracle Whip’s fame had spread to the point that it was outselling all brands of salad dressing and mayonnaise, Tousey said.

Miracle Whip machine

Miracle Whip machine

Although a number of sources, including a Danish Kraft Web site, attribute Miracle Whip’s origins to downstate Salem, Ill., where an unnamed Kraft employee is supposed to have purchased a recipe for Max’s X-tra Fine Salad Dressing from Max Crossett’s Cafe, 100 N. Washington St., Tousey said that story is untrue. “Miracle Whip was an internally developed product patented by Kraft,” she said. “Kraft did purchase several regional U.S. salad dressing/mayonnaise companies during the 1920s before introducing Kraft brand Mayonnaise in 1930, using the best of the many acquired mayonnaise recipes.

“But Miracle Whip was a unique new blending of a traditional mayonnaise and a boiled salad dressing and it was not purchased or acquired from the outside.”

That the Whip is a Chicago native just adds to its appeal for local epicures, among them Frontera Grill’s Chef Richard James — who names Miracle Whip one of five foods he can’t live without.

So put that on your bread, and eat it.

Miracle Whip on Foodista