Upon entering Food Lion, Lemuel glanced up at the product descriptions at the end of the aisles and saw the aisle that had mayonnaise. Walking down the aisle he saw the mayonnaise section with two national brands that bombard the consumer with advertising and alongside them Duke’s – which is the only national brand made without sugar (ain’t that sweet!).
Duke’s, as any history major knows, was formulated, produced, and first sold by Eugenia Thomas Duke in Greenville, S.C. in the early 20th century. She started in the sandwich business and as part of her business she made her own mayonnaise. As the sandwich endeavor rapidly grew it became apparent that its success was largely due to the tasty mayonnaise, and around 1923 Eugenia started a separate enterprise focused on the production and selling of mayonnaise. Demand became too much to keep up with and in 1929 she sold her business to the C.F. Sauer Company (which is celebrating its 130th year anniversary in 2017). Later she moved to California to be with her daughter and opened a sandwich business there.
Now we need to note a few salient historical and cultural points. Firstly, you may wonder why, even if her daughter lived in California, Eugenia would leave South Carolina and move there – South Carolina was not the dust bowl. Historians are still arguing over why she moved out yonder leaving the land of low-country cuisine with its shrimp and grits and its gators, after all, California ain’t got no gators – and there ain’t nothing quite like taking a stroll at night wondering whether your next step might lead to the amputation of your toes…or worse.
We also need to note that there were two Dukes whose products have been widely disseminated across our land, the Mayonnaise Dukes and the Tobacco Dukes. Now these next questions may appear on the final exam so please take notice, “Which product tastes better on a sandwich, mayonnaise or tobacco? Which of these two products is likely to take your taste away so that can’t fully taste the sandwich? Which of these two products is more likely to kill you?”
I think Duke University got the nickname the Blue Devils from students turning blue as they were choking on Mr. Duke’s cigarettes. Which would you rather do, smoke and turn blue or eat delicious mayonnaise and smile and sing and skip and dance and…oh yes…breathe? (This may also be a test question). Ever make a paste out of tobacco and spread it on a sandwich? Think about it.
Another historical point is that C.F. Sauer, the company that purchased Duke’s Mayonnaise, was founded and is still based in Richmond, VA. So while Duke’s may have started in South Carolina, and while it may have continued to be produced in South Carolina, it is owned by a Virginia company. I think Virginians can have some satisfaction in this, even be it small, because South Carolina is the group that got us into that nasty war a few years back – frankly I think South Carolina ought to pay us reparations. Anyway, Duke’s belongs to us’uns and not you’uns, even though we choose to employ you’uns to make mayonnaise for us’uns.
Over the years Duke’s Mayonnaise has spread across the country. One of my brothers lives in Fall Creek, WI and there is a Walmart in Chippewa Falls that sells Duke’s. This is bittersweet news to me because I’d like to be able to tell him that he can’t get it where he lives. On the other hand, folks across the country could use a little culture.
To be continued…