Heinz launches a social media campaign for “mayochup” on April 12. Photo by: Heinz.

Heinz promotes its new ‘mayochup’ and sparks an international controversy

It all started with a tweet about a condiment.

Heinz, the popular ketchup brand, took to Twitter Thursday with a poll about a potential product launch, a concept they billed as novel to American consumers: a pre-made combination of mayonnaise and ketchup.

They called it “mayochup.”

“Want #mayochup in stores? 500,000 votes for ‘yes’ and we’ll release it to you saucy Americans,” Heinz tweeted. While the product is already available in some countries in the Middle East, Heinz wanted to know if Americans would be receptive to a “U.S. debut,” the company said in a news release.

The votes poured forth, totalling more than 680,000 by Friday morning. And so did the headlines: “‘Mayochup’ is the hybrid condiment you never knew you wanted,” Insider wrote, adding “this beige-coloured condiment isn’t a prank.” NBC’s Today wrote that the new sauce was the solution to “the dual-delight dilemma” of choosing between mayonnaise and ketchup when making a sandwich. “That’s right, mayonnaise plus ketchup in one beautiful squeeze bottle.”

But in other corners of Twitter, the poll elicited a less jovial response.

“Mayochup?” A U.S. “debut?” For many Americans, particularly those in the Latino community, the concept of combining mayonnaise and ketchup is nothing new.

In fact, the combination is as just about as ingrained in Caribbean cuisine as plantains and rice. One food blog called it “more boricua (Puerto Rican) than the coquí,” the island’s native species of small tree frog. “Puerto Ricans bathe in” it, as one Twitter user put it. Sometimes adding a touch of garlic or adobo seasoning, Puerto Ricans smother it on just about anything fried: mofongo and tostones – both made with fried plantains – yuca, french fries, and more.

But ask any Puerto Rican and there’s an important difference: It’s called “mayoketchup,” pronounced “my-oh-ketchup.”

“And we invented it ages ago,” one Puerto Rican user tweeted. “Too late Heinz.”

Some on Twitter even accused Heinz of “appropriating,” “gentrifying” or even “colonizing” the beloved mayo-ketchup combination.

What started with a Twitter poll about a condiment soon became an international dispute. Who really invented the mayo-ketchup sauce, and what do you even call it?

The Puerto Rican community is far from the only group claiming ownership of the mayo-ketchup concoction. The condiment is popular across Latin America, with different names and variations based on the country. In Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela and other places, it’s referred to as “salsa rosada,” or “pink sauce.” In Colombia and Venezuela, one might spoon a dollop of the condiment on an arepa, and in Costa Rica, one might eat it with a pejibaye, a peach-palm fruit.

Legend actually places the origins of the condiment in the 1920s in Argentina, where it’s often referred to as “salsa golf.” According to lore, a teenager named Luis Federico Leloir was eating prawns with friends at the Mar del Plata Golf Club in the coastal city of Mar del Plata when he decided to try an experiment, Ozy recounted. Joking around with his buddies, he mixed mayonnaise and ketchup to accompany the prawns, christening the sauce “salsa golf.”

The combination apparently took off in the 1960s, when big brands started producing it. Decades later, Leloir would gain wide fame – but not for the sauce. He ended up winning the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1970 for his “his discovery of sugar nucleotides and their role in the biosynthesis of carbohydrates,” according to the Nobel website.

“If I had patented the sauce,” he reportedly once said, according to Notimérica, “I would have earned much more money than as a scientist.”

But the claims over the pink sauce don’t end there. Thousands of miles away in Utah, the mayonnaise-ketchup combination has a cult following, under a different name. “Fry sauce,” they call it.

“Fry sauce is much more than just a condiment to the people who consider it a beloved staple of Western American comfort food,” Eater wrote in 2016.

A chef named Don Carlos Edwards introduced it to Utahns in the 1940s, serving it to customers on hamburgers and alongside fries at his barbecue joint. Eventually, his barbecue restaurant turned into the Arctic Circle restaurant chain, spreading across the West Coast and Northwest. Utahns proudly defended the mayonnaise-ketchup sauce as their own on Twitter Thursday.

But the exact origins of the beloved sauce remain unconfirmed. As Eater explained: “The condiment made a quick sweep through Central America, Eastern Europe, the Balkan countries and a select few countries in the Middle East before the comparable Thousand Island dressing popped up in a New Orleans cookbook in 1900.”

Variations of the sauce are also popular in Germany, and even Iceland. In the United Kingdom, a different version is known as “Marie Rose sauce.”

For years, a number of brands have already been selling their own bottled versions in U.S. grocery stores, including Goya and Stephen’s.

But whatever it’s called, wherever it’s consumed, many lifelong lovers of the sauce agree on one thing: it’s disgraceful to squeeze the stuff out of a bottle.

“Yeah, you have to custom mix it. Gotta have the right mayo to ketchup ratio. I don’t trust this at all.,” tweeted Nadege C. Green, a reporter for South Florida NPR station WLRN, in response to Heinz’s product.

To its credit, Heinz welcomed the do-it-yourself option, telling its Twitter followers to “Show off your saucy skills, and try mixing your own” – with Heinz mayonnaise and ketchup products, of course.

In response to the “fierce debate” over the name “Mayochup,” Heinz said it will put the final name up for a vote before the U.S. launch.

“We may have different names for her (Mayo-Ketchup, Salsa Golf, Fry Sauce, Salsa Rosada), but we all pray to the same sauce,” tweeted comedian and writer Gabe Gonzalez.

Perhaps we should just settle on a less divisive name for the concoction from the movie “Step Brothers:” “fancy sauce.”

Samantha Schmidt/By The Washington Post

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