Moving to the Midwest was an eye-opening experience in many ways. Hail the size of bowling balls, overly friendly people who sometimes talk funny, chislic — all were new to me. But one of the biggest differences can be found in the most mundane of places, the grocery store.
I’m talking mayonnaise. Specifically, Hellmann’s.
Living on the west coast my entire adult life, the blue-and-yellow label on my mayo of choice was always Best Foods. I’m pretty passionate about this. Soon after Tara moved in, she made the grievous mistake of picking up Kraft mayonnaise once on a solo shopping trip. Believe me, I never would have let Kraft end up in our grocery cart had I been there, because Best Foods is far superior. That’s not opinion, guys: it’s fact.
When we moved to Rapid City, lo and behold, that familiar label came with an unfamiliar name: Hellmann’s.
They’re basically identical. Hellmann’s is sold east of the Rocky Mountains and Best Foods is sold west of the Rockies. Interestingly, because we’re smack dab in the middle of the country, our grocery stores often carry both brands side by side. I always reach for the Hellmann’s now because it’s a novelty.
Mayo-be you don’t know the reason why there is a geographical division (I didn’t), but the history is fascinating. Richard Hellmann opened a deli in New York City in the early 1900s and began selling ready-made mayonnaise. This became a big hit with customers, and in 1919 he began distributing his mayo to markets outside of NYC. Sales on the east coast reached $15 million by 1927.
Meanwhile, on the west coast, a company called Postum Foods began selling their own mayonnaise, which became equally popular. In 1927 Postum bought the Hellmann’s brand, allowing Richard to retire, and eventually renamed the company Best Foods. Because both brands of mayo had loyal followings and dominated their respective marketplaces, the names and recipes were preserved for each region. Today,
- Best Foods is sold in and west of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
- Hellmann’s is sold in and east of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, parts of Colorado and Texas.
With that obvious overlap I mentioned previously. By the way, the recipes are virtually identical. Some people claim Best Foods is slightly tangier. If that’s so, I can’t say I’ve noticed a difference.
That’s probably way more info than you ever needed about mayonnaise, but hey — I found it interesting!
I’m really digging the Midwest, by the way. I’ve never once looked back on this move with even an ounce of regret. Feels like I’m in my element here in a way that I never was before. This place has been good to us. We’ve built a nice life here.
A Facebook friend shared a video by Charlie Berens, an Emmy-winning comedian from Wisconsin. Dude is funny as hell. Like all great comedy, it’s funny because it’s true. He lovingly pokes fun at Midwesterners in videos like this (the one that got me hooked).
We were talking the other day about how Tara’s work involves agricultural bank loans and mine revolves around rural South Dakota communities and how Midwest is that?
Saturday, we caught a movie at the cineplex (Land, starring Robin Wright), then met up with Jennifer and Robert, Tara’s boss and her fiancee, at Paddy O’Neill’s for drinks. He’s the trucker whom I grilled last time we got together. My curiosity wasn’t completely satisfied after our last chat, so I quizzed him again and this time asked how often random women flashed him while he was driving. The answer, sadly, was never. I kinda assumed truckers were always getting an eyeful of bare breasts. He did, however, educate me about “lot lizards” — truck stop prostitutes. He had a hilarious inadvertent near-encounter with one once that had us all in stitches. Gives new meaning to the phrase 10-4, good buddy.
The day felt very normal. Hopefully as COVID numbers continue to drop and more people get vaccinated, we’ll all be able to enjoy lots more days like that.
It started snowing at Paddy’s and was coming down fast and furious on the way home. Even with 4WD engaged, Tara’s pickup slipped in a couple of spots. I was glad we got home when we did. We spent the rest of the evening in the basement playing cards and listening to records.
And then, something very weird happened.
We were wrapping things up, getting ready to head upstairs, when the bathroom light in the basement turned on by itself right before my eyes.
I sort of freaked out a little.
Not in a frightened way…it was more a case of pure amazement. I could not believe what I had just seen. One second it was dark, the next there was a loud click and the light switched itself on. I have no explanation for this. We weren’t anywhere near the bathroom. Hadn’t had the light on in there recently, either. Even Tara, ever the skeptic, admitted the whole thing was odd. I’m not saying it was Doris popping in to say hello, but the internet thinks it could be her. Super weird side note that I just remembered: two days ago, in the basement, I asked Doris to give me a sign if she was still around. Nothing happened at the time, so I forgot all about it. This makes what happened even creepier…!
I’m just glad I saw it with my own eyes. How many times have you walked into a room to find a light on you swore you turned off? This happens frequently in our house, and not just in the basement. I’ve always just figured one of us forgot to turn it off, but seeing it happen myself gives me a sense of validation.
Or, at the very least, a fun story to share.