Several friends recently chipped in and surprised me with a painting of a jar of Duke’s Mayonnaise. I framed it and hung it above my mantel. “Your mantel?” my mother questioned.
I’m not the only one with a Duke’s art collection. As Erin Hatcher, brand manager for Duke’s Mayonnaise at the C.F. Sauer Co. in Richmond, Virginia, told me, the company receives countless paintings of Duke’s each year, alongside fan letters and pitches for TV commercials. That isn’t a new phenomenon. After Eugenia Duke founded her first enterprise, Duke’s Sandwiches, in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1917, she was inundated with letters from soldiers who’d been stationed at nearby Camp Sevier. Home after World War I, they requested her mayonnaise recipe: oil, egg yolks, and cider vinegar (for tang) but no sugar (which was rationed during wartime).
It’s the same recipe that’s praised today—in part, for reasons that first spurred its popularity nearly a century ago. Sold to Greenville drugstore lunch counters, army canteens, textile mills, and the Duke Tea Room in the Ottaray Hotel, Eugenia Duke’s mayonnaise has long been an equal-opportunity spread—at home on white bread sandwiches and crudités.
Duke’s is a monarch for the people. And a portrait of royalty belongs above the mantel.