Controversies surrounding condiments tend to be about what we put them on, not what they are. Never ketchup on a hot dog if you’re from Chicago. Never mayonnaise on a pastrami sandwich if you’re from just about anywhere.

But for Mayochup, the new condiment from Heinz that made its American debut last month, there’s no disagreement over what it goes well with — burgers and fries. What people can’t agree on is who invented it. Was it the Argentines? The Puerto Ricans? The Utahans?

One thing we know for sure: Even though Heinz may be the biggest international brand to come up with a cute portmanteau (imagine the corporate brainstorm bickering: mayochup vs. ketchonnaise vs. tomayo!) and bottle this liquid beige, it did not invent this condiment. (And, no, your 5-year-old son who plays with his food did not invent it, either.)

Heinz’s version of the sauce was originally only available in the Middle East, but the company brought it to the United States in September after a social media campaign earlier this summer. They say it’s a straight-up, 50-50 mix of Heinz ketchup and mayonnaise.

To which you might say: Isn’t that called Thousand Island dressing? Or, in the parlance of McDonald’s, Special Sauce? Mayochup is a pared-down version of those condiments, which typically also contain pickle relish or onion. Though it’s best on burgers and as a dipping sauce for fries, you could put it on a hot dog, if you’re some kind of anarchist, or on chicken nuggets, if you’re a small child.

Mayochup may have originally come from Argentina, where it was called “salsa golf.” Nobel Prize-winning chemist Luis Federico Leloir is credited with creating salsa golf — partly as a joke among friends, named because his recipe was created at a golf club — in 1925. The sauce is popular throughout Central and South America, where it’s eaten with a number of foods: hearts of palm, seafood, arepas and other dishes.

But Puerto Ricans lay claim to the sauce that is Mayochup — except they call it mayo-ketchup (pronounced MY-oh ketchup) or salsa rosada. They’ve been putting it on tostones, or fried plantains, for ages, and Goya bottles the stuff. When Puerto Ricans caught wind of Heinz’s plans to make Mayochup, they were not pleased: On Twitter, they accused the company of “colonizing” their food culture.

But Utahans also claim to have invented the combination of mayo and ketchup. In that state and in Idaho, they call it “fry sauce,” popularized by local chains such as Arctic Circle, which claims to have invented the sauce, and Hires Big H. Both companies bottle and sell their versions of it. They reacted to Heinz’s news mostly with indignation.

I am a mostly neutral party here. I feel compelled to disclose that I grew up in Pittsburgh, where Heinz originated, and our pro football stadium, concert hall and history museum bear the brand’s name. Pittsburgh is a french fry city — we put them on our sandwiches and salads, don’t @ me — and the veins of Pittsburghers course not with blood, but with ketchup. But while I can attest to Heinz’s superiority in the ketchup realm, my brand loyalty does not extend to mayonnaise (Duke’s, duh). Mayochup is a risky gambit.

We tried all three. No matter the purveyor, it’s a sauce that comes out of the bottle in the color of pale flesh, a sort of unappealing ecru-toned dip for an equally beige french fry. It’s the color that announces “No nutrition here!” but you already knew that. They’re not extremely different, which isn’t surprising since they all have a pretty similar list of ingredients, but there are slight variations.


(Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post)

Heinz’s Mayochup is more mayonnaisey than ketchuppy. It’s the most neutral flavored of the trio. While it would work equally well on fries, we preferred it on burgers because it enhances, but doesn’t compete with, the other flavors of the sandwich. It has a lot of high-fructose corn syrup. It’s the most viscous of the three, too: When you squirt it from the bottle, it looks a little bit like worms? I’m very sorry I put that image in your head. Despite this unfortunate observation, we really did enjoy it.

The Goya Mayo-Ketchup has a jazzier list of ingredients than the others: Tomato paste is first on the list, and garlic and onion powder, paprika, red bell peppers and lime juice make an appearance. Garlic is the dominant flavor here, which is great with french fries. If you’re iffy on the mayonnaise part of mayo-ketchup, this is the one to try.

And then there’s the Hires Big H Hamburger and Fry Sauce. I would like to have a word with the good people of Utah about the uses that are suggested for this sauce. It’s “A sauce for hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, onion rings, hash browns” (okay, this checks out), “salads” (wait, what?), “tacos and burritos” (excuse me, how dare you). Anyway, it’s a little more tomatoey and tangier than the others, which also makes it a great choice for fries. Which is literally its name, I know. But it’s better for fries than burgers, is what I meant.

Maybe Heinz Mayochup will be lost to the dustbin of history, a one-hit wonder of a condiment. (Not the company’s first: remember the viscerally disgusting purple ketchup?) Or maybe we’ll have bottles of Mayochup on the table at every diner in America 10 years from now, and we’ll have quaint memories of a time when we had to pump mayo and ketchup from separate dispensers into the same plastic condiment cup and use a fry to swirl them together, like pioneers who churned their own butter.

Either way, to choose a favorite would be to choose between Pittsburgh, Puerto Rico and Utah, and I’m not going to do that. No matter what you call it or who you think it invented it, there’s one thing that unites us as Americans in these divided times. We need fries, and fries need sauce: mayo, ketchup or both.

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