Why You Gotta Hate on My Mayonnaise? And Other Thoughts About Food Shaming

speech bubble Instagram comments that read "so gross" and "I would never eat that"
Digital Art by McKenzie Cordell

As a born-and-raised Midwesterner, I can tell you with near certainty that brown foods taste the best: fried, carb-laden dishes that make up for their less-than-Insta-worthy looks with comforting flavor. But I’ve never felt more vulnerable than when having to defend the merits of the brownest food of all, Cincinnati-style chili.

It’s happened so frequently that by now, I can just brush it off. (If you’ve never even tasted a Skyline coney, I don’t want to hear it.) But it’s still pointing toward a pervasive lack of sensitivity around food preferences that I find sinister, whether it’s the internet up in arms over Laura Prepon’s “controversial” french toast or my friend telling me my hot chocolate is a “kid’s drink.” For something so personal, why do people feel entitled to have a strong opinion on whether I like extra mayonnaise on my BLT? Why are we so liberal our insults toward other peoples’ food? It’s not like we walk around freely telling people their shoes make their legs look stumpy.

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It’s impossible to talk about food shaming without talking about race. A thinly veiled judgment about my daily Coca-Cola habit is certainly rude, but it’s really nothing compared to the type of food shaming guided by racial ideologies, ones that have led to the idea that even for a basic, universal human need (i.e., nourishment), white cultures are “correct” and anything else—whether Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian—is open to criticism. Yet, when a white food blogger appropriates a dish from another culture, it’s seen as inventive and gourmet. And this racist judgment isn’t new—think about MSG and the pejorative “Chinese restaurant syndrome” that has persisted since the late ’60s. That’s just one example. Food is political, and it’s weaponized as such.

Similarly, we looove to vilify foods that don’t neatly fit into the 21st century wellness narrative. The green juice industrial complex has placed prebiotic sodas on a pedestal while deeming dairy and gluten “toxic.” Modern diet culture has turned eating into a moral issue, and if you’re not consuming the “right” foods, you’re “doing it wrong.” Because, as we all know, being thin matters above all else!

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It’s human nature to have opinions, so I’m pretty sure some level of food shaming has always been inevitable. But the internet allows us to really drive our opinions home. It’s not just that we style our plates to look good on THE FEED; it’s that we feel cocooned enough in our protective social media shell to roast a stranger for their non-aesthetic tastes without consequence. Maybe this is just me, but I would ugly-cry straight into my sloppy joes if someone told me my dinner was gross IRL. Weirdly, it’s all very arbitrary—people love to hate on mayonnaise, and for what? Because it looks slimy? Tell me: What did mayonnaise ever do to you?

It’s not that I believe everyone should like every single food. That’s unrealistic and boring, and frankly, whether or not you enjoy olives doesn’t affect me. Likewise, what’s on my plate doesn’t have anything to do with you. Judgment often stems from insecurity, but friend, please feel secure enough in yourself to eat your Hawaiian pizza in piece. I’m not going to judge you, so offer me the same courtesy.

Maybe my Skyline *does* look like doodoo. Maybe I should just toughen up and take the insult. Or maybe you should get your nose out of my chili and channel your energy elsewhere—like climate change, gun control, or hell, that there’s a piece of lettuce hanging out of your teeth.

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Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City restaurants. She used to sling sugary desserts in a pastry kitchen, but now she’s an avid home cook and fanatic baker.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...