Mayonnaise In Memoriam - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Mayonnaise In Memoriam

Mayonnaise In Memoriam

Published July 7, 2014

Photos by
Matthew Eisman

For just a few weeks in July 2004, an enormous replica of a Gunnars Mayonnaise tub stood alongside Iceland’s national highway (Route 1). The rather sizeable advert was quickly nixed by local authorities, who determined that standing where it did, the tub was in violation of the law, which only allows for “unobtrusive” advertisements to be erected. It was then relocated to the Gunnars company headquarters in Hafnarfjörður, but not before attracting a good deal of local attention, not least from ‘LoveStar’ author Andri Snær Magnason.

Andri Snær’s reflections on the monster mayo were printed in Fréttablaðið in July 2004, and again on his blog after the announcement that Gunnars Mayonnaise had gone bankrupt. Enjoy a translated excerpt of his piece below:

It didn’t remain there long, the giant Gunnars Mayonnaise tub that stood next to the national highway near the Þjórsá River. I’m glad I got the chance to see it before it was removed, because it was just really “beautiful.”

Gunnars Mayonnaise is, in some ways, more Icelandic than the national coat of arms and flag, and it was practically majestic to see the tub perched there with the mountains in the background, having been granted the place of honor it so deserves. Gunnars Mayonnaise has accompanied us from the cradle to the grave, in happiness and sorrow; it has been an essential part of baptismal parties, confirmations, and funeral receptions. This mayonnaise was the first luxury that the public could indulge in after centuries of hardship—with their mouths full of mayonnaise, the people of this nation finally experienced bliss, and old women spread it thick on their sandwich loaves, as if to give to their children what they themselves had always lacked.

Had Andy Warhol been Icelandic, he would have painted pictures of Gunnars Mayonnaise tubs. Jeff Koons would not have sculpted his porcelain statue of Michael Jackson, but rather, a giant replica of Gunnars Mayonnaise, and set it up alongside Highway One. It would have been considered the most precious work of art in Icelandic history.

Why couldn’t the tub stay? No one’s complained about the Coke can in Borganes. Maybe because the mayonnaise tub is a mirror. It’s a symbol of what we don’t want to be anymore, as we race to smear over the past and its poverty. In fact, it’s in mayonnaise that Icelandic tastelessness is crystallized. How could it be anything other than a crime to slather our version of cocktail sauce (mayonnaise mixed with ketchup) on a freshly caught sea trout? We pretend to have changed, serving pesto at confirmation parties, eating our trout raw with rice, white wine, and wasabi…

I hope that the Gunnars Mayonnaise tub isn’t put up outside the company’s headquarters in Hafnarfjörður. It should be given a much-deserved spot on the traffic circle outside the National Museum.

Words Originally By Andri Snær Magnason
Translation By Larissa Kyzer

See also: “More Icelandic Than The Flag”: Gunnars mayonnaise and the Icelandic imagination

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