D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser wrote on her personal Facebook page last night that she was “annoyed” by mumbo sauce, questioning the condiment’s status as a quintessential D.C. food. As far as pieces of divisive rhetoric go, the opinion seems fairly innocuous. Based on the more than 400-plus comments and 300-plus shares, the recently re-elected official struck a nerve.
Carry-outs throughout the District serve the sticky, sweet, and sour sauce with chicken wings and fries. It’s one of the few foods synonymous with a city many outsiders associate with exorbitant expense account meals.
LaToya Foster, Bowser’s press secretary, confirmed the post came from the mayor and issued the following statement on behalf of her boss:
“The Mayor wanted to provide DC residents something to discuss on Thanksgiving beyond the midterm elections, backup quarterbacks and holiday shopping deals. All may participate in the debate; however, DC residents must lead the mumbo sauce portion.”
Quickly skimming the comments shows that many people were not pleased.
It looks like @MayorBowser went ahead and started a citywide Facebook debate on mumbo sauce. It’s as epic a comment thread as you’d expect. pic.twitter.com/JCA1h7WvHf— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) November 21, 2018
A Facebook user listed as Kourtney B wrote, “You are already gentrifying DC, don’t try to now gentrify what is quintessential DC culture. Not necessary. Mumbo Sauce is DC ... CHOCOLATE CITY.”
Jayne Kennedi wrote, “You can’t dismantle or heritage here in DC just because you dont (sic) like the sauce. It IS quintessential DC, just like a cheese steak is Philly, or Cuban food is Miami. Check your ignorance.”
However, as several users pointed out, the history of mumbo sauce aligns with Bowser’s point of view. The sauce was created in Chicago, In 1958, an African-American man named Argia B. Collins registered a trademark for Argia B’s Mumbo Sauce. In 2011, the owner of Capital City Mumbo Sauce sought to have that trademark voided, then lost that battle in court.
Mumbo sauce remains a point of pride for may District residents. As nicer restaurants have attempted to sell their versions of it at higher prices, questions of ownership and appropriation have followed.
It remains unclear how the mayor feels about half-smokes.