A History of Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise!  Condiment of Genius!  You are the base for my favorite summer salads, the lubrication in my sandwiches, and the delicious topping on my fries!  Some may hate you, may wrinkle up their nose in disgust at your whipped ingredients, but oh how I love you!  Ketchup cannot hold a candle to you.  Mustard need not apply.  It’s you, Mayonnaise, you all the way!

So yes, I have a thing for mayo.  I always have.  But I’ve always been a little curious.  How was this delicious and dangerous treat invented?  Who came up with the idea of whipping eggs and oil together to make a creamy, dreamy, all-purpose treat?  I want to shake their hand.  But where would I have to go to do that?

Here’s the answer.

There are many theories of how mayonnaise came about.  One theory is that it was invented in Spain in the town of Mahon and was originally known as “Salsa Mahonesa”.  It was brought to France in 1756 by Armand de Vignerot du Plessis after his victory over the British at sea near the port of Mahon.  There the name was Frenchified to mayonnaise.  Another theory has it originating in France and was named after Charles de Lorraine, duke of Mayenne, who was known to eat his chicken with “a cold sauce”.  Mayonnaise.  Still another theory has it originating in England as early as 1459 when a chef was attempting to make some sort of custard and ended up with mayonnaise instead.

It’s far more likely that mayonnaise probably existed in some form for a long, long time in cultures where olive oil was prevalent.  It’s not that hard to mix oil and eggs together to come up with a sauce.  The rest of mayonnaise’s ingredients are variable depending on where you are, from vinegar to lemon juice with various herbs thrown in to taste.

Richard Hellmann, father of mayonnaise

The Story of Mayonnaise in America, however, is particularly dear to my heart.  Because the first mayonnaise to be commercially marketed in America originated in my very own Philadelphia.  In 1907 a woman by the name of Amelia Schlorer began selling jars of the mayonnaise that she used in her family’s deli salads.  Mrs. Schlorer’s Mayonnaise became a local sensation.  The family delicatessen grew into the Schlorer Delicatessen Company.  At roughly the same time an east coast competitor rose up in New York City.  This mayonnaise was created in another small family deli.  That family’s name was Hellmann.  Hellmann’s Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise was originally sold in wooden “boats” starting in 1912.  The recipie was bought by Best Foods company, the largest and most popular mayonnaise manufacturer on the west coast, in 1932.

Hellmann’s is “the good man-yays”, as my favorite commercials from years ago tell it.  Really, as far as I’m concerned, Hellmann’s is the ONLY mayonnaise.  Kraft Mayonnaise can’t hold a candle to it.  And forget that vile creation known as Miracle Whip.  It’s a travesty of mayonnaise justice.  But you should also know that so-called “light mayonnaise” isn’t actually mayonnaise at all.  Nope.  It is a concoction that owes its consistency to starches and cellulose gel.  It’s nowhere near the real thing.  And really, why eat starch and other artificial ingredients when you can have the real thing?

Now I am often criticized and sneered at for eating mass quantities of mayonnaise on my French fries.  But guess what?  That’s how most of Europe does it.  Ketchup on fries, in my humble opinion, is gross.  In fact, I’m of the opinion that ketchup is just gross period.  But I guess you’re either a mayonnaise girl or a ketchup girl.  And yes, mayonnaise is fattening.  But so is a lot of other stuff.  A sandwich just isn’t a sandwich without MAYONNAISE!

So you can keep your other condiments.  It’s mayonnaise for me.

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6 thoughts on “A History of Mayonnaise

  1. Ok, you are about the only person I know who could make mayonaise fun and interesting! My husband loves the stuff, I was never a fan until I started making some from scratch. Of course I think what he usually used was that Kraft product you are so fond of…

    And you will have to try some honest to goodness homemade from the garden ketchup sometime. It is the difference between Miracle Whip and the good stuff IMO. That squirt bottle stuff from hi fructose corn syrup is a travesty too.

  2. I made my own mayo by hand once. The mixing was exhausting. At my parents’ house, my mom buys Miracle Whip and calls it mayonnaise as if they’re same. Absolutely bonkers.

  3. I was raised on miracle whip. I tried mayonnaise before, liked it on my subway subs but for sandwiches I still preferred miracle whip. Then I met, moved in with, and married my husband who hates miracle whip.

    We ran out of my miracle whip and didn’t have grocery money to go get more at the time. I used his mayonnaise instead. For about a month. Hellman’s. By the time we could afford miracle whip I sent to buy it only to discover…damn that stuff is nasty! Why did I ever like it?! My husband was tickled to convert me lol.

    I must say, however, that I still love ketchup, it’s one of my favourite dips/sauces. The look people gave you about your mayo fries? Yeah, I got that same look for putting ketchup on Arby’s roast beef sandwiches. Yum (for me anyway). Never had homemade ketchup though. I’d prolly like it too. In my defense, I’m not as bad as some people with ketchup. I don’t put it on steaks and what not.

  4. Thank you for detailing the dark history of the rise of the white slime. People need to know how this condiment overtook our shores. You discovered the roots of the movement , including the evil French influence.

    • Oh no! Mayonnaise is delicious! It’s the best stuff ever. Not like that nasty pretend “mayonnaise spread” some people try to torture others by putting on sandwiches instead. XP

  5. Reblogged this on Merry Farmer and commented:

    Since I was away at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference this past weekend, I didn’t have a chance to write a new history blog post. But rather than leaving you high and dry, I thought I’d recycle one of my favorite history blog posts from the last few years. Ah, mayonnaise! It’s mayonnaise-based salad season! Woo hoo!

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