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.
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.