Slathered on hamburgers across the United States of America. Added to coleslaw recipes. In Germany used to dip pomme frites, French fries into. This condiment or sauce is well-known throughout a large percentage of the globe. However, did you know that this white sauce has a tie to the French and Indian or Seven Years War?
Recently I was reading a book, Gibraltar: The Greatest Siege in British History by Roy and Lesley Adkins. When discussing some of the history leading up to the siege of Gibraltar from 1779-1783, the authors referenced an earlier siege, unrelated to Gibraltar actually, and had a note about the creation of mayonnaise.
Like any good historian, I decided to investigate the founding of this sauce that is used so predominantly in America. Below is what I found.
Created for a victory celebration after the French’s successful defeat of the British on the island of Minorca, also spelled Menorca which is the Catalan spelling. The siege and battle had lasted 70 days, from April 20 to June 29, 1756 and had cost the French approximately 3-4,000 casualties. The British loss around 400 men and one of the strategic defenses and the Mediterranean Sea. The French remained in control of the island until the end of the Seven Years’ War. The island recaptured by the Br was returned to the British at the end of the war, trading the island of Guadeloupe for it as part of the peace treaty signed in Paris.
Yet, after the British surrendered Fort St. Philip, in 1756, which protected the town and seaport of Mahon a large victory banquet was held. The French leader, the Duke de Richelieu instructed his chef to to create a feast that would honor the great victory. The island lacked the cream needed for the sauce the chef wanted to make so he invented the egg and oil dressing.
He named the concoction Mahon-aise, after the town he created the sauce in.
Hope you are reading this around lunchtime!
P.S. The author realizes that a few other accounts exist about the creation of the this sauce. Including that the chef of the French duke was told about the sauce by the inhabitants of the island who had already created it.