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The History of Mayonnaise

The origins of mayonnaise are a little murky. One version holds that it was created in the mid-1700s by a French chef who, dismayed at the lack of cream during the Seven Years’ War, created a whipped sauce from oil and egg yolks. Another version claims that mayonnaise originated in Spain in the form of salsa mahonesa. We do know that the French popularized the condiment. From there, it spread to England and Germany, then eventually made its way to the United States. By 1838, one of Manhattan’s fanciest restaurants, Delmonico’s, was offering their elite patrons a choice of chicken or lobster served with mayonnaise. In the late 19th century, American home cooks began whipping up their own mayonnaise using oil, vinegar, and eggs. The condiment quickly caught on, and in 1923, President Calvin Coolidge famously claimed that his Aunt Mary’s homemade mayonnaise was his favorite food! In the 1920s, Richard Hellmann (of Hellmann's Mayonnaise) began selling jars of mayonnaise out of his deli in New York. The original jars were adorned with blue ribbons and were large enough to fit a spoon inside for easy dolloping! (Around 1925, he sold two versions; he used a blue ribbon to mark one of them, and it was so in demand that he created the “Blue Ribbon” label still seen on jars today.) But Hellmann’s was not the only jarred mayonnaise on the market; Best Foods was also selling a premade mayonnaise on the West Coast. In 1927, Postum Cereal Company (which later became General Foods) purchased Hellmann’s company. By 1932, the food giant also owned Best Foods. Because Hellmann’s was so beloved, the owners decided to keep both mayonnaise brands in production. Today, Best Foods mayonnaise is sold in the Western U.S. while Hellmann’s is sold east of the Rockies. The two brands make up about 45% of the premade mayonnaise market in the U.S. currently, and there are now several newer brands that are also popular. Hellmann’s even makes a vegan version of their classic mayonnaise, making it clear that this 17th century condiment continues to appeal to the modern palate!

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