ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST POPULAR SAUCES
… was created on June 28, 1756 in the throes of domination on a small Mediterranean island between Spain, England and France. If the battle had ended differently back then, who knows if we would have ever enjoyed it! Thanks to circumstances, today we owe a debt of gratitude to Louis-François-Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, Duke of Richelieu and grand-nephew of Cardinal Richelieu, for the dissemination of the mayonnaise recipe.
It all began when the troops of Louis XV, King of France, under the command of Duke of Richelieu (1696-1788) landed and conquered the Balearic island of Maó (Menorca), which was occupied by England, on April 18th. The little sister island of Mallorca had been occupied by the British since 1708. Historically, the port of Maó was the key to dominating the island. It had always been a coveted strategic base, as it offered refuge for seafarers and entire fleets over a length of 5.5 km, a width of 1.2 km and a depth of up to 30 meters. Its east-west orientation also protects it from the strong Tramontana winds. Today it is considered the largest natural harbor in Europe and the second largest in the world.
To celebrate the victory, a special sauce was served by the French chef which he had seen the locals eat and which was known as Alioli. The duke liked the sauce so much that he took the recipe back to the court of Versailles, where he was not only celebrated as a conqueror and promoted to marshal, but also admired as the discoverer of the “Sauce de Mahón”. It quickly became “Mahonnaise” and then “Mayonnaise” because of the almost unpronounceable “Hs” for the French. The delicate sauce made from oil, egg yolk, salt and vinegar or lemon was soon considered a select French delicacy and became so popular that it spread beyond the borders of Europe.
The fact that, just a few years later in 1763, Menorca was again granted to Great Britain in the Peace Treaty of Paris did not stop her triumphant advance. 19 years later, Spanish-French troops recaptured the island and it was formally returned to Spain at Versailles in 1783. However, the British could not help it and from 1798 to 1802 Menorca was again occupied by the British.
WHAT MAKES MAYONNAISE SO TASTY?
Mayonnaise is an emulsion of egg yolk and oil. Oil will slowly disappear as the yolk is vigorously whipped, breaking up the oil into tiny droplets which are then suspended in the yolk. Thousands of tiny oil droplets create the mayonnaise’s creamy, white color.
Aioli and mayonnaise are similar but have distinct differences. Aioli is a cold cream that comes from the Mediterranean region, mainly from Provence and Catalonia. Traditional aioli is presented in an emulsion made only with garlic and extra virgin olive oil, which gets its light color from the emulsification of the two ingredients with a little coarse salt. However, garlic does not have strong emulsification and it takes a lot more olive oil to emulsify into the garlic, especially when using a mortar and pestle as in the traditional preparation method. Therefore, other ingredients are sometimes added. Bread is a common emulsifier, as are egg yolks. Even with egg yolk, it is still very different from mayonnaise because of the strong garlic flavor and the use of extra virgin olive oil, which has a distinct flavor of its own. Both have their own particular flavor and are very popular in Spain.
The article was first published in the Issue 20