Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

mayonnaise a famous sauce which is, essentially, an emulsion of olive oil and vinegar (or lemon juice) stabilized with egg yolk and seasoned to taste (usually with salt, pepper, mustard). There are many theories about the origin of its name. For example, Stobart (1980) listed four principal theories. However, as Ayto (1993) puts it:

the explanation now generally accepted, based on the early spelling mahonnaise, is that it originally meant literally ‘of Mahon’, and that the sauce was so named to commemorate the taking of Port Mahon, capital of the island of Minorca, by the duc de Richelieu in 1756 (presumably Richelieu’s chef, or perhaps even the duke himself, created the sauce). English borrowed the word from French in the 1840s (its first recorded user was that enthusiastic gastronome, William Makepeace Thackeray).