The website for Hellman’s Mayonnaise tells us that mayonnaise is the invention of the chef of the Duke of Richelieu in 1756. While the Duke was defeating the British at Port Mahon (in Minorca, now part of Spain) in the opening conflict of the Seven Years’ War in Europe, “his chef was creating a victory feast that included a sauce made from cream and eggs. When the chef realized that there was no cream in the kitchen he improvised, substituting olive oil for the cream. A new culinary masterpiece was born, and the chef named it ‘Mahonnaise’ in honor of the Duke’s victory.”
Before the advent of food processors, making mayonnaise from scratch was a laborious process that required oil to be beaten drop by drop into raw eggs until the mixture thickened. Nevertheless, until commercial mayo was widely available, cooks did make it by hand. More than a century after the chef’s improvisation at Mahon, German immigrant Richard Hellman became known for the salads he served in his Columbus Avenue deli in New York City. Correctly assuming that his wife’s mayonnaise was responsible for his success, he began selling it in large glass jars with mouths wide enough to accommodate a large spoon. They were displayed on his countertop tied with blue ribbons. (I wonder if his poor wife did all of the beating for this enterprise by hand?) In 1915 Hellman abandoned the deli business to devote himself full time to making and marketing mayonnaise in jars with labels that still sport blue ribbons.