Mayonnaise-like mixtures of olive/vegetable oil and egg were made in ancient Egypt and Roman times, but the refinement with added lemon juice plus seasoning was developed by a French chef much later on in culinary history.
The French, led by Louis-François-Armand de Vignerot du Plessis expelled the English from the Balearic island of Menorca in 1756. Following the capture of the capital Mahón, a celebratory banquet took place.
The chef was Marie Antoine Carême who was an exceptionally precise chef and is considered today to be the founding father of French Cuisine. On this occasion however, the story goes that he found himself short on cream when needing to make a sauce. Classically, sauces were made by mixing eggs with cream. So he substituted olive oil for cream and blended the egg yolks and olive oil to an emulsion and quite by chance, he had invented a mayonnaise.
He named the new sauce Mahónnaise in honour of Mahón and took it back to France. There are several stories on how the ‘naise’ on the end came about. Some discard that Carême had anything to do with it altogether, instead suggesting that a Catalan condiment called Salsa Mahonesa was taken by the Spanish to Menorca when they took the island from the English.
Nobody can love food more than the French but one theory purports that during the Seven Year War, the French took the opportunity to invade Menorca to claim salsa mahonesa for themselves but it seems a bit far fetched even for the French.
An old French word for the yolk of an egg is ‘moyeu’. This theory states that the word mayonnaise is a derivative of moyeunaise. If it is accepted that Carême brought Mahónnaise to France in 1756 then he may well have considered naming the condiment moyeunaise or perhaps he saw that Mahónnaise was a quirky play on moyeunaise due to the town he had just come from.
Either way, the story of who named it or where the name came from seems to be irrelevant. Was mayonnaise invented by Carême or was salsa mahonesa already invented in Spain that is the big question. There is no doubt that France popularised mayonnaise around the world but the subject doesn’t rest here.
Because there is a gap of fifty years between the battle of Mahón and the appearance of mayonnaise in textual records, the possible origins are still up for debate. Some Spanish are calling to bannish the word mayonnaise in favour of only using salsa mahonesa. There is even claim that mayonnaise is mentioned in an English text dating to the sixteenth century.
To add more drama to an already very contentious discussion, there is a town in the South of France almost at the Spanish border, called Bayonne. The theory around 1800 was that Bayonnaise was the name of the condiment but various French accents roughly turned the B to an M.
The oil and egg mixtures from ancient Egypt and Rome had to travel westward at some point and so it is likely this arrived in Spain with the Moors in the form of an oil, garlic and salt emulsion called allioli, in Catalan. It’s possible this travelled northwards to France and maybe Bayonne itself, where Carême had already introduced his Mahónnaise. The French decided either to add egg yolk or to add garlic to their Mahónnaise. and called it aïoli. This is my theory.
Gaius Plinius Secundus, better known in historical texts as Pliny the Elder, published Naturalis Historia around AD 77–79, acknowledged as one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire. As well as a writer Pliny was a Roman Commander. During his spell as the Roman procurator in Tarragona, a prime city of Catalunia, he wrote about garlic for the Naturalis Historia.
Aïoli is a Roman sauce which they knew by the name of “aleatum”. The ancient condiment arrived in Spain either by the Romans or the Moors or it arrived in France by returning Crusaders. It would seem plausible that Carême when caught without cream in Mahón knew of aïoli and instead of garlic he used egg, and voila! When he returned to France his message was probably “try making that with some egg yolks instead of garlic.
So it’s unlikely that the invention of mayonnaise is attributable solely to Marie Antoine Carême. The answer lies in the history of sauces. Civilisations all over were blending oils with garlic, salt, eggs, whatever. At some point ideas crossed borders and at another point civilisations advanced in their cuisine classified these and refined the recipes.
Marie-Antoine Carême was an early exponent of the grande cuisine style of cooking. His ideas were new and his rules uncomplicated, such as the forbidding of meat and fish on the same plate. In his book ‘L’Art de la Cuisine Français’, he refined the art of garnish.
In these respects he brought the French styles together that had developed through the Middle Ages and forged La Grande Cuisine Française, from which nouvelle and haute cuisines derived from. For the next 200 years the French cuisine was supreme across Europe.
He was a food writer too and was able to communicate his ideas far and wide. For example he regarded Roman cuisine as barbaric and so he single-handedly moved French cuisine apart from anything that had been known before.
He made edible sculptures for the table, classified French sauces into four categories, promoted cold meats and buffet food, wrote books on the history of French cookery and made rules on how to work in the kitchen, for example the white chef jackets and tall hats still worn today were introduced by him.
Carême worked for royalty in England then Russia, Vienna and Paris. On his death in 1833 a plaster cast was made of his head and he was subsequently buried at the Cimetière de Montmartre.
François Pierre de la Varenne was the author of Le Cuisinier françois (1651), the founding text of modern French cuisine. Until now French food was of Italian influence, la Varenne created a French identity aside from the practices followed during the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods.
The work allowed leading chefs to put down what was classically French and so the work was written by and intended for professionals.
The history of modern French sauces began during this period, during the reign of Louis XIV. Mayonnaise is one of the five mother sauces (sauces mères) which also include sauce espagnole, tomato sauce, béchamel, velouté and hollandaise.
Recipe for White Sauce François Pierre de la Varenne’s Le Cuisinier françois
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp vinegar
¼ tbsp salt
¼ tbsp freshly-grated nutmeg
1. Melt the butter in a small pan until it is bubbling and turning slightly brown.
2. Take off the heat and whisk in the vinegar, salt and nutmeg.
3. Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks in a bowl and still whisking vigourously add the butter and vinegar mixture a few drops at a time.
If all goes well the mixture should emulsify and yield an even creamy, yellow, sauce. This is not an easy sauce for the beginner to make and you can cheat by placing the egg yolks, vinegar and spices in a blender. Blitz together then add the molten butter a little at a time, using the blender to merge with the egg yolks. This yields a perfect sauce that will not split for several hours.
A round 1900 another great French chef Georges Auguste Escoffier simplified and refined Carême’s philosophy even further. Sometimes called the king of chefs, he modernised haute cuisine which became known as cuisine classique.
His ideas were noticeable departures from previous methods but soon became standards for the world of haute cuisine.
Up to now the restaurant served all parts of a meal at the same time placing strain on the kitchen and the guests. Escoffier separated the menu into courses allowing kitchen staff to work in teams and to be overseen by a Head Chef. He simplified food service by advocating the use of seasonal ingredients and the abandonment of elaborate garnishes.
Escoffier published his guide ‘Le Guide Culinaire’ in 1903.
His career spanned from the age of twelve to age seventy-four. He was the first chef to be appointed to the newly built Savoy hotel in Picadilli and he created the famous péche Melba in honour of the famous singer Nellie Melba when she was staying there in 1893.
W ritings on the history of mayonnaise refer to Mahón as a place of no culinary significance, however wild garlic grows freely and may have flavoured many a Roman dish. The environmental conditions are such that cows and sheep produce milk with a uniquely high acidity and saltiness.
The taste is very particular, slightly acidic and salty, but not buttery. It can be milky and humid when fresh, and dry, strong and piquant as the ageing grows.
Mahón being a port as well as the capital, has always conducted all external trade. It’s not difficult to imagine a prosperous trading enterprise similar to Crete, also a strategic island in the Mediterranean.
The agriculture and dairy farming are documented in texts dating from the thirteenth century. The Moors and the Romans both settled here.
There are many varieties of cheese on the island and queso de Mahón (cheese of Mahón) is the name given to all cow’s milk cheeses exported from Menorca.
In Menorca dairy production is only second to tourism with over 600 farms across an island barely 800 squar kilometers in size.
Kartoffelsalat, a Russian salad, basically vegetables mixed in mayonnaise topped with boiled eggs. A salad of cooked eggs served with a sauce of raw eggs.
Statin drugs for cholesterol are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. While statins are generally quite well-tolerated, the most common side effects are related to the skeletal muscles, a condition called statin myopathy.
What Are the Symptoms of Statin Myopathy?
Statin myopathy generally takes one of three forms:
Myalgia – muscle pain – is experienced by 2% to 10% of patients taking the drugs. Statin-induced myalgia is generally experienced as a soreness, usually in the shoulders and arms, or the hips and thighs. It is often accompanied by mild weakness.
Myositis – muscle inflammation – occurs in about one in 200 patients taking statins. Myositis causes myalgias (as described above) and an elevation in CK levels (a muscle enzyme) in the blood. The elevation in CK indicates that actual muscle damage is occurring.
Rhabdomyolysis is severe muscle injury – essentially a massive breakdown of muscle tissue – resulting in a large release of muscle protein into the bloodstream, which can produce severe kidney damage and death. Rhabdomyolysis, fortunately, is very rare, with roughly one case occurring for every 10 million statin prescriptions written.
Muscle problems, if they are going to occur, usually begin within a few weeks to a few months after starting statin therapy. The statin-related myalgia and myositis will both resolve within a few weeks if statin therapy is discontinued. Unless it is severe enough to cause death, rhabdomyolysis will also resolve after the statin is stopped.
Why Can Statins Cause Muscle Problems?
While there are several theories, nobody knows for sure.
Statin myopathy probably has to do with changes in how the muscles produce or process energy. So far, scientists have not been able to take it much further than that with any degree of confidence.
The theory that has gained the most traction with the public is that statins might interfere with the production of CoQ10, a coenzyme in the muscles. CoQ10 helps the muscles use the energy they need to function. Some small studies have suggested that taking CoQ10 supplements might reduce the incidence of statin-related muscle problems, but the data (both on whether statins actually reduce CoQ10 levels and on whether CoQ10 supplementation helps) is really quite weak.
Read more about CoQ10 and statins.
Muscle problems with statins are more common in patients who are also taking Lopid (gemfibrozil).
Patients with chronic kidney disease, liver disease or hypothyroidism are more likely to experience muscle problems with statins, as are people who have preexisting muscle disease.
Some statins appear more likely to produce muscle problems than others. In particular, the incidence of muscle problems may be higher with high-dose simvastatin (brand name Zocor) than other statin drugs. For this reason, in June 2011, the Food and Drug Administration recommended that the dose of simvastatin be limited to 40 mg per day. At this dose, the incidence of muscle problems with simvastatin does not appear to be especially high.
The risk of experiencing muscle side effects appears to be substantially less with Lescol (fluvastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin) and probably Crestor (rosuvastatin). If mild muscle-related side effects occur with other statins, switching to one of these drugs can often resolve the problem.
Statin myopathy is somewhat more likely in people who engage in vigorous exercise, especially if they do so without building up to it with sufficient training.
While muscle side effects are the most common problem seen with statins, these side effects are relatively infrequent in people who do not have additional risk factors, and when they occur they are almost always reversible. Life-threatening muscle problems from statins are extremely rare.
Still, if you are taking a statin drug you should be aware of the possibility of developing muscle pain or weakness, and if these symptoms occur you should bring them to the attention of your doctor.
Several studies have shown that patients treated with statin drugs have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. While doctors were initially reluctant to accept the association between statins and diabetes, over the last few years the evidence has become quite solid. People who take statins are more likely to develop diabetes.
However, the common feeling among experts has been that, because statins are used in patients who have significant risk factors for heart disease, these are people who likely have a much higher baseline risk of developing diabetes.
So, the thinking has gone, perhaps the statins are just accelerating the inevitable a little bit.
Read about assessing your risk of heart disease.
But a study published in April, 2015 appears to throw some cold water on this soothing speculation.
Investigators writing in the Journal of General Internal Medicine looked at the records of healthy statin users in the Veterans Administration system, and compared them to similar patients not taking statins. By “healthy,” they meant patients who had no known cardiovascular disease or diabetes, or any other serious chronic diseases.
They found that, during follow-up, patients taking statins had an 85% increased risk of developing diabetes compared to non-statin users. They also had an increased risk of developing complications from their diabetes – and more of them became overweight or obese.
Read about the complications of diabetes.
What This Means
This is a retrospective study, so it does not prove anything. However, it suggests two things that are new.
First, the risk of diabetes in statin users may not be limited to the sickest patients, that is, to patients who may already have a greatly increased risk of developing diabetes. Even the relatively healthy statin users appear to have this risk.
Second (and this may be the more surprising and disturbing finding), when diabetes occurs while taking statins, the risk of developing the complications of diabetes may be higher than among non-statin users. So, if statins do cause diabetes, it’s not some “milder” form of the disease (as has been speculated). It’s real, honest-to-goodness diabetes.
The Bottom Line
The experts on preventive cardiology are not going to change any of their recommendations based on one retrospective analysis, and we should not expect them to.
People who already have coronary artery disease (CAD), especially survivors of myocardial infarction or acute coronary syndrome, still have a strong reason to take statins. Despite the risk of diabetes (and the other risks associated with these drugs), their overall risk of experiencing further cardiovascular events or death is significantly reduced by statins.
It does make sense, however, to take this new information into account if you and your doctor are considering statins for primary prevention, that is, if you have risk factors for CAD, but no overt heart disease. These are the “healthy” patients analyzed in this new study, and whose risk of diabetes appeared to be increased by statins.
The experts, whose job it is to weigh all the evidence then make recommendations for the whole population, generally will not give much if any credence to unproven associations like this one. And, based on well-conducted clinical trials, the use of statins for primary prevention makes a lot of sense. But your job is to weigh the risk/benefit ratio for you yourself – so it’s perfectly acceptable for you to include risks that have not yet been proven in definitive clinical trials.
This was not the first time statins had been implicated in memory loss. Numerous anecdotal reports have claimed that taking statins can produce memory loss and cognitive decline, and that these problems may be subtle and insidious in onset.
In response to such allegations, investigators conducted a careful review of the medical literature, and published their results in in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2013. These investigators found no association between statins and mental problems.
However, they also admitted that none of the major randomized trials with statins had systematically looked for cognitive decline, which again, is said to be often subtle. So, they concluded, no definitive statement could be made one way or the other.
Many doctors have used the results of the Annals review to definitively deny that statins can cause cognitive decline, and they tell their patients not to be concerned about it.
But this response is inappropriate. The fact is that this issue has simply not been adequately evaluated in clinical trials. We have not yet proven that statins either do or do not cause cognitive difficulties.
While we wait for the proverbial “more studies,” what should doctors and patients do about the possibility that statins might sometimes produce memory deficits?
First, keep in mind that even if it turns out that statins can really cause this problem, the incidence appears to be quite low, and apparently the problem is said to be reversible. That is, it seems to go away if statins are stopped.
Second, add the potential for cognitive problems to the list of reasons you should not take statins (or any other drug) unless there’s a really good reason to do so.
Read about the guidelines for using statins.
Third, if you or a loved one are taking a statin and notice some change in cognitive ability, bring it to the attention of your doctor right away. And remind him or her that there is indeed at least a possibility that the statin may be the culprit.
Finally, don’t stop taking your statins without talking to your doctor.
Read what makes statins different from other cholesterol drugs.
What is Cholesterol ?
Heart Disease may well be the biggest killer, but cholesterol is not the culprit. You don’t get cholesterol just by eating fatty foods; it is a natural substance made in almost every cell of your body and is needed for growth, development and metabolism.
Cholesterol converts sunlight to vitamin D to support the immune system, makes sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone,) makes vital semi-permeable membranes for your trillions of cells, and bile salts for digestion and to absorb fats. Even your brain makes cholesterol and uses it to build connections between the neurons that facilitate learning and memory. Cholesterol is a necessity and not something that is introduced into the body that needs to be aradicated.
Your cholesterol production depends on how much you need. Cholesterol in your diet means the body needs to produce less. The brain alone demands 25% of cholesterol reserves and cholesterol is linked to brain function, so too little means poorer cognitive performance.