Béchamel is derived differently depending on where you come from. Italian legend says that women used to use a similar sauce on their faces to make them soft. There were some milk sauces in the cookery of the Middle Ages, but the french béchamel sauce was created in the 17th century by high wire financier Louis de Béchameil (for which the sauce is now named). He created it with shallots, white roux, and fresh cream.

Currently in France, béchamel in general still refers to a white sauce, though some chefs still distinguish between white sauces made with cream and those made with milk. Either way it starts with vegetables sautéed in butter which are then sprinkled with flour and cooked into a white roux. Then scaleded milk is added to make it a sauce. Many cookbooks have cannabelized this creation by replacing the vegetables with a lonely onion and some nutmeg. However, that ignores the sauce's origin and flavor.