6. The Civil War Made Tabasco Sauce, And Reconstruction Made It Popular
In the 1850s, Edmund McIlhenny was a successful banker. In the 1860s, he was bankrupt. The Civil War had ruined his business. With no more money, he moved back into the home of his parents-in-law on Avery Island, Louisiana.
But his luck was about to turn around. Little did he know, the family’s estate was built on a giant salt rock. He mined the salt and made a fortune selling it to the Confederacy. When the Union found out about this strategic reserve of salt, they attacked his salt mine and burned down his farm twice.
Afraid for their lives, the family was forced to flee to Texas. When McIlhenny returned to Louisiana after the war, he planted a vegetable garden. To pile on the bad news, everything he planted died in the salty, burned ground.
In New Orleans, he met a war veteran who told him about some pepper seeds he had from Mexico. McIlhenny made the first bottle of Tabasco sauce from these seeds. Later, his sons would mass-produce the sauce.
It became a hit because it added some necessary flavor to the bland food available during the Reconstruction. It is the same spice that we put on our bland food today.