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What No One Tells You About TABASCO®

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 By: Brittany Racca

In 1868 Edmund McIlhenny harvested his first tabasco pepper crop from which he created a piquant sauce to enliven the flavors in foods for family and friends. The creation of this simple sauce would unwittingly change the way the world eats forever. Today, 150 years later, the same three ingredients that made his TABASCO® brand Pepper Sauce – tabasco peppers, salt and vinegar – are aged and bottled by Edmund’s family on Avery Island, the process virtually unchanged.

The careful craftsmanship and versatility of TABASCO® sauce has made it a friend of chefs, home cooks, bartenders and food lovers for a century and a half. On the occasion of its 150th anniversary, McIlhenny Company, the maker of TABASCO® Sauce, will mark this historic milestone with a yearlong celebration dedicated to the people who have made “that famous sauce Mr. McIlhenny makes” a staple on tables, indispensable in kitchens and an essential ingredient in classic and contemporary recipes worldwide.

TABASCO® sauce is a uniquely global brand not only for its ubiquity, but also for its versatility. This instantly recognizable pepper sauce is just as at home in main street diners, hole-in-the-wall dives and the finest dining establishments as it is in the home pantries, kitchen tabletops and handbags of food lovers all over the world.

So, what don't they tell you about the famous hot sauce:

  1. TABASCO® is as old as Iberia Parish, with both reaching their 150 year anniversary in 2018.
  2. In 1940 a German U-boat, the U-38, commanded by “ace” German submarine captain Heinrich Liebe, sent 2,160 bottles of TABASCO® brand Pepper Sauce to the bottom of the Atlantic.
  3. TABASCO® sauce has often appeared in movies, from the 1901 silent short "Aunt Jane's Experience with Tabasco Sauce," HBO's "True Blood," Charlie Chaplin's 1936 classic "Modern Times," to 2009's Disney feature "The Princess and the Frog."
  4. The home of TABASCO® sauce, Avery Island, Louisiana, is not an island in the traditional sense.  While it's not surrounded by an open body of water, it is encircled by wetlands -- either grassy marshland, wooded cypress swamp, or muddy, slow-moving bayous.
  5. During the Civil War, Confederate General Richard Taylor, son of US President Zachary Taylor, oversaw the defense of Avery Island and its valuable salt mines. In 1906, Tabasco® heir John Avery McIlhenny married General Taylor's granddaughter, and their son Walter grew up to be a US Marine Corps general and head of McIlhenny Company.
  6. TABASCO® sauce has orbited the Earth aboard Skylab, the Space Shuttle, and the International Space Station. It's also been found in the wreckage of the USS Macon, a rigid airship that crashed into the Pacific Ocean and sank in 1935.
  7. John Avery McIlhenny, son of Tabasco® sauce inventor E. McIlhenny, left McIlhenny Company in 1898 to join Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders volunteer cavalry regiment during the Spanish American War.  Promoted by Roosevelt for gallantry in action, McIlhenny became a confidant of the future US president and later worked for the Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson administrations.
  8. E. A. McIlhenny, another son of TABASCO® sauce inventor E. McIlhenny, grew up on semi-tropical Avery Island, Louisiana, but had a fascination with the Arctic, and went on two arctic expeditions in the 1890s.  When he returned from his second adventure in the far north, he assumed control of McIlhenny Company and ran it for the next 51 years.
  9. TABASCO® brand Pepper Sauce is sold in more than 285 countries and territories, and is labeled in 22 languages and dialects, included two dialects of French and two dialects of Portuguese.
  10. The name "Tabasco" comes from a Mexican-Indian word meaning either “place where the soil is humid” or “place of the coral or oyster shell.”  The Tabasco region of Mexico was renowned in the 1800s for the export of tropical spices and seasonings.

The Iberia Parish Convention & Visitors Bureau will celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week May 6-12, 2018. To celebrate 150 years of both Iberia Parish and Tabasco® brand Pepper Sauce, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser will kick off his statewide tour on Avery Island on May 9 with a special event at Restaurant 1868.

Credit: Facts Provided by Shane Bernard, Ph.D., Historian & Curator for McIlhenny Company