The U.S. military and hot sauce have a longstanding love affair, whether it’s Texas Pete at the base chow hall — to make your room temperature powdered eggs somewhat edible — or the secret stash of sauces you brought on deployment and jealously guard from your squadmates. (Seriously, bro, get the hell away from my Cholula and Sriracha.)
But few are more instantly recognizable to modern troops, than Tabasco, which fulfills a crucial role, by making bland chow actually taste like something — tangy, hot, burny, doesn’t matter. At least it has a flavor now.
And the hot sauce’s prevalence among downrange troops, is by design:
Today I learned about the Tabasco marketing ploy that created a lifelong military-Tabasco love affair. It started out with a $1 kit to mail to your Soldier in Vietnam—Tabasco and hilarious cookbook included. pic.twitter.com/uIwLC8mzAo
— Miranda Summers Lowe (@Msummerslowe) May 8, 2018
As Task & Purpose’s Sarah Sicard reported last year, not only does Tabasco’s tie to the military date back to the Civil War, but the Vietnam era promotion helped flood the front lines with the bottled flavor enhancer, and the aptly named Charlie Ration Cookbook (Or No Food Is Too Good For The Man Upfront).
The book contains handy little illustrations of spoons and cans, in case you never saw one before, and a helpful note that this plastic spoon can be found in your C-Ration Unit. Plus a few other tips to live by, like only eat fresh fruit and fish. That said, if you do decide to eat questionable flora or fauna, just add more hot sauce, and maybe double up on your allotment of wag bags.
Read the digital copy of The Charlie Ration cookbook in its entirety below, and consider marking down the Tin Can Casserole and Rice Paddy Shrimp for personal use.
H/t to Army National Guard vet Miranda Summers Lowe at the Smithsonian for flagging, and reminding this author that he’s low on hot sauce.