The condiment container that started it all: American Legion Post 1, San Antonio, Texas.
Courtesy of the American Legion.
The condiment containers, now the American Association of Foodservice Professionals, are a staple of America’s favorite dish: Vietnamese food.
They were invented by a group of local Vietnamese foodies, and the first was a small glass bowl.
The American Legion posted photos of the bowl and the other condiment units on its Facebook page on March 4, 2018, the day after the first Vietnamese bowl of pho was introduced.
The bowl and condiment was originally a product of the Vietnam Veterans of America, a group formed by the Vietnamese American community to provide veterans with a healthy, local, and culturally relevant alternative to traditional Vietnamese food, said Emily Cairns, the group’s chief executive officer.
In the 1950s, the Vietnamese Americans started creating small, plastic bowls made of rice, beans, and noodles, said Cairnes, who also founded the Vietnamese food advocacy group VOAVAP.
When the Vietnamese government made pho more expensive in the 1960s, Cairn said, the bowls went to waste.
In 2008, the Vietnam Veteran’s Association of San Antonio purchased a condiment storage unit for the Vietnam American Veterans Center.
The building’s original condiment cabinet is now on display in the lobby.
In 2012, the VOAVA started a campaign to help the Vietnamese community reclaim and use the condiment bowl and other condiments.
“I’m proud to be an American, and I am proud to serve the Vietnamese,” Cairnis said.
“They’ve had their fill of American products and now they’re going to have their fill again of Vietnamese food.”