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Get Your Salsa On (And I don’t Mean the Dance)

March 23, 2010

Last weekend my best friend Megan and I had some friends from high school visit. We decided that a seven hour drive, navigating the sketchy streets of Cleveland, and basically making it alive warranted a hot meal, so we set to work making a menu and buying the groceries. While I had no preference as to what we should make, Megan felt the urge to “follow her Mexican heritage” and make fresh pico de gallo and guacamole to start the night off. We spent twenty minutes in Zagara’s produce aisle feeling every single avocado for the perfect softness.  We bought fresh sweet onions, cilantro, lemons, vine ripened tomatoes,and every single pepper they had to offer.  We just bought what we thought would be enough. When I asked Megan about measurements, she scoffed and walked in the opposite direction; clearly I had no idea what I was doing.

We made it back to her apartment with all the food. I was instructed to “sit and chop”.  An hour later, everything was chopped to the perfect size, my eyes were tearing up from the onions, and my fingers burned the slow burn of a person who hadn’t worn gloves to chop the insanely hot peppers Megan insisted on putting into her salsa.

But as we started to mix the colorful ingredients together, I saw the flavors come together. The cilantro and lemon had an almost acidic smell, while the hot peppers added a spice that lingered in your nose, and the onions and green pepper gave a subtle sweetness to the dish overall. It was amazing! I kept thinking that if every salsa I bought in the stores smelled and tasted like this I would never eat anything else.  I started to wonder where all the fresh salsa had gone.

The New York Times article “Rediscovering Salsa” talks about how there is a discourse now between the United States and Mexico about what is food Mexican food.  Apparently Americans eat way to much salsa, and with all the wrong things. Americans eating chips smothered in salsa was compared to Mexicans drinking entire bottles of salad dressing. As I was eating the pico de gallo that Megan and I made I realized that she had put everything into her salsa that was considered classic.  I felt proud to say that I had helped make such an amazing addition to the meal.

I would like to say that from now on I will always make fresh salsa, full of heat and flavor.  But I also know there will be times when for the sake of convenience I will run to the store and buy a bottle of Pace.  Even so I thank Megan for making real salsa a part of my life!

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