Sunday, July 10, 2011

On Fresh Salsa


I went to a magnet elementary school in a city in the San Joaquin Valley that used the local university's field for weekend track practice. I didn't run track, but my brother did. His team, a group of multi-ethnic kids from all over the city, looked the children of a UN convention, but sunburned and sweaty.

In the central valley, it gets hot and the sun is inescapable. The metal bleacher benches burned the bottoms of my thighs as I watched practice with my mom. The kids, during and after practice, would chug lukewarm water, but it just seeped right out of their pores immediately. They were water sieves, drinking and sweating and drinking and sweating.

One of the other kids' mothers would always be at practice too, watching and, more importantly to me, making salsa to share. She'd sit on the bleachers next to us with a cutting board on her lap. As she chopped ripe tomatoes, their red-flecked limpid juices would drip, drip, drip off the corner of the board. She'd chop sweet onion and lots of cilantro and toss them into a large bowl with the tomatoes. With the side of her knife, she'd smash garlic cloves, chop them up a bit, and add to the bowl. She'd mince a chile or two then scrape the fiery bits into the mix. In one quick move, she'd slice a lemon in half, and with her strong hands, she'd squeeze it directly into the bowl. She held the salt shaker well above the bowl and shook it so that salt hailed over the whole mixture, lots of salt. Finally, she'd stir the whole mixture together with her hands.

After practice, the kids would crowd around the bowl, shoving tortilla chips into the soupy salty spicy stuff. They'd double dip. Salsa would drip off their chips and down their wrists, to be licked up later. My mom and I would get in on the action too. After all the bits and pieces of were scooped up, several of the kids would share the leftover juices, tipping heads back and the bowl forward to drink directly from it.

This is how I learned to make salsa.

8 comments:

altadenahiker said...

Thanks to you, I had to rush to the shops to buy the only ingredient I don't grow -- Tortilla chips. Oh yeah, and salt.

villager said...

I tell ya, I'd be making salsa too if I hadn't already made a batch earlier today to go with our black beans tonight. Tomatoes, peppers and cilantro from the garden and a big fat clove of just-cured garlic should do the trick!

Soilman said...

Oh. My. God. After reading that I am so desperately hungry I'm going to have to raid the fridge and get fat(ter).

And it's all your fault.

perlita said...

i´m so touched by this woman who makes salsa on the bleachers!

the good soup said...

Christina, gorgeous description. Oh, and you just won Oliver's draw! Congratulations dear.
See my latest post for your prize. Hope you like it.

Gina said...

Oh that sounds so good. I've got about 5 lbs of freshly harvested tomatoes and am going to chop up a whole bunch right now.

And my midwife has instructed to me to eat/drink things like salsa and lemonade to keep my electrolytes in balance. I was only drinking water and apparently not eating enough salt which lead to a form of dehydration because my body couldn't hold onto the water. Sounds like that salsa making mama knew what she was doing!

Christina said...

I hope each of you enjoys your salsa. We've been eating it almost daily over here. Summer sure is good. (And Gina, take care of yourself, lady!)

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

That is just the best salsa story ever! What a popular mom she must have been too!