Salsa is Ketching Up!

A Brief History

Salsa: it’s one of the most popular condiments used in the United States, outselling even ketchup and mustard. This well-enjoyed sauce is now making its way into tens of thousands of American homes and its popularity is likely to grow in the not-so-distant-future. But what are the origins of this beloved condiment? One need only look back into antiquity in order to discover its Mesoamerican origins. Historians have speculated that it was the Incans who first created salsa and their recipe spread to other Mesoamerican cultures. The recipes between the three people did not vary greatly, nearly each of them containing some form of nightshade fruit as well as a spicy element.

Today, most people are able to get the ingredients for a salsa at their local supermarkets, but it wasn’t quite so convenient for the indigenous Latin American people. Some of the ingredients used by the Aztecs in their variation of the sauce includes tomato, chile, squash, as well as beans. This combination of ingredients would not be christened as “salsa” until 1571 by the Spanish friar Alonso de Molina. It should be noted that the Spaniards ( as well as all other European nations) were not introduced to the nightshade tomatoes until the mid-sixteenth century.

This is a painting depicting the Aztec marketplace the artist is unknown

Paw’s Really Bad Morning

Salsa can be found in almost every corner store in San Antonio, Texas. I cannot speak for any other city, but I know that I always enjoy picking up a jar of mild Pace Picante sauce. You see, to see salsa isn’t just another condiment. One of my fondest memories of the sauce was when I went over to my cousin’s house one weekend and the entire family was there for his son’s birthday party. Now, the morning after everyone had spent the dancing the night away, my tía Chela made salsa rojo to go with the eggs and barbacoa. My PawPaw (grandfather)  took what was clearly a ketchup bottle and poured it all over his eggs. Given that he was still waking up, he hadn’t realized that it was indeed ketchup that he had poured onto his eggs. Meanwhile, my cousin and I poured as much salsa as we possibly could onto our eggs, competing with one another to see who could consume the most without taking a sip of water. Suddenly, we heard my PawPaw crying out that the “salsa” was too spicy for him and that it tasted strange. My cousin and I found ourselves laughing so hard that we were hardly able to breathe! When I informed my PawPaw that he was, in fact, eating ketchup and not salsa he began to laugh. Later that day when we were cooking hamburgers on the grill, we all ridiculed my grandfather and said that we couldn’t handle the mild spiciness from the ketchup. I suppose that’s why I couldn’t help but talk about salsa for this blog post.

The More You Know

Fun Fact: Today there is a tomato festival called La Tomatina held in Buñol, Spain held every August in which the townspeople throw tomatoes at one another. This festival’s origin is still unknown, but there have been numerous theories speculating their origin. One of the most amusing ones, in my opinion, is the story where a musician was supposedly so terrible that people began to throw tomatoes in the street in order to quiet that very musician. If you don’t believe me then I’d like you to check out the video below to see for yourself! Just in case you want to impress your friends, you can tell them that some people are quite passionate about one of the primary ingrdients used in salsa!

5 Replies to “Salsa is Ketching Up!”

  1. It is truly incredible what a little tomato can do. And it is always three pairings when it comes to food. This was a good post, salsa is very common these days, and the ingredients for a simple salsa are easily attainable, in addition, salsa and the rest of the plethora of Mexican recipes that exist today have been recognized by both the UNESCO and the mother kitchen of France as one of the greats. Thanks for the post.

  2. It’s funny that you posted about salsa because at the time of me reading it I had just finished eating a bowl of salsa and chips. I didn’t know that the Aztecs had used much of the same ingredients that we still us today. I can’t think of what San Antonio would be without salsa since it is so deeply ingrained in the culture of the city.

  3. Nicely done article; I never knew that salsa originated from the Incas, as I always thought that it came from the Aztecs or Mayans. Truly, it’s strange to see a town that dedicates a day where people throw tomatoes at each other in Spain. It makes me wonder if the tomatoes that are thrown are expired or if the town just has an endless supply of them.

  4. I think it is interesting how something that was only used by a certain group of people in the past has become a major aspect of American culture. We even put a little of our own take on what salsa can be to us. I actually used to not like salsa as a child, but over the years I have grown to enjoy it with every Tex-Mex meal I have.

  5. First, I love the pun in the title. It really made me laugh. It was an incredible reading that can showcase the demographic trends of America. Ketchup has long been the most popular condiment in America, but salsa has made huge gains. I say that as someone who prefers ketchup.

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