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9 Spicy Things You Didn’t Know About Salsa

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Without it, a tortilla chip is just a tortilla chip, and a taco just isn’t a taco. America’s love of salsa has come a long way over the past few decades, and today many know it as a fresh, ever-evolving creation that its bland moniker—Spanish for “sauce”—doesn’t even begin to describe. But while you may know the difference between pico de gallo and mole and whether you prefer it hot, mild, or medium, there’s still a lot you probably don’t know about salsa.

1. WE MAKE IT A LOT LIKE THE AZTECS DID.

Tomatoes and chilies were first domesticated in Latin America thousands of years ago, and the Aztecs were the first to combine these two elements, along with a few other choice ingredients, to make what we now call salsa. In the Florentine Codex, one of the earliest accounts of Aztec life, a Spanish missionary described a local salsa vendor who sold ingredients that are still popular today, including “tomatoes, with smoked chile, with hot chile, with yellow chile, with mild red chile sauce.”

2. MEXICANS FIND OUR SALSA EATING HABITS STRANGE.

Wolfing down bowls of salsa with chips is a foreign concept for many Mexicans, who prefer their salsas in moderation. As a chef in Oaxaca told The New York Times, “Watching someone shovel in salsa with tortilla chips is strange to Mexicans. Like how an American would feel watching someone drink salad dressing out of the bottle.”

3. A SYRUP MAKER PRODUCED THE FIRST COMMERCIALLY SUCCESSFUL SALSA IN THE U.S.

The Pace family made their name producing cane molasses in Alexandria, Louisiana. After serving as a pilot during World War II, David Pace moved to San Antonio, Texas and began manufacturing syrup, along with a few other foods like jam, salad dressing, pickles, and salsa. Pace loved his chile salsa so much that he decided to jettison all other products and focus on that alone. He called it Pace Picante, and today it’s still one of the country’s top-selling salsa labels.

4. IT BECAME AMERICA’S TOP-SELLING CONDIMENT 25 YEARS AGO.

In 1991, sales of bottled salsa overtook ketchup, which came as a shock to many, including George Costanza. According to the media at the time, this signaled Latin America’s arrival as a major cultural influence in America. To Jerry Seinfeld, though, it was just a sign that people love to say salsa.

5. PICO DE GALLO SALSA MEANS “ROOSTER’S BEAK SALSA.”

The translation might sound odd, but this salsa variety has become seriously popular in American restaurants like Chipotle. Made from fresh diced tomatoes, onion, jalapeños, and cilantro, its name originates from the traditional method of eating it with just two fingers—a motion that resembled the pecking of a rooster's beak.

6. THE DANCE TOOK ITS NAME FROM THE SAUCE.

Salsa dancing blended elements of Hispanic, Caribbean, and African dance moves as it took shape in 1970s New York. The name, according to author Juliet McMains, was a commercial shorthand club owners and record companies used to promote the music as soulful and spicy, just like the sauce.

7. THE FRENCH MAKE SALSA WITH CORNICHON PICKLES AND KETCHUP.

America isn’t the only country with its own spin on salsa. In Europe, where Latin American cuisine is beginning to grow in popularity, salsas often incorporate local ingredients. In Japan, meanwhile, you can find Mexican restaurants that use kewpie mayo and shishito peppers in their salsa.

8. TACO BELL’S FIRST SALSA WAS ORIGINALLY CHILI DOG SAUCE.

Glen Bell, the company’s founder, started out serving hot dogs and running miniature golf courses. So he wasn’t exactly steeped in Mexican food culture when he opened Taco Bell. Instead of developing a new salsa for his tacos, he just transferred the sauce he used on his chili dogs. His customers, who were just as ill-versed in Mexican cuisine as he was, didn’t know the difference. It was the first of many less-than-authentic steps for a company that now serves chicken biscuit tacos.

9. IT’S OFFICIALLY A VEGETABLE, ACCORDING TO THE USDA.

Back in 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture made the designation, clearing the way for schools to use and promote its consumption. It was yet another victory for salsa over ketchup, which tried and failed to gain the same designation during the Reagan administration.

All images via iStock.

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Alexa Can Now Help You Find a Wine Pairing
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Even if you enjoy wine regularly, you may not know exactly how you’re supposed to pair it with food. But you don’t have to be a sommelier to put together a good pairing at home. According to Lifehacker, you can just ask Alexa.

An Alexa skill called Wine Finder is designed to help you figure out which wine varietal would go best with whatever food you’re planning to eat. You just have to ask, “What wine goes well with … ”

Created by an app developer called Bloop Entertainment, the Amazon Echo skill features a database with 500 wine pairings. And not all of them are designed for someone working their way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The skill will also help you find the proper pairing for your more casual snacks. In one demo, the skill recommends pairing nachos with a Sauvignon blanc or Zinfandel. (Note that the latter also goes well with Frito pie.)

You can also ask it to find you the perfect wine to drink with apple pie and pizza, in addition to the meats, cheeses, and other wine-pairing staples you might expect. However, if you ask it what to pair with hot dogs, it says “water,” which is an affront to hot dog connoisseurs everywhere.

There are a few other wine-pairing skills available for Alexa, including Wine Pairings, Wine Pairings (two different skills), and Wine Expert. But according to user reviews, Wine Finder is the standout, offering more and higher-quality suggestions than some of the other sommelier apps.

It’s free to enable here, so drink up.

[h/t Lifehacker]

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Elsie Hui, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Sam's Club Brings $.99 Polish Hot Dogs to All Stores After They're Cut From Costco's Food Courts
Elsie Hui, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Elsie Hui, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In early July, Costco angered many customers with the announcement that its beloved Polish hot dog was being removed from the food court menu. If you're someone who believes cheap meat tastes best when eaten in a bulk retail warehouse, Sam's Club has good news: The competing big box chain has responded to Costco's news by promising to roll out Polish hot dogs in all its stores later this month, Business Insider reports.

The Polish hot dog has long been a staple at Costco. Like Costco's classic hot dog, the Polish dog was part of the food court's famously affordable $1.50 hot dog and a soda package. The company says the item is being cut in favor of healthier offerings, like açai bowls, organic burgers, and plant-based protein salads.

The standard hot dog and the special deal will continue to be available in stores, but customers who prefer the meatier Polish dog aren't satisfied. Fans immediately took their gripes to the internet—there's even a petition on Change.org to "Bring Back the Polish Dog!" with more than 6500 signatures.

Now Sam's Clubs are looking to draw in some of those spurned customers. Its version of the Polish dog will be sold for just $.99 at all stores starting Monday, July 23. Until now, the chain's Polish hot dogs had only been available in about 200 Sam's Club cafés.

It's hard to imagine the Costco food court will lose too many of its loyal followers from the menu change. Polish hot dogs may be getting axed, but the popular rotisserie chicken and robot-prepared pizza will remain.

[h/t Business Insider]

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