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You say chopped tomatoes, I say salsa

December 03, 2003

So I walk into a Taco Del Mar on Broadway in Seattle. I go up to the counter and I order a burrito and two tacos. As the guy is making my burrito, he asks me if I want chopped tomatoes.


"Do you want chopped tomatoes?"

He's holding up a ladle of salsa.

"Sure, I'll have the salsa. "

"It's not salsa," he replies, "it's chopped tomatoes."

My mind is not registering this. Clearly this man is holding up a ladle of salsa, the same thing I always get on my burrito. It's says clearly on the menu that it is salsa. It's the same thing you get when you buy a jar of salsa at the store. In the back of my mind I am thinking about the word salsa. I do not have a very good command of Spanish, but I remember vaguely that the world salsa is Spanish for sauce. I could be wrong. I don't want to argue about what is truly a salsa or a sauce.

"Uh, generally people call that salsa."

"Well, they're wrong. It's not salsa. I work with people born in Mexico and they call it chopped tomatoes and onions."

There is something wrong about a guy who is clearly over the age of 40 working behind the counter of a fast food joint. He's not the manager, he's a recent hire and by the sound of his voice, he will not last very long at the store. When you have enough issues that you argue with customers on whether or not chopped tomatoes, onions and other spices are or are not salsa, you have enough issues to find yourself out of a job. Considering my schedule as of late, I don't really want to argue with a man working at a place that copied San Francisco Mission style burritos, rather poorly I might add, about what is really authentic.

"Well, it says on the menu that it is salsa," I reply, "so it might be less confusing for customers if you just called it salsa."

"Well, it's not salsa," he replies in a very indignant tone.

So then he begins to make my tacos.

He fills the shells with taco meat, cheese, lettuce, then he asks me, "do you want chopped tomatoes?"

"No," I reply, "I want salsa."

"It's NOT salsa, it's chopped tomatoes."

I look at the guy for a second with the ladle in his hand and I replied, "You know,I have better things to do than to put up with your shit." and I walked out of the store, leaving him standing next to his manager holding my taco.

So I walk over to Tacos Guyamas which is across the street. This is an authentic Mission style burrito place that is spreading all over Seattle. It generally has people behind the counter that speak English as a second language. Not that the ability to speak Spanish is any indication of skill in how to make a burrito, any more than the ability to speak Japanese means you can make sushi or assemble cameras. But the people working at Tacos Guyamas are always nice and they carry a fine selection of Mexican sodas.

So I walk up to the counter and I order a burrito.

The guy makes the burrito for me and just before he is done, he holds up a ladle of chopped tomatoes and onions. Then he asks me, "Hey, do you want salsa?"

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