The Saga of Chips and Salsa

Salsa (combination of chilies, tomatoes and other spices) can be traced to the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas. The Spaniards first encountered tomatoes after their conquest of Mexico in 1519-1521, which marked the beginning of the history of Salsa sauce.

Aztec lords combined tomatoes with chili peppers, ground squash seeds and consumed them mainly as a condiment served on turkey, venison, lobster, and fish. This combination was subsequently called salsa by Alonso de Molina in 1571.

The primary ingredients used to make tortilla chips and salsa have nourished the people of Texas for centuries; corn, peppers, and tomatoes are all foods that originated in the western hemisphere and were being cultivated by native Americans along the Rio Grande when the Spaniards (who introduced onions to the New World) arrived.

According to the hot sauce history, salsa manufacturing in Texas began in 1947 with David and Margaret Pace and their picante sauce.

Dan Jardine began producing Jardine’s commercial salsa in 1979, giving Austin, Texas the reputation in the history of Salsa Sauce as the hot sauce capital of America. Another Texas company, the El Paso Chili Company, was started in 1980 by Norma and W. Park Kerr.

Salsa is pretty much a food group in Texas. There was a time you would walk into a Mexican food café and promptly be met by the wait staff bearing a glass of water, a bowl of salsa and a basket of tortilla chips.

Now you have to ask for the glass of water seeing that water is the new oil in Texas following years of drought, but at least, for the time being, the bottomless servings of chips and salsa has remained a mainstay for restaurant goers.

The fiery condiment is not hard to make…though the recipe varies from person to person and from mild to five alarm. Although recipes vary, the main ingredients remain constant: tomatoes, chilies, onions. Many add garlic, lime, cilantro, chili powder, cumin and go as far as roast the tomatoes and jalapenos.

Tortilla chips and salsa were designated the official state snack of Texas in 2003. Tortilla chips and salsa are deeply rooted in Texas tradition.