Day 3 - Salsa, Tacos, and Community
If I hadn't decided to walk into New Leaf Market to get a coffee even though I'd given up coffee and would later take one sip and throw it away, I wouldn't have run into Mrs. A. I saw her in the produce section and I started to jump up and down and then announced I'd peed on myself. Mrs. A. hugged me anyway. That's the kind of person she is.
We did our so so so happy to see you after all this time talk and she asked me if I was free the next day for lunch to come to Taco Tuesday and I said, duh, Yes.
A man had been making his way around us this whole time, picking out tomatoes and greens and as he walked away, he said, I love you guys. Sometimes I adore Santa Cruz so much I want to split open.
I met Mrs. A. about seventeen years ago when her son and my daughter were in preschool together in Saratoga. Mrs. A. and her husband were both ceramics teacher at local high schools, and soon we were planning our children's wedding to each other.
Mrs. A is a force. Fifteen years ago she went to the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, a woman with a cooler of homemade salsa, and she was awarded one of the top ten foods out of eighty thousand participants. This means instant success, fame, and cashola, right?
Well, let me tell you this: Mrs. A's Famous Salsa Buena is a family business. A family of forces. There's Ralph, her husband, Gabe, her son, and Lorena, the nearly-family member. Ralph retired a couple of years ago so he could put both shoulders to the salsa wheel, but Mrs. A. still teaches. What this means is that, during the school year, two days a week she gets up at 4 a.m. to deliver her salsa to three different stores. This woman, this family, is badass. They should call what they produce Badass Salsa, but then it probably wouldn't sell as well. This is to say that winning a prestigious award is one thing, but creating your niche in the food business is not for sissies.
There's so much I could tell you about what it took for this family to get to where they are now, but I'm going to skip ahead to what happened today because you can ask them all about what it took for them to get from there to here when you visit for lunch next week.
I went to their kitchen! It's at 303 Portrero St., #40F, in Santa Cruz. If you are driving around the structure searching for the right door, look for the three paper tacos swinging lazily in the breeze by the entrance, welcoming you to Taco Tuesday. When Mrs. A and Ralph moved to this space not so long ago, they saw that people in this jumble of buildings and offices didn't know each other, and so they created Taco Tuesday as a way to create community.
When I was there, I ate with a man who was interested in creating his own food business--he'd heard about Mrs. A., contacted her, and she'd offered him a tour. There were two men visiting from out of state who were working on a housing project for U.C. Santa Cruz. There was a young boy and his family who were hard-core Mrs. A salsa fans. The boy had his Mrs. A's salsa t-shirt on. There were people from the office across the way. Everyone was happy.
There is so much I want to tell you about my visit (Wait until you see this space! Wait until you visit and learn what it's like to be audited so you can sell at Costco!), but I'm impatient and I want to get to the most important words: two dollar (donation based) tacos.
I had three. That means I spent six dollars (except I didn't--the touring man bought my tacos for me. See! This place is delight piled on delight.) for one of the best meals I've had in a while.
Mrs. A. had prepared three kinds of meat the night before: picadillo (my favorite) (ground beef and potatoes), chicken, and pork. I had them all, and next time I'm going to have them all twice. She uses her salsas when she cooks and if I could sing and eat at the same time, I would have. But as it was, without singing, I still spilled on my pants. It's hard not to be messy when you are excited and blissed out on experience.
When the U.P.S. man drives by, he signals to Lorena how many tacos he wants, and then when he's done looping around the building, he drives by again to get them. It's that kind of place.
And you're invited. Tuesdays from 11-2.
I want to tell you one last thing. Mrs. A. told me that when she's teaching and her students seem particularly stressed, she asks them if they are worried or scared, and when they say yes, she says, "But you know you won the lottery, right?" When they look at her confused, she wakes up the room by talking about sex. She tells them they are the miracle winner of 600 million sperm fighting for one place. She tells them they've already won the big race and that they can relax. They are already winners.
Spreading the love is a full-time job for some people. And you show up just to be close to them.
See you next Tuesday.
Thank you, world, for food and community and friends.
You can also stop by their kitchen and buy the salsa. Six bucks.
I buy it at Whole Foods.
You can read all about it here: https://www.mrsafamous.com