Salsa Without Borders makes my mouth water

By M. Leth-Soerensen
Sun food critic
My son and I have a lunch date for 1 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon. We arrive at the lovely modern Victorian home on the outskirts of Glen Arbor where Rose Saavedra lives with her two teenage children. After opening the front door we are led to the functional and carefully crafted kitchen by the smells of great food cooking. Rose is setting the table displaying paella with seafood and sausage on a bed of saffron rice. There is a tray with beans, guacamole, Mexican cheese (Caesa Fresco) and, of course, her famous salsa. The tortillas are wrapped in a cotton napkin to be kept warm. Naturally, we consume this hearty but tasty traditional meal with Coronas and wedges of lime squeezed in the bottles.

The meal we are eating is delicious! We pry to find out more about the salsa that Rose calls her specialty. Naturally, she can’t give away her secrets, but the few things we do learn are that Rose uses only fresh ingredients, and that she doesn’t like most salsas sold on the market. Her goal is to educate others that salsa compliments a variety of food dishes. Most Americans know only about salsa as an accompaniment to chips, and are missing out on salsa mixed with rice, beans and eggs. The weak-tongued should be cautious though. Salsa without Borders is somewhat spicy, and it woke up my son’s numb mouth with a jolt after he returned from a visit to the dentist’s office.
Rose is chatty and I have to stop her several times to slow the flow of information that she shares so easily in a quick-witted fashion. She tells of an upbringing in southwest California where she grew up radically different from the lifestyle she has sought and achieved for her own family.
Her childhood meals always included tortillas, and they served as the tool to scoop up most of the meal. But the grass is always greener on the other side. Rose remembers dreaming of a sandwich like the white children had to eat. Working on the railroad, her father would sometimes trade his freshly made tortilla for a coworker’s sandwich since his wife Chita’s (her real name was Lucy) cooking was known to be very good. Rose’s mother usually held two jobs to help support the family of six. Despite working as a laundress and raising a family, she would wake up at 5 a.m. to make fresh tortillas every day. Early on Rose learned to love to cook and savor fresh, wholesome and well-prepared food.
Rose is a middle-aged woman with beautiful, dark skin and expressive, sparkling eyes. She laughs easily and likes to talk. She is a lioness who is very close to her four children. Her twin daughters live in New York and her two younger ones attend high school at Glen Lake. They all consider themselves Mexican even though they only hold American passports. Alyssa, in New York, is the only one who speaks Spanish fluently (with an Argentinean accent after studying there for a year as an exchange student). Rose understands and speaks some Spanish, of course, since she was exposed to it while growing up near Los Angeles.
But like most children of first generation emigrants, English was the language encouraged at home.
After marrying local Barry Krull, the two lived in northern Idaho and later in Texas and upstate New York. Their four children were born on the sojourn west and east, and the young family had six members when they chose to return to Glen Arbor 12 years ago. Northern Idaho did not offer the food that Rose craved, so her skills as a cook grew with her longing for food from her childhood days. Thus, she is reclaiming her heritage through cooking authentic Mexican food.