BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Salsa: Un poema para cocinar | A Cooking Poem by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh

Salsa by Jorge Argueta on BookDragonSome of us should probably stay out of the kitchen – “cooking is not one of your strong points,” Eldest remarked gravely the other day after the rice fell and the chicken was way too dry (and we had guests, egads!). To avoid such culinary disappointments, I figure encouraging the kids early to cook for us old folks is the best plan of action. Training is too late for my two teens, so take my advice and start soonest!

Thanks to the delicious cadence of Salvadoran poet Jorge Argueta’s verses, and the distinctively inviting illustrations of Mexican artist Duncan Tonatiuh, even your youngest will want to take over your kitchen for some toothsome fun, not to mention learn some fascinating history, as well. That the book is bilingually presented enhances the palate for sure.  

First, you’ll need a molcajete: “a stone bowl. / It’s black as the night and stands on three little feet. / … Molcajetes are made out of lava – / volcanic rock.” Lest you think authenticity is hard to find, rest assured that your local Williams-Sonoma or Crate&Barrel are happy to provide – think of it as a small investment in big taste.

“Nahua, Aztec and Maya people / used molcajetes / to grind tomatoes, chilies, / achiote, corn and cocoa, too,” the siblings explain. “Every weekend / we make red or green salsa at my house.” Wouldn’t you like to be invited over? “Just like our ancestors we use the molcajete, / and while we make it we dance and sing salsa.” 

Salsa sauce inspires salsa steps, as tomatoes become bongos, onions shake like maracas, garlic cloves blow like trumpets, and the cilantro conducts all “with his shaggy, green hair.” Leave it to the “bubbly taste of chilies / [that make] me feel like I’m dancing among / rainbows and stars.” 

With the freshest ingredients, prepared with just the right beats, “I am going to sing, / I am going to dance, / I am going to make a delicious salsa”  … and we can all learn how. Salsa-making, salsa-dancing turns into a family fest – even the family pets get in some fancy footwork. As the plates are set to share a meal,  “… this salsa, / red salsa. / It tastes like love.” 

As Argueta’s verses heat up with chilies and rhythm, Tonatiuh’s signature sideway-facing chefs boogie and shimmy and swing and frolic. In earthly tones of browns, greens, and reds, the energy surges through every page, inspiring your own chefs-to-be toward savory delights. Of course, you’ll want to join in!

Readers: Children

Published: 2015


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