Viola Loves Salsa.


With equal amounts of pride and oblivion she strides in from the backyard. The look on her face says it all. I can tell she’s had a wonderful day, and her gaze serves as a testament to her happiness. I love seeing her like this. Nothing is more important to me than the happiness of those I love. I continue doing the dishes thinking about how in the midst of the world’s great challenges, and the stress of daily life, she has found a way to feel satisfied. But then I see it, like a small detail in a painting that changes the whole picture.

Viola has a bell-pepper in her mouth.

We love salsa. We love it so much, that over the summer Kerri and her mom decided to plant a “salsa garden.” They muddied their hands planting tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, bell peppers, and a bunch of other stuff, only to have our resident troublemakers reap the rewards before we could make our first bowl. Time, money, and energy went into this endeavor, which inevitably only served to supplement the diets of our two 75 lb. dogs. Kerri still hasn’t overcome the defeat.

Lots of our readers told us to grow fruits and vegetables during our experiment, and we would have loved to, but for us that would have meant a serious amount of time and money that we just didn’t have in September. Our situation hasn’t improved since then. Before we can make full use of our backyard, we have to figure out how to make it a place for growing food, and a place for our dogs to grow. Part of this compromise will include building a small fence, that at present we don’t have the time, money, or know how to do. However, it is on the agenda for 2009.

We have already re-thought the way we approach eating, now we just have to rethink our living space in order to make our vision edible. We want change to happen in our backyard, but it requires a fundamentally different approach, much like the global food system.

An article appeared today from the BBC that addresses this need to re-think the system. Shopping smarter is part of the immediate solution to get by, but ultimately, cutting coupons to save money on food is akin to trying to surf your way out of a hurricane. We need a better way to get out of this mess; one that will empower us to take back our health and our planet. Here are just a couple of appetizers from the article to whet your pallet:

“Essentially, what we are dealing with at the moment is a food system that was laid down in the 1940s,” he told BBC News.

“It followed on from the dust bowl in the US, the collapse of food production in Europe and starvation in Asia.

“At the time, there was clear evidence showing that there was a mismatch between producers and the need of consumers.”

Professor Lang, from City University, London, added that during the post-war period, food scientists and policymakers also thought increasing production would reduce the cost of food, while improving people’s diets and public health.

“But by the 1970s, evidence was beginning to emerge that the public health outcomes were not quite as expected,” he explained.

“The consumer today has got to understand that when they make a choice, let’s say an apple – either Chinese, French or English one – they are making a political choice, a socio-economic choice, as well as an environmental one.”

I hope you enjoy the article.

– Christopher



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15 responses to “Viola Loves Salsa.

  1. Betty Ann

    Coupons… are usually for overpriced convenient foods; the store brand is usually less $$$ than the name brand with a coupon.

    The book ‘The Complete Tightwad Gazette’ talked about how to live frugally creatively and not feel deprived. I highly recommend it to all. She had a garden and canned or froze a lot of food for her family of 8.

    I’m actually might be saving $$$$ by eating Organic… because the cost is higher; so it is making me NOT want to overeat; and also if I eat less meat and more organic beans/rice than I further reduce my food bills.

    Thanks for this great Blog……….good luck with your gardening. I have space to garden in my yard (very limited); and honestly the cost of starting a garden is a bit too much (unless from seeds); but to get better dirt (we have that hard red dirt); and containers and small plants.. it is a bit high to do all that. I’m not sure I’ll save $$$ and I’m not sure I want to devote the time to be honest. (as a single mom).


  2. Pingback: Viola Loves Salsa. « One Dollar Diet Project · TV SeRiES

  3. Pingback: Viola Loves Salsa. « One Dollar Diet Project | Mi Musica Latina

  4. After reading your blog for a couple of weeks now, I’ve been thinking about it a lot and the fact is that food is not priced right.

    What we really need are foods that are priced for health and transportation.

    If locally grown vegetables, fruits and meats were cheaper than junk foods and food grown hundreds or even thousands of miles away – people would eat right. But the problem is that the majority of people will always choose what they eat based on price.

    Unfortunately cheap food is also fattening and/or not made locally.

  5. Your writing has really raised the bar for me in thinking about the food and the cost of that food. Please keep writing and researching articles for us to read.
    Thank you.

  6. julie

    If you are thinking salsa you are thinking gaspachzo. Just a tip, at least in Houston, bugs/birds got to the tomatoes before me. But when I grew peppers in between the tomatoes, no problems. Try to container garden for salsa. But plopped the herbs in the regular ground. Also use multiple varietes of Basil. It smells great, is beautiful, give it away, grows and grows, (plus edible).

    You are right, gardening is timely and can be costly. Gardening skills are not built over a year, but over several years. Trial and error can be costly. Ask for local advice specifice for your situation.

    In retropect I should have done container gardening with peppers and tomatos, before trying to start a plot in the ground.

    Thanks for the blog. Bless Viola, what a dear. JR

  7. Well, I never knew where to bring it up before, so I think that I’ll mention it now.

    I was surprised that you guys didn’t grow bean sprouts. You can get almost a pound of seeds for a dollar, and then you only use a few tablespoons at a time to grow the sprouts. And they would be on your kitchen counter, not in the backyard where your dogs could get to them.

    For the people who mentioned not having good soil, they might try container gardening as described in the previous comment, or maybe the 4×4 plots used in Square Foot Gardening. Or, if you actually dig up your soil and replace it, you might try to find out if your soil is a clay suitable for ceramics. If it is, you might be able to get some artists or college students to come and take some of it away.

    If you have well trained dogs, you might not need a big strong fence for your garden, just some wire or something to let the dogs know that they are supposed to stay out. Keeping out rabbits and birds might be more of a problem, if you don’t want to hurt the animals. And yes, it is sometimes a lot of work, and I often give up on it and just buy stuff at the store.

  8. Sue

    “We can learn to live happily, producing all the food and other goods we need, without wasting the resources that are going to be needed by future generations.” -R.D. Rodale

    1) You might want to consider asking this highly educated urban gardener for assistance in creating your backyard garden (that includes dog area). Raised beds may be the answer.

    2) Local Harvest helps you locate co-op farms and farmer’s markets in your area

    3) Barbara Kingsolver and her family spent a year eating only what they grew or bought locally (and in season!).
    “Animal, Vegetable, & Miracle” is an enjoy read.

    4) The Edible School Yard created by Alice Waters She has proven it is doable and that it works!

  9. thank you for your words.

    i agree.

    we have to rethink our view of food and how we consume it. i believe food is a uniter, a gift, a comfort, and a blessing, but it is not to be taken advantage of like our society often does, me included. as in all things, we must learn to balance food with the rest of our life. if we were to see food as nourishment and not as something we are entitled to because we live in a wealthy country where we deserve everything we get, then things would change. again, our thinking must change.

    i work and live in a “poor” area of Houston and it is really sad because the local diners are fast food restaurants and the grocery stores haven’t been updated since the 80’s and the produce plain sucks.

    so, as always, the poor are often the ones who suffer from our societies problems.

    your dog is precious.

  10. I love the information you have here. It will deff help me out with the current issues i’m having.

  11. If you go to the web page or view her Youtube videos, she has some really wonderful efficient ways of growing her own food. She does how to’s in her videos. There is a cost involved in setting up her system such as raised beds where her chicken tractors can be set after the crop is done. In one of her systems she uses the 6’x6’x6′ dog kennels on her raised beds. With shade covers they protect the plants and she can grow cucumbers and vining crops up the sides. She is in the middle of the city and raises chickens, goats, rabbits and gardens in a small area.
    To save on sprout jars, take canning jars and then buy a little bit of neadlepoint fabric from a craft store, then make cutouts for the open jar lids you use for canning. Use the plastic type fabric.

  12. Aww that doggy is so cute. Great writing skills you have.

  13. Sue

    Anna thanks for the Garden Girl TV website! She has a great setup! -Sue

  14. Very helpful! Thanks for the post! Love your site!

  15. This really hit home for me: Part of this compromise will include building a small fence, that at present we don’t have the time, money, or know how to do.

    I am one generation removed from a farmer and country girl. I’m 28, here’s my gardening experience:
    – Raised a handful of plants. Though only one from seedling.
    – Mowing the lawn.
    – “Turning over” my parent’s garden, once/year, maybe 5 or 6 times.
    – Watered a bunch of house plants.
    – Helped out at harvest time on the grand-parents farm. So picking and prepping lots of vegetables.

    All in all, I would venture that my experience is pretty typical of a kid in North America and it’s really unfortunate.

    Our “distance” from food is personally quite alarming. My wife and I have taken it upon ourselves to learn more about growing, preparing and managing food out of simple personal responsibility. And it’s good to know that we’re not alone.

    What I find ironic is how little time it takes to learn much of these simple utilities of human existence. Developing a “green thumb” is the type of thing that children can learn in just a few years, with just a few minutes here and there. But still, we have a whole generation of 20-somethings (myself included) that don’t know the simple things.

    My personal list:
    – Canning & preserving vegetables
    – Dehydrating fruits and meats for preservation
    – Maintaining a “back-yard” garden. (let alone a “back-yard” greenhouse). We’re starting with potted veggies this year.
    – Growing cycles and times for common plants.
    – Food seasonality (I just found a list recently on a personal finance blog of all places)
    – Cuts of beef and pork (what’s the difference between a loin and sirloin?)
    – Herb garden operation

    A friend of mine participated in a one-year 100-mile diet in Edmonton. Edmonton has a wonderful farmer’s market that’s all local, but he still went through the process of canning and preserving a few hundred pounds of food. When young people at his office heard what he was doing, they actually came over to help. Nobody knew how to do this stuff, so they all volunteered their time just to learn 🙂

    At the end of the day, I think I’m going to have to learn too. Not b/c I have some large financial weight pressing on me, but b/c I honestly feel really inadequate in my knowledge of the food supply and food 101.

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