Writing in the New York Times recently, Molly O'Neill explaned why salsa's replacement of ketchup as the king of American condiments takes on more importance than the usual marketing statistic:
"Epicures and food historians view the topping of ketchup as the manifest destiny of good taste. Ketchup, that sugar-sweetened complemnet to fried food and meat, symbolizes 'the bland old British-based American diet,' said Elizabeth Rozin, a specialist in ethnic food. The Mexican-inspired salsa is an uncoked relish fired by chili peppers that appeals, she said, "to cosmopoltan tastes.'
"But to the food industry the rise of salsa symbolizes more than a growing gustatory sophistication. It is the death knell for the sort of cooking ketchup enhances.
". . . Dietary concerns have pushed meat to the side of America's plate, and ethnic seasonings are easing the shift. More than adventure some tastes or changing demographics, America's health concerns are stoking the assimilation of ethnic flavors today.
"... Raymond Sokolov, author of 'Why We Eat What We Eat,' sees the clashes between tradition and innovation as skirmishes in 'the largest revolution in eating habits since Columbus brought the two hemispheres together...'
"But 'American consumers are not responding as much to ecternal forces like migration or food scarcity,' Mr. Sokoloc said. "They are responding to internal forces like health concerns and time and money constraints. They've traveled and read cookbooks and are open to novelty in ways that no other group has ever been.'"