Big Jim: A new magazine, and old sauce, and a great story

2014-03-21T00:00:00Z 2014-09-12T09:22:27Z Big Jim: A new magazine, and old sauce, and a great storyJim Griffith Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

There’s a great new magazine in Tucson these days. Since last October, Edible Baja Arizona has been “celebrating the foodways of Tucson and the borderlands” every two months. It’s a truly classy production, averaging more than a hundred pages per issue, and complete with color illustrations. It covers a wide range of local gastronomic topics, from food production to food preparation and food distribution. Doug Biggers, of Tucson Weekly fame, is the editor and publisher. It joins a long list of “Edible” magazines nationwide, and it is distributed free! For a list of places to find it, go to edibleBajaArizona.com/find-us.

One thing I really like about the new magazine (aside from its luscious photographs, which have induced drool marks on several pages) is its breadth and range. For instance, in the most recent issue, we learn about the favorite dishes of eight refugees living in Tucson, get a close look at Sonoita’s Overland Trout Restaurant, and drop in at the San Xavier Cooperative Farm. We learn about coyotas and micheladas, read the thoughts of three Native American chefs, and visit the Poblano Hot Sauce factory. And that takes us to the next part of this blog.

Poblano Hot Sauce is a real Tucson institution. Long before the current craze for such condiments, the Segura family was making and bottling its four flavors of sauce — three red and one green. I’m a relative newcomer here, and I’ve only been a Poblano fan for some forty years. In the days when I used to travel a lot to festivals and professional meetings, I’d always carry several bottles along to give to friends (and one for use in restaurants because I knew I’d not find anything as good wherever I was going.) My kids in California demand regular shipments of the green sauce. But, good as the product is, the story the family tells is even better.

Don Nicolas, who had sold tacos in Mexico, emigrated to Tucson and opened a taquería in 1924. He sold the first folded tacos in Tucson, and few Anglos knew what they were. So to help sales, he offered free root beer with each taco. It was the middle of Prohibition, and the cowboys thought it might be real beer. Business took off. Along with the tacos, Don Nicolas started serving salsas from a secret family recipe.

Don Nicolas had a way of hand-dipping his tortillas in the boiling oil, and one day the pot overturned, burning him badly. By the time he had recovered, he was out of the restaurant and into the salsa business, using his popular recipes.

A story worth repeating, a product worthy of eating.

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About this blog

Jim Griffith is the former director of the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona, and co-founder of Tucson Meet Yourself. He’s also the author of seven books on the folklore and folklife of our region, most recently “A Border Runs Through It.” His books can be purchased at tucson.com/wildcatgear.

If you have questions or suggestions for Jim Griffith or this blog, e-mail bigjimgriffith@gmail.com