My Dad was world famous for his salsa. Well, locally famous. As in, all of our family and friends would beg for jars of his usually just the right amount of spicy and a bit smoky salsa. In a family such as ours it is no surprise that the recipe for pyrohy dough is a treasured possession. We'd be bad Ukrainians without it. But the salsa is what we all were afraid would get lost when he died.
As the end was becoming abundantly clear in my father's lung cancer we all gathered at my parent's house. I sat and spoke to my Dad about his salsa. We started with the first recipe, the first batch he ever made. He told me where he got his tomatoes and peppers. I photographed each ingredient as it was chopped so we would always know just how fine or chunky it should be. I photographed my Dad as he stirred, sipped, and stammered through making salsa.
A week later he was admitted to the hospital and 6 weeks later he died.
Two weeks ago my Mom and I gathered to make a batch of salsa, only the second time we've done it since his death. Somehow it's fallen to me to be the guardian of the recipe. I don't mind at all. We do a good job with it, but of course it isn't the same. It lacks the smokiness - maybe that infiltrated from him and his nasty smoking habit. And I chopped things a bit finer this time because I wasn't paying as much attention. I could hear his criticism in my head as I stirred the peppers into the tomatoes. But we came out with jars and jars of salsa that we still call Dido's Salsa. I still top my scrambled eggs with it, my daughter fills her tortilla with it, it sits beside a plate of nachos when friends come over and they ask where we got it. It will always be Dido's Salsa, even when I chop the onions too fine.
Today is the 2nd anniversary of his death. The 4 am phone call from my brother. The sobs of my Mom as I woke her, the stupid red car stuck in a giant puddle on the way to the hospital, making tea while I called the funeral home, telling the girls in the midst of a date, the washing machine repairman who came and had no clue what had happened. It's all so vivid. Perhaps even more so this year as last year I was focused on the new baby.
My Dad was a man with many faults and our relationship was far, far, from perfect or even good. But he had a story and a heart in there somewhere. And damn, he made fine salsa.