Pass the Salsa

Salsa will be a hot item on school lunch menus next fall - not just for its spiciness, but because the US Agriculture Department has decided the chunky sauce is a "vegetable," as defined by its nutritional standards.

Some may sneer at this, recalling the famous Reagan-era food fight over the USDA's designation of ketchup as a veggie. But there's a tangible difference between that pureed condiment and a thick salsa, swimming with mild or not-so-mild chili peppers and onions (and about any other vegetables, fruits, or spices a cook or company wants to throw in).

Still, we have concerns. The USDA might want to set a quality standard for salsa (to make sure the cheaper, suspiciously ketchup-like varieties don't dominate school kitchens). And it might want to require that salsa has to be served alongside something verifiably green, leafy, or crunchy.

Who knows, some kids may decide a dollop of salsa helps the broccoli go down. More likely, the wider availability of salsa will spark a correspondingly wider demand for dipping chips. Anyone who's ever visited a Mexican restaurant knows what a satisfying repast that can make - forget about the actual meal.

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