Making Salsa, a Story of Friendship, and Vampires…and a Ghost.

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As you know, most Vampires don’t live on blood alone. Every year I make salsa. Not just a bowl of peppers and tomatoes on the table, but a full blown canning operation.

I don’t have an exact recipe. Two parts tomatoes, one part onions, a bunch of peppers to taste. Splash in lemon juice and/or vinegar needed acid. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper and other spices.

This time we roasted the peppers, and some of the tomatoes for a brown salsa. We also roasted corn and added black beans for a batch of what we call Cowboy Salsa.

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For the first batch I packed up my gear and went over to my neighbor (and friend) Kelly’s house.

There is something about taking fresh, organic, good for you vegetables and spices, mixing them all together and coming up with something so amazing and crazy delicious that, well, it always makes me feel good. I’m jazzed.

Nigel the Ghost followed me over to the canning party. He looked in pots and explored around the room. Nobody saw him except me. Eventually he sat down in a chair and closed his eyes.

Usually Nigel is wearing a black suit, but today he was wearing a black tee shirt and jeans. I glanced at two long bloody gashes, one on each wrist going from his hand towards his elbow. As soon as he noticed I’d noticed the gashes closed and vanished. He straightened up and said, “It isn’t what you think. Someone did this to me after I died.”

Oh. I was the only one who could hear him.

“What are you doing here?” I mouthed the words.

“What are you doing here?” he asked with a nasty smile.

Kelly’s mother came over to help. She is a small woman, still beautiful at age 86. Everyone calls her Granny. I even call her Granny. With arthritic hands she slowly peeled blanched tomatoes and kept up with the conversations.

Kelly went down out to the store to get more canning jar lids. Granny motioned for me to come closer.

“You’re a Vampire aren’t you? Don’t worry I won’t say anything.” Her strong Southern accent accentuated the word “I”. Ahhhh won’t say anything.

I didn’t even know what to say. It is always somewhat of a shock when someone knows what I am.

Granny continued. “There is a ghost here too. He is sitting right over there in that chair. I can’t see him clearly but his shadow is there.”

“Kelly never mentioned a ghost,” I said. “Does she know I’m a Vampire?”

“No, no, no, not my child. She doesn’t believe. My children tell me to stop my crazy talk when I talk about ghost and folks like you. So I don’t say anything to them. My husband never believed in any of it either. So I just keep my mouth shut.”

“Let me tell you a story. A true story. Give me your hand. Nice and cool.”

And Granny told me her story.

“Papa, that is what we called my grandfather, had a friend named Mr. Ross. Every Friday night Mr. Ross would come over and he and Papa would sit on the front porch and talk until almost the morning. My Mama would always make them iced tea with no sugar and sugar cookies. Mr. Ross would always have a half of a cookie and no more. He was handsome like a movie star and always made Mama laugh out loud. Mama never laughed so it was like a miracle every time he came over.

Mr. Ross and his wife, Mrs. Ross, had moved to town about ten years before. They’d fixed up one of the old plantation homes. Made it into a showplace.

Mrs. Ross never came over to the house with Mr. Ross. One day Mama told me to deliver a half a dozen eggs over to Ross Plantation House. We raised chickens and eggs for extra money. Anyway, I took them up on my bicycle to see Mrs. Ross.

The house was beautiful with big oak trees and white columns. It wasn’t as big as some plantations houses but still impressive. It was called Wind Rose Plantation back before the war between the states. So I peddled my bicycle up to the house and knocked on the big door. I expected a servant to be at the door but it was answered by a woman so stunning that I just stood staring. She had wavy black hair done up in a pearl clip and the most beautiful blue silk dress I’d ever seen. Her face was that of an angel or a movie star.

It was 1943. I was fourteen years old and hadn’t seen much of the world outside of my hometown. I’d only been out of Louisiana once and that was to Arkansas. 

Mrs. Ross invited me in for a glass of iced tea. Her maid came in with the tea. The maids name was Addie. She was a white girl. She was an albino too. I don’t think I ever heard her say more than two words.

So Mrs. Ross and I sat in her cool parlor sipping tea. I didn’t know what to think at first but she made me feel relaxed. I’d been shy my whole life. I never said much of anything to anyone, but there was something about Mrs. Ross that made me want to talk. After that I kept coming back to visit. Mama didn’t mind. In fact she thought Mrs. Ross was a good influence. Mr. and Mrs. Ross didn’t have any children so I figured she was lonesome.

As far as anybody knew Mr. Ross didn’t have a job, but the seemed to have plenty of money. Nobody ever saw them at any church. Mrs. Ross hardly came out during the day.

One day I showed up and found Mrs. Ross in the kitchen with two colored women. One was tall and pretty as a princess. Her name was Ivie. The other one was a heavy set woman with a happy face. Her name was Liz. They were busying themselves with jars and slicing peaches. 

Mrs. Ross smiled at me and for the first time I saw her fangs. I asked her what was wrong with her teeth and she told me she was just happy. Then just like nothing was out of the ordinary she and her friends told me all about Vampires. I told them I’d seen ghosts before. I’d known something was different about Mr. and Mrs. Ross but after that day I could always spot a Vampire. 

I also found out that Mrs. Ross had the given name of Joan. Ivie and Liz were not domestics who’d come in for the day. They were friends going back over 150 years. That day I learned that Vampires like you, are pretty much friends with anybody. That girl Addie was the only domestic I ever saw and it turns out she was a Vampire too. Can you imagine? That pale girl. I couldn’t imagine her ever biting into a neck or wrist. No indeed.

I asked them, Mrs. Ross and her friends, “do you drink blood?”

“Only from those social climbers in the Rose and Ivy Club and their wealthy cheating husbands,” said Mrs. Ross. Then all three women laughed and laughed and laughed. Then Ivie said, “And don’t forget the good Reverend Rich, the hypocritical old bastard.” Then they laughed again.

So we canned peaches and the gossip flowed like syrup. I’d never had better peaches in my life, then or now. After that I could pretty much spot a Vampire too, black or white. Night or day.

A few weeks later Mrs. Ross gave me a ruby necklace. She thanked me for being her friend and made me promise to move on out of the small town I lived in.

I still wear the necklace. Somehow it makes me feel safe. She said she and Mr. Ross were moving on. I never did find out where they went. She never told me. Papa would talk about it. Mama didn’t know either. 

Now I’m canning again with a Vampire. How about that? And that ghost you brought with you. He is a feisty one isn’t he? I can’t see him very well but I can feel him.

Juliette, if you ever come across Mrs. Ross let her know I’d like to see her again. If it wasn’t for her I’m sure I would have stayed in that small town and married some small minded man, or else been a pathetic old maid.”

By the time the story was over Kelly had returned with the lids. We canned thirty jars of salsa in three flavors.

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When I finally made it home, after our kids had also come in and out, plus dogs and cats it was good just to rest for a minute.

I plan on asking around about Mr. and Mrs. Ross. I’ve no idea who they are.

Nigel suddenly appeared in front of me. “The salsa looked great. I wish I could taste it. And by the way, I did not cut myself. I was murdered. The cuts were post-mortem.”

“You already told me that Nigel. Hey, did you ever hear of Mr. or Mrs. Ross?”

“That was before my time Juliette. Way before my time. I wasn’t even born until 1959. I never knew any Vampires before you. Now if they were ghosts I might be able to help you. Hey, the canning was cool. I never did that. Nobody in my family ever did that. And you know I died before I was old enough to start getting back to my roots or thinking about salsa. Very cool Vampire. Very cool.”

And it was cool. Spending time together, sharing stories and just being together.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Follow me on twitter: JulietteKings@vampiremaman

11 thoughts on “Making Salsa, a Story of Friendship, and Vampires…and a Ghost.

  1. Can’t live without salsa! When we make salsa it’s very simple 40% tomatoes, 10% onions, and 50% hot green chiles with a few other spices thrown in for good measure.

    • People keep asking me for a recipe but every batch is different. Our fire roasted only had about 10% onions too. My advice is just to keep adding to it, taste it, and when it if perfect CAN IT.

      • You’ve got that right. It’s all about taste not a particular recipe. When the green chile is super hot, the percentage will go down. I remember one time we found a couple of bags of green chile that had gone missing in the deep dark corners of the freezer for about 3 years. We made a batch of green chile stew with it, but it was so killer hot no one could eat it, so we doubled the other ingredients cutting the amount of chile in half. It was still too hot. In the end we had cut it at least 10 times, adding a bunch of tomatoes to temper the chiles, and ended up with more than 5 gallons of killer hot, but finally edible, salsa that lasted us for another 3 years.

  2. That is so great you made all that fire-roasted salsa! That’s also an annual event at my house, but our tomato plants (even though ripening almost two-months ahead of time) stopped producing. It will be a small batch this year or non-existent if we end up eating them all fresh. And I must tell you, this is one of the most heart-warming short stories I’ve read of yours. It is truly a gem, I hope you get it published somehow in an anthology!

  3. What a delicious story. Oh, I do hope you find Mr. and Mrs. Ross. They sound like such good Vampires. I loved Granny. She was divine and such a hoot. Great story teller. Just like you, Juliette. jk 🙂

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