“You do know what a beak is, don’t cha?” “It’s a birds mouth, isn’t it?” “For your information, a beak’s a magistrate.” That line from “Oliver”never made sense to me. Where is the connection? Anyone?
The Spanish word for beak is pico. I had a friend in Mexico nick named Pico because he was blessed with a hooter resembling that of Ringo Starr.
Pico de gallo is a popular salsa we like to pour over our tacos and enchiladas. But why is it called “rooster’s beak?” Again, where is the connection?
I consulted the “Food Lover’s Companion”, my first go-to book when I have a culinary connected conundrum. According to that source, “Pico de gallo [PEE-koh day GI-yoh] ….is a relish made of finely chopped ingredients like jicama, oranges, onions, bell peppers, jalapeño peppers and cucumbers along with various seasonings. This condiment was so named because it was once purportedly eaten with the thumb and finger, an action that resembles a rooster’s pecking beak.” Ok, I guess that makes some sense.
Here’s what I found on Wikipedia:
Another suggested etymology is that pico is derived from the verb picar, which has two meanings: 1) to mince or chop, and 2) to bite, sting or peck. The rooster, gallo inSpanish, is a common metaphor for the hyper-masculine (“macho“) male in Mexican culture. One example of such machismo is taking pride in withstanding the spicy burn of chilis.
However, neither theory can be considered definite, as they assume the use of hot chilis. In many regions of Mexico the term “pico de gallo” refers to any of a variety of salads, condiments or fillings made with sweet fruits, tomatoes, tomatillos, avocado or mild chilis — not necessarily with hot chilis, or any chilis at all. Thus, the name could be a simple allusion to the bird feed-like minced texture and appearance of the sauce.
The pico de gallo I am used to seeing and eating in California and the Pacific Northwest is more of a salsa or salsa fresca. Tomatoes, onion and garlic are the staple. And it’s chunky yet a bit on the soupy side, so I can’t imagine trying to peck that up with your dedos (that’s Spanish for fingers).
Enough scratching and pecking for the significance of the name of this spicy concoction. Here is my simple version of Pico de Gallo:
3 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 large jalapeño, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
chopped cilantro (optional)
These summer beauties were the perfect ripeness!
The easiest way to remove the skins from garlic is to chop off the hard, woody end and using the flat of your chefs knife, give it a good firm bash with your fist. Did that make sense? Place the knife on it’s side over the garlic clove. Make a fist like you are playing one-potato-two-potato and smash it down on the knife. One smash is all you need do.
Place it all in a mixing bowl and give it a good stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste, You can also add chopped cilantro if you like. I didn’t have any on hand the day I made this, otherwise it would have made it in there too.
Whether you call it pico de gallo, salsa fresca, tomato relish or Mexican ketchup, it doesn’t get any easier to make. Team it up with some guacamole and get the party started. Hmmm….where’s that avocado?