A Taste for Education

How Barbara Goodell ’68 used salsa to help women learn English.

By Stephanie Gold

Snack time was piquant in Boonville’s adult school. The Mexican women studied English all morning, but their grandmothers’ recipes ruled during break, and so The Secrets of Salsa cookbook was born. Ten years and 25,000 copies later, the bilingual recipe book has gone far beyond its modest ambitions of making a few bucks for a fieldtrip. These days, the book’s sales actually help support the California adult school that gave it life. More importantly, the experience has done wonders for the confidence of the women who wrote it and the cohesion of the Anglo-Mexican community in which they live.

Though many chefs contributed to the sauce, the book wouldn’t exist were it not for Barbara Goodell, an innovative and generous-hearted alumna from Cal who graduated in 1968 with a major in English, minors in anthropology and physical education, and a strong desire to be a teacher. Raised in San Rafael, she’d set her sights on Berkeley. “I don’t think I even applied anywhere else,” Goodell recalls. “Fortunately, I got in.”

Ten years later, Goodell was living in San Diego, teaching 8th grade, and writing her own curriculum. “It was project-based,” she remembers, “and that was exactly where I wanted to be in education.” She had by then acquired a teaching credential, master’s degree, husband, and two small children. Seeking farmland, they looked northward and purchased 20 logged-over acres in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley. They lived in an old wooden trailer and, true Californians, planned a deck and hot tub for their first home improvements.

Anderson Valley Adult School: It’s never too late to learn

by Maria Goodwin, Real Estate Magazine, May 2007

If the goal of education is to teach self-sufficiency in all phases of life, Anderson Valley Adult School gets an A+ for its efforts. The school, which formed in 1992, has evolved beyond what anyone could have envisioned in the beginning and today serves a growing population, often with surprising results. Barbara Goodell, a former teacher at Anderson Valley Unified School District in Boonville, started adult school classes when Mendocino County Office of Education was successful in obtaining a three-year federal grant. “One of the first grants we received was the Family Literacy grant which was set up to teach immigrant parents English so that they could help their children with homework,” Goodell says. In 1995 when the grant ended, Anderson Valley Adult School received state sanction to form an adult school and AVAS grew with programs as diverse as its students.
Initially Goodell saw the formation of an adult school as a response to the pressing need in the Valley for teaching English to the influx of migrant workers, all eager to learn and help their children succeed in school.

The Adult School’s small staff had no idea how curriculum would evolve, but soon realized that a curriculum based on projects that reflect a variety of real life skills was vital. The school’s philosophy about the importance of education at any time in one’s life and that “…it’s never too late to learn,” drives teacher dedication and prompts hesitant adult learners to work towards their chosen goals.

“Self-sufficiency starts with what the individual learns—that strengthens that person as a parent, community member and worker,” Goodell continues. “It doesn’t do any good just to learn some English in the classroom and then go outside and not use it in everyday life. That’s the whole point––to absorb the language and use it daily.

To accommodate this, teachers and students worked together to assess exactly what the students actually wanted to learn. The practical applications of reading, writing, and speaking English were translated to learning skills needed for getting a job, going to the doctor, applying for a driver’s license, etc. “This project-based learning curriculum is episodic in design,” Goodell explains, “and always includes a computer component with actual useable dialogs for reading (road signs, for example), writing, (banking, filling out forms), math, (balancing a checkbook)—these tasks mimic real life situations. To fortify these classroom exercises, we took students out on field trips to practice. Practicing with native English-speakers helped them build on what they learned in the classroom. We used flashcards, games, diagrams––some students created their own set of flashcards and paired with less advanced students for peer tutoring.”

Adult School classes are not just for people seeking to learn English. Spanish classes are taught, attracting English-speakers who want to travel in Spanish-speaking countries. French-speaking interns from nearby wineries wanting to be able to converse with winery workers attend Spanish classes also. Classes throughout the year are taught days, evenings, and even during summer when there is sufficient funding. The current schedule offers GED [General Education Degree], Citizenship, parenting, English-as-a-Second-Language, Spanish, job skills, and music––a Big Band class as well as chorus.

The difficulty of working full-time, attending classes, studying and caring for a family in addition to learning a new language and culture can be daunting, but the success story of one Mexican immigrant shows these difficulties can be overcome.

Esther Soto’s story mirrors the experience of many immigrants who came to Anderson Valley. Immigrants arrived realizing the necessity of learning English in order to obtain employment, better jobs and possibly higher education. In 1980 Esther’s mom, dad and elder brother left their hometown in Mexico and secured work in Anderson Valley. Back in Mexico, Esther, with the help of relatives, was temporarily left in charge of her younger siblings until her parents were settled and could send for the rest of the family. With housing and jobs secured in the Valley, Esther and her younger brothers and sisters followed. Esther was thirteen.

Local ingredients for local recipes / Anderson Valley salsa project wants to keep true to area's culinary spirit

by Laramie Treviño for The San Francisco Chronicle

A cry for help is echoing through the canyons and treetops of the Anderson Valley.

The plea comes from a group of immigrant women mobilizing their community to grow crops they need to prepare the recipes in their cookbook published four years ago, "Secrets of Salsa," so they can offer tamales, organic tortillas and other treats commercially under their Las Salsitas brand year- round. The bilingual cookbook/literacy project of the Mexican women, known as Las Salsitas, at Anderson Valley Adult School is now in its sixth printing ($13 for spiral-bound edition, plus shipping costs). The cookbook highlights dishes that utilize basic vegetables, herbs and seafood as well as tropical fruit and other touches to make varieties of salsa.

"Frankly, it is more practical to have produce grown here in the Anderson Valley (to use in our products)," said Barbara Goodell, salsa project coordinator and school district staff member. "It can help with all aspects of the project."

While Boonville -- little more than a hamlet by Ukiah, reached by traversing isolated, wooded territory -- can provide Las Salsitas with a steady source of tomatoes in season, Goodell found they had to search elsewhere for just about everything else.

Recipe for Success

by Diane Peterson for The Press Democrat

In the spring of 1999, when the Mexican women of Anderson Valley started writing down salsa recipes as an English-language exercise at school, they had no idea their action would lead to an award-winning cookbook.

"We simply wanted to teach the women to support each other in their lives," said Barbara Goodell, director of the Anderson Valley Adult School in Boonville. "But when they started to make the salsas, the salsas were so beautiful that we decided to make a recipe book."

Food for Living: Three Stories about Healthy Food bringing People Together

by Stephanie MacLean for Co-op America Quarterly

Secrets of Salsa

When Angeles Segura was a child growing up in Guadalajara City, Mexico, freshly made salsa was a necessity in her family’s kitchen. If it wasn’t on the table, her father would be the first to question, “ ¿Donde esta mi salsita? ” (Where is my salsa?)  

Now an adult, Segura moved to Califor- nia almost two years ago. She enrolled in anEnglish class at the Anderson Valley Adult Center in Boonville shortly thereafter to learn the language that would help her reach out to the wider community. She had no idea she’d soon be helping to put out a cookbook thatwouldreachthousandsofpeople— andopendoorsforherinsideherown   hometown.  

It all started when, during the twice- weekly English classes, the students—all women immigrants from different regions of Mexico—wouldbringinsnackstoeat   duringbreaks.  Theirsnacksinevitably included a container of homemade salsa. The women started comparing and swapping recipes, soon inspiring their teacher, Kira Brennan,  tofigureoutawaytousethe diverse recipes as a classroom exercise.

Brennanencouragedthewomento describe recipe ingredients and history in English. The variety of the recipes and thestories behind them amazed the English teacher—some   of   the   salsas   utilized    traditional ingredients (tomatoes, jalapeños, andcilantro);  othersblendedmangoes   with oranges or cauliflower with potatoes.  It didn’t take long for Brennan to hit onthe idea of making them into a book. The womenreactedtotheideawithvaried degrees of amusement and puzzlement.  

“Wecouldn’tbelieveanyonewould   beinterestedinabookaboutsalsa,”   says Segura.

ButBrennanpersistedandbroughta   fistful of papers to Maria Goodwin, English editor, asking, “Can we make a book outof this?”

(Article continues on p15 of the PDF)

FOOD STUFF; A Salsa How-To Meets A New Tequila

By Florence Fabricant for The New York Times

The Mexican women who study English at the Anderson Valley Adult School in Boonville, Calif., inevitably wind up talking about food. Now, 25 of their salsa recipes have been turned into a charming little bilingual cookbook, ''Secrets of Salsa'' or ''Secretos de la Salsa'' to benefit the school. The book, $14.95, was published by Chelsea Green in Vermont. Its recipes are simple and straightforward. From www.chelseagreen.com.

¡LAS SALSITAS! / Women craft Mexican salsas as way to learn English

by Linda Murphy for The San Francisco Chronicle

Marisol Jimenez pauses several times to study the chalkboard as she lists the ingredients to make Seven-Chile Salsa for Salmon.

It's not that she doesn't know how to make the dish. She's prepared it countless times. It's just that the recipe has never been written down. The steps are in her head, taught to her by her mother, who learned them from her mother.

Watching her are 12 women, intently following every move. But this isn't a cooking class. The dozen women watching Jimenez write out a salsa recipe are trying to learn English.

The language class is taught at the Anderson Valley Adult School in Boonville in Mendocino County. The women attending are salsa experts who have moved to the region but don't know much English. Between 10 and 20 women attend English class on any given day, depending on work and family obligations.

As Jimenez describes each ingredient to her audience, there are questions. Does it matter what type of tomatoes you use? "I used 50 percent Roma tomatoes and 50 percent slicing tomatoes, but it doesn't matter, as long as they are red and ripe," Jimenez replies.