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.