This is one of those stories that really shouldn’t be true, but the more I investigated, the more evidence I unearthed to confirm that Salsa Golf – the pink sauce which is smeared liberally on panchos (hotdogs), milanesas (schnitzels) and carlitos (toasted sandwiches) throughout Argentina -- was indeed invented by the renowned Argentine chemist (and eventual Nobel laureate) Luis Federico Leloir.
The story goes that in the mid-1920s, when Leloir himself was only in his twenties, he was snacking on prawns with friends at the prestigious Golf Club in the Argentine beach resort of Mar del Plata. Bored of the traditional aderezo of mayonnaise, Leloir asked the waiter to bring him some ‘supplies’ from the kitchen. Lemon, mustard, salt, pepper and ketchup were provided and Leloir – ever the chemist – proceeded to experiment with various combinations in the hope of coming up with a more interesting condiment.
After quite some time he eventually decided that a simple mix of equal quantities of mayonnaise and ketchup was the perfect accompaniment for prawns. His friends agreed and decided to name it Salsa Golf after the place where it was invented. From there the salsa’s fame grew and it soon became commercially produced. As Leloir himself commented, “If I had patented that sauce, we'd have a lot more money for research right now.”
Funding or no funding, and despite a rocky start which included failing first year Anatomy four times, Leloir went on to have an extremely distinguished scientific career. Perhaps ironically, his entire body of work centered around the metabolism of carbohydrates which are abundant in Salsa Golf and the fatty fast foods it traditionally adorns. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1970 and he and his team celebrated by drinking champagne from test tubes. Such frivolity was short-lived, though, and they were soon back to work: the $80,000 prize money being plowed into yet more research.
In the light of his very important contribution to modern medicine it’s a bit sad that he’s remembered for what is – in my opinion – his most destructive contribution to mankind. I can’t stand Salsa Golf and I think that if you ever feel the need to combine ketchup and mayonnaise you should just do it yourself. But one look at the condiments aisle of an Argentine supermarket will confirm that I am most certainly in the minority.
Follow the masses and get yourself a bottle or two. Even if you loathe the taste, they still make cool gifts or souvenirs. I’ve had one sitting on my mantelpiece for years…