Musings Recipe Salsa

Cowboy Caviar, or, How the bastardization of an archetype has led to a stupid name for a simple salsa recipe

Cue the rant:

I’m going to be honest, I don’t like making things with “Cowboy” in the title. I have deep-seeded issues with what I consider the cultural bastardization of the traditional cowboy archetype. It confounds me that the rugged individualism borne of Westward expansion has spawned a generation of reduced-talent (like the margarine of the music world) pandering musicians who espouse patriotism – or an interpretation thereof – for personal gain. Moreover, they’ve created legions of followers who have corrupted (subconsciously or otherwise) the very notion of the cowboy – the “archetypal, still finely individualized character, which [D.H.] Lawrence identifies as ‘the essential American soul…an isolate, almost selfless, stoic, enduring man’.” (taken from this wonderful article by Jennifer Moskowitz) – in an effort to conform to a loosely-interpreted ideal incoherently represented by leather boots and shitty music.

And then there’s the dumb-ass name for this salsa: “Cowboy Caviar”

Not only does the use of the term “cowboy” perpetuate the fundamental misunderstanding of the heroic archetypal figure, it also directly infers the gustational simplicity of said individuals. Given the well-known connotation of caviar as an elitist delicacy, we can be led to infer that cowboys, since they now have their OWN caviar made of simple ingredients like corn and beans, could never be expected to enjoy real, high-class, high-priced caviar. They’re too simple for that.

Which brings us back to the corruption of “the Cowboy”. The cowboy is no longer the rugged, selfless, individualistic stoic of myth, or the hard-worker of reality, but rather a loosely interpreted farce that undermines the defining aspects of both.

But it’s okay, cowboys… the same can be said of ninjas (blame the Turtles), pirates (this one’s on Johnny Depp) and knights (I want to say Johnny Depp again, but it’s just because he seems easy to blame).

Rant over: stick with me, the recipe is good.

The first time I tried cowboy caviar it was because my wife had picked up a container of the pre-made version from Trader Joe’s, and I ended up devouring the whole bottle (not the glass, that would hurt) in one sitting. I also resolved to attempt to create my own version, which I have documented for you here.

The combination of a variety of different flavors and textures proved pleasing, and satisfied my desire to create a snack that combined the savory, spicy and hearty flavors and textures that I love in a rich salsa. The nice thing about this recipe, and all similar recipes, is that it can be freely modified by adding or subtracting ingredients to serve your tastes and suit the contents of your cabinet!

After writing this post, I realized that I didn't have a photo, so I've borrowed this one (listed as free to use) from the one ingredient chef (
After writing this post, I realized that I didn’t have a photo, so I’ve borrowed this one (listed as free to use) from the one ingredient chef (


  • 1 can of black beans – drained
  • 1 fresh tomato – diced
  • 1 cup corn kernels – drained
  • ¼ cup cilantro – chopped
  • 1 lime (juice)
  • 1 ½ cups light red kidney beans
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo – minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic – minced
  • 1 jalapeno – diced
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup white onion – diced
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper


Dice, chop, slice, juice and otherwise make small and mixable all of that stuff in the appropriate listed manner, and then fold it all together in a big bowl.

Eat it with chips… or a spoon, like me… but my wife tells me that’s weird.

Plus, I love chips.


  1. Great rant! My understanding of cowboys (as in vs. injuns) got a bit of a blow thanks to Annie Proulx, though. Never mind caviar. But hey, as you say, a great dish regardless of the cultural implications of its name 😉

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