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Hermanos restaurant says spicy salsa responsible for inducing labor of overdue moms 

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  • Newborn Lilly Blackburn with her parents Julia and Joe Blackburn outside the Hermano’s restaurant on Friday, October 22, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Newborn Lilly Blackburn with her parents Julia and Joe Blackburn outside the Hermano’s restaurant on Friday, October 22, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Newborn Lilly Blackburn with her parents Julia and Joe Blackburn outside the Hermano’s restaurant on Friday, October 22, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Newborn Lilly Blackburn with her parents Julia and Joe Blackburn outside the Hermano’s restaurant on Friday, October 22, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Newborn Lilly Blackburn with her parents Julia and Joe Blackburn outside the restaurant on Friday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Jonna Gaskell of Hermano’s looks at newborn Lilly Blackburn with Lilly’s parents Julia and Joe Blackburn outside the restaurant on Friday, October 22, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jonna Gaskell of Hermano’s looks at newborn Lilly Blackburn with Lilly’s parents Julia and Joe Blackburn outside the restaurant on Friday, October 22, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 10/25/2021 4:51:14 PM

Four days past her due date, Julia Blackburn was itching to move her labor along.

The Concord resident had already run through the long list of old wives tales women cling to as their pregnancies drag on. She bounced on a yoga ball. She walked for blocks with one leg up on the curb and the other down on the street. She tried eating spicy food at El Rodeo.

It was time, she and her mom decided, to try Hermanos.

Hermanos Cocina Mexicana has a special reputation among Concord’s pregnant women.

When a woman waddles in with a swollen belly, Jonna Gaskell, a veteran waitress, makes a point to recommend the green salsa, a restaurant staple made with fresh jalapeños.

“It’s gonna get you rolling probably quicker than walking or quicker than doing something else,” she tells them.

The scientific literature is unconvinced that spicy food speeds up the induction of labor — one peer-reviewed paper called the practice “fanciful and harmless” while an obstetricians manual listed it as an example of amusing folklore.

Gaskell is confident it works — in her 26 years as a waitress at Hermanos, she estimates that a dozen women have given birth shortly after eating one of their signature spicy dishes. She recalled one instance in which a woman she had served salsa yelled from the restaurant parking lot that her water just broke. In fact, Gaskell’s own pregnancies, which both stretched well past their due dates,  were brought to an end after enjoying a bowl of salsa.

When Blackburn sat down to eat at Hermanos, she ordered the pork tacos and the spiciest dish she could think of: a side of the extra spicy jalapeño salsa.

“That was at about four in the afternoon,” she said. “By 9 p.m., my water broke and the baby arrived at 7:27 the next morning.”

Blackburn rewarded herself with a piece of key-lime pie they had ordered for takeout the night before.

Hermanos revels in its reputation for inducing labor. For a couple of years, a framed article describing a woman's salsa-induced labor hung in the restaurant, a playful warning to their expectant customers.

Babies induced by the green salsa don’t get any special Mexican food birthright, said Maria Garofalo, another waitress at Hermanos.

“We’d be giving away a lot of free food,” she said.

However, Garofalo said the Hermanos babies may end up with a lasting connection to the restaurant. One woman who gave birth shortly after eating at the restaurant continued bringing her son in for Mexican food until he grew into a teenager and began working as a busboy.

In exchange for what Gaskell calls the "secret sauce," she only asks that the women bring their babies back to the restaurant so she can meet them.

Nine days after Lilly Blackburn was born, Julia returned to Hermanos with the pink, 8-pound baby cradled in her arms. The baby girl was swaddled in a rose-colored onesie with a matching bow wrapped around her head.

As the restaurant's afternoon crowd began filing out, the loyal customers looked at the young family with knowing smiles and murmured comments about the salsa.

"It works!" Blackburn responded.

Gaskell left in the middle of her waitressing shift to quickly coo at the newest edition to a long line of salsa-babies.

"The second she can start eating, she'll be having the guacamole," Blackburn said.


Teddy Rosenbluth bio photo

Teddy Rosenbluth is a Report for America corps member covering health care issues for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. She has covered science and health care for Los Angeles Magazine, the Santa Monica Daily Press and UCLA's Daily Bruin, where she was a health editor and later magazine director. Her investigative reporting has brought her everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to the hospitals of New Delhi. Her work garnered first place for Best Enterprise News Story from the California Journalism Awards, and she was a national finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists Best Magazine Article. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology.



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