Before I wanted to be an artist, but after I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be a cook. I became a vegetarian in high school, under the condition that I'd have to cook dinner for for the family. Luckily for me, both my parents were near vegetarian anyways, and already owned the two best cookbooks out there, "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest" and The Moosewood Cookbook." These were two of the first vegetarian cookbooks ever written, and my parents had the first edition of each of them. The author, Molly Katzen, published her address in the back of them.
I idolized Molly Katzen and decided to send her a letter. Granted, this was about twenty years after she had initially published her cookbook so I had no idea if the address was correct or if it would reach her or not. Much to my surprise, it did, and she wrote back within a few weeks. She wrote on a card that she had designed herself (she did all the illustrations in her cookbooks as well), and said something along the lines of, "Follow your dreams!" I still have that letter.
So, when I saw that cooking classes are one of the more popular things to do here in San Miguel, I jumped on the opportunity.
I signed up for a market visit and cooking class at Sazon, a cooking school run by the chefs at Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada. It also happens to be one of the more affordable classes in San Miguel- at a little over $50 USD. My class was taught by the head pastry chef, Ruben Yanez.
We were all given a little bag to put produce in, and quickly headed out to the market. I love Mexican markets. I had been to at least three in Mexico City last fall, including "Mercado Sonora,"the famous witchcraft market, where you can buy ingredients for spells, or even ask sellers to curse someone for you. Markets are great, because even in a gringo run town like San Miguel, there are very few gringos.
So for the first time since I've been in San Miguel, I felt like I was actually in "real" Mexico yesterday. We bought our produce, and Ruben described many of the items available at the market. We tasted four types of tamales, three types of atoles, candies, and the most amazing Nopale (cactus) taco, I've ever had.
Once we got back to the kitchen we started cooking. It was a group effort, although I chose to stand back, sip my Mango/Tequila drink and take photos. Together we made traditional guacamole, salsa martajada, arroz horneado, and planto en crema de carmelo.
I have to admit that when I saw the menu, I was a bit disappointed. I've been making guacamole and salsa my entire life. However, it was a different take on both. We used the molcajete to mash the ingredients, and it really made a difference in the taste and texture (I'm going to attempt to buy one before I leave).
The rice dish was also fantastic, although I 'm doubtful that I'll be able to make it at home, since I have a severe rice cooking handicap. Ruben said there's a saying in Mexico, that if you can cook rice, you're ready to get married. I wondered if this might be what's holding me back from finding a husband....
Finally, we had bananas in caramel sauce, which was the best thing I've eaten in ages.
The entire experience was lovely- from eating good food, to learning more about peppers, to making a few friends and getting some much needed socialization with other Americans. I spent the next few hours gleefully walking San Miguel, partially in a food coma. I think today, I'll head back to the market to buy some of that nopale cactus and try to make some tacos!
I'm Lauri. Teacher for nine months of the year, vagabond for the other three. I've traveled to France, Russia, West Africa, SE Asia and all over the US. This summer I'll be driving to Mexico with my little dog, Nilo.