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Nick and Laina's Adventures

Cocina Méxicana

MEXICO | Tuesday, 2 February 2010 | Views [2033] | Comments [7]

Mmm, Comida!

Mmm, Comida!

Ok, I hope to capture this story well, and as funny as it was for me. As I said in the last blog, we "thought"  we were enrolled in the Mexican cooking (Cocina Méxicana) class. The reason I said this was because when we first visited the Casa de Cultural de Oaxaca, we met with the woman who coordinates all the classes and enrollment, and during the course of our conversation we understood two things, one: we cannot sign up for the class or pay, and two: she wants us to come in on Sunday to see the class. The rest of the conversation was not quite understood, and we did not have the impression that we got into the class, but that we could come in on Sunday and try it out.
     Arriving to the Casa de Cultural, we hurried up to the top floor and into the kitchen (did I mention this building is beautiful? As you enter there is a large courtyard with big fountain, and the building has two floors, and the second floor also opens up to the courtyard with beautiful terraces. There are colorful flags, and painting, and there are music students everywhere playing an arrangements of instruments, from guitar to flute, and even some Mexican-Spanish-I-don't-know-the-name-but-looks-like-a-cello-lute-hybrids.) In the kitchen we arrive early and make some small talk with another student, a oaxaqueño high schooler, and wait for the rest of the class. After a little while, a few more students enter, including one girl we met at Casa Hogar, Ana, a 19 year old Swiss girl, who is not fluent in English, but quite competent in Spanish. After greeting her, the maestra (teacher) comes in and starts unlocking all the cupboards, and taking out cutting boards, knives, and other assorted kitchen items. We approached her, and after the usual courteous greetings (Hola, Buenos dias, ¿Como Estás?), we explain to her that we are not enrolled, and that we are very interested in taking the class if that was possible, if there was any space. She was very nice and said, "we are very sorry, but since the deadline has passed for sign-up, you cannot sign up, or pay for the class." We said" "But can we still take the class?" ,and she said, " Si, si, claro que si!"(yes,yes, of course!),and we responded "But we don´t need to pay?", "No, because the sign up has already passed". But something was in the air, we knew there was something we were missing. "Solo triga una sartén." We were like "what?", and our friend, Ana, seeing that we were having trouble understanding something, came over and asked the Maestra to repeat what she had said. "una sartén"... Ana turns to us and says, you need to donate a frying pan next time. As soon as she said "frying pan" I almost fell backwards, I was laughing so hard. I couldn´t believe it for a second, and then it all made sense. There was so much paperwork and bureaucracy in their system, that we couldn´t pay or sign up, but since this is Mexico, all we need to do is donate a frying pan next week, and we can take the class. Of course! A frying pan! Whats so weird about that?!
     After about 5 minutes where I couldn´t stop smiling, during which all the students got out the food, and started preparing it, I started cutting up tomatoes for a sauce, to a dish which I had no clue what we were making. On the table and in the pottery on the stove was an assortment of tomatoes, chilies, onion, garlic, corned beef, potatoes, eggs, coliflour, lettuce, avocados, and fresh cheese. After about an hour of delicious smells, and many different preparations I have never seen, we finally had our final dishes. Our first dish was "Croquetes de Coliflor" which is deep fried cauliflower that has been stuffed with fresh cheese, and covered in a thick egg batter, and fried until brown and crunchy. It is then topped with a slightly spicy tomato sauce, made from scratch, of course. Our second dish was called "Tinga" A beef stew-like dish of shredded beef, tomatoes, onion, chilies, and potatoes, is poured over lettuce, and topped with avocado cubes, and eaten with tortillas or rice, al gusto ( as you like).
     Our cooking class was great, and it was an awesome opportunity to speak Spanish with Mexicans who really want to get to meet you. I made many new friends, and can´t wait to go back next week, with our frying pan donation.
     Today at Casa Hogar, we had a great time. After the first hour with the kids, I joined some of the mothers in the kitchen, and helped make 100+ Tomales de Pollo Mole. At first I just shredded the chicken with my fingers, but once I finished, I started making the tomales as well. In case you don´t know, a tomale is a corn husk shell with a corn flour mixed with a meat and spices. Our tomales were made with chicken, and mole (Moe-lay) sauce. Mole is an interesting sauce made out of chocolate (giving it it´s extremely dark color), 8 types of chilies, bananas, peanuts, apple, bread, and more. It was a very complex flavor, and is extremely rich. To make the corn part, you mix corn flour(masa) with lard, water, and chicken broth. After mixing it up, you should have a pretty liquidy mixture. Once all the ingredients are ready, take one spoonful of tomale mix, scoop it into the corn husk, spread it around, ad a big scoop of mole, and sprinkle some chicken in. Then, roll up the corn husk carefully, and fold the bottom over, so none leak out. Once you have made all of them, put them in a big pan, with a steaming tray, and steam the tomales at high heat for an hour. If you are at Casa Hogar, dish them out to the kiddos, and then sit down for a fun meal with the family on the porch listening to the rainstorm, comparing words for "thunder" and "lightning", and gossiping about other things.




Wow...how fun and what a funny story. Just a frying pan. Was it hard to find a cheap one to donate. Oh...for a good thrift store when you need one.
How wonderful that you having been working in a day care with all those darling children. Wonderful experience in language and patience. Just think of what wonderful parents you two will be!!
All is well here. Uncle Terry is doing fine and the only thing he doesn't really like is the balloon they have to put inside of him everytime he has a treatment...which is 5 days out of 7. Thank goodness for the weekends. The aunts went to bingo tonight and won the last and biggest prize...54 dollars!!! Very fun. This has been an interesting experience for us.
We went to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles this last Saturday. We didn't want to use the car and Uncle Richard thought we should learn the transportation system(we are learning from you two) and so we took the train, subway and busses to get to our destination.The museum was free and we went up on a tram to where it is located...from the view we could see the pacific!! We had a good time and the only problem we encountered is when we went to the Union Station in LA to go home to Loma Linda we missed the train and we thought another would come along shortly...wrong! We were there at 6:30 and had to wait until 9:00...So we found a deck of cards in a shop and played bridge until our train came. Got home at eleven. A long day for we old birds.
Keep writing...we love reading about your adventures!! Another nomad wrote about you and we read what they had to say....found that on Google.
Nick and Laina are becoming famous!
Love from the four of us.
Aunts Pat and Susan and Uncles Richard and Terry

  Aunt Pat and Aunt Susan Uncles Terry and Richard Feb 2, 2010 5:36 PM


Oh, how funny! I laughed until I cried! What a great memory and a great experience! A Mexican culinary class in Mexico in Mexican (Spanish). How cool is that. Camera - drats! I love you.

  Mommy Feb 3, 2010 10:30 AM


Your blog made me hungry and all we are going to have are cheesesteak sandwiches with your darling sister, Tasha. She has been staying with us a lot lately and has been a joy, although the smoking gets me crazy. I guess we all make irrational health decisions, so I should really think about that... You sound great and boy does the food sound even greater. As I read all of your blogs, I really think you should go to culinary school and be a chef!

  holly Feb 3, 2010 10:34 AM


We just printed out all your journals for your grandma to read..i am over at her library...Jimmy is coming over in a while to help her with her wash and some shopping love Dad and Grandma Marcella

  marcella dunn Feb 4, 2010 7:39 AM


Hi kids, I am over at your grandmas and we just printed out your journals..Jimmy is coming over in a while to help her wash and shop Love dad and Grandma

  marcella dunn Feb 4, 2010 7:40 AM


thanks for the blog address. I really liked reading about your south american adventures, and i know I will like your tales in Mexico. Glad you are adventurous in the trying of new foods. I know mole sauce is supposed to be good, but the thought of chocolate and chilies does not turn me on.

Love, aunt mary and uncle mark

  aunt mary Feb 9, 2010 2:07 PM


Dudes... Awesome. That is hilarious. Makes about sense right? ahhh the barter system and bureaucracy, how well they go together.

  Hercules Feb 15, 2010 11:29 AM



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