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October 7, 2011 / beatricebunny

Mi Cuchina Es Tu Cochina

Today, my husband and I took a fantastic cooking class here in Cancun at Mi Cuchina Es Tu Cochina. The chef/instructor, Claudia, was excellent. She is clearly passionate about food and about Mexican culture.

The classes are taught in her home to groups of no more than 12. Our class was 10 students, all from the United States. We all came from the same hotel and shared a van to her home. Her husband, Lorenzo, greeted us at the door, introduced us to their adorable dog, and showed us through to the back porch, where we sat and waited for the chef. Their backyard was lovely- green and dappled with a full acknowledgement of the jungle beyond the walls. Lorenzo even pointed out an iguana poking its head out of part of the wall.

I remain amazed by the act of eating and how it breaks down barriers. Not between us and Claudia and her family, but between us and the other students.

We made somewhat idle small talk while waiting for the other two students- they never showed. Lorenzo got us chatting and then Claudia arrived and introduced herself. She told us about her cooking experience, and her recent trip to Africa. Though she was modest about the trip, given what the website above says about it.

The first delicacy of the day was traditional Mexican coffee. This was a delight. The coffee is boiled in a clay pot with sugar and spices. It is sweet, mild and not at all bitter. I don’t know yet how I am going to make this in our apartment, but I will find a way. It was served with a sweet corn muffin. We drank our coffee out of lovely little clay jugs before moving into the house.

As with most cooking classes, we started with the meat preparation because it takes the longest to cook.

She teaches different classes, based on the regions of Mexico. This week’s class focused on the Yucatan Peninsula. She spent quite a lot of time talking about the different regions of Mexico and how the food differs from region to region. It reminded me of a recent online debate about what constitutes “American food.” It’s hard to see your cultural foods when you live inside of them, and a lot of people said that American food is really regional rather than national. I wonder how many other places this is true of? It’s certainly true of Mexico.

We started with a spice rubbed pork cooked covered in banana leaves. This dish smelled amazing, and as we cooked each dish, Claudia passed around spices, vegetables, and other items for us to touch and smell.

Our first appetizer was fruit sliced and covered in lime juice and a local spice blend. Claudia told us how this is common street vendor food and also a snack that mothers send to school with their children- fruit, a lime, and a small bottle of the seasoning. My husband and I now have the seasoning to use at home, assuming customs lets us keep it. This spicy, sweet snack was delicious.

Our second appetizer was a sopapilla topped with shredded chicken, avocado, pickled onions, and other goodies. We had helped make various salsas that topped this dish.

We made three salsas- mild, made with tomatoes, medium made with tomotillas and poblano peppers, and habenaro. My husband also made the habenaro pesto, an amazing mixture I ate on nearly everything.

For sides, we made green rice and lime soup, both regional delicacies. Delicious!

Last, we made tortillas both with a press and by hand. I had never eaten fresh tortillas before. They were an experience.

While the last of the dishes cooked, we stood on the porch, sipped good reposado tequila, and got to know one another.

Dessert was tres leches with bananas and strawberries. It was creamy and heavy on the cinnamon, both which made me very happy.

At last we sat down together, ate the wonderful meal, laughed, and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon. I left with some excellent recipes, cooking tips, a full stomach, and (hopefully) some pictures.

It will be difficult to find some of thaw ingredients at home, but I intend to try my hand at recreating some of these recipes very soon.

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