Walter and Annette McAllister took their family to Mexico during the Christmas holidays. Walter had subscribed to Oaxaca Cultural Navigator and did his homework. I’ve never met them, but Walt, a chef, would write me periodically with questions or comments. He even sent me his daughter’s blog to read during their trip. When they got back, I wrote and asked if they would share their experience.
Here’s what Annette wrote back in her own words:
Walt took a mole class from Reyna Mendoza Ruiz, (firstname.lastname@example.org) in Teotitlan del Valle and LOVED it! Since we were staying at Las Granadas, which we also LOVED and was right around the corner, it was a short walk up to Reyna’s house. He started the class at 9:00 a.m. along with two other people. They immediately took off to the market to buy supplies. Reyna took them through the entire market explaining what the different things were and how they were used (all in Spanish). She even showed them how to tell the difference between an organic chicken and one that is not.
Reyna prefers to use organic, locally grown ingredients, and Walt said that some of the ingredients came from her own backyard. The class lasted until about 2:00 p.m. and they had a wonderful lunch. They all brought back samples of what they made. Walt even got to wear an woman’s apron LOL – he is man enough to handle that though…
The next class he took from Reyna was with our 12-year old daughter and they made Mexican Snacks. This time they were the only two students in the class, and it started the same way by taking a trip to the market. Both of these classes were on a Friday, which is the bigger market day in Teotitlan so there are more things to choose from, although the normal daily market is pretty fabulous all by itself. Our daughter Amy had a wonderful time and it was a big deal for her to be able to make tortillas which she brought back to us. We ate what they made for lunch up on the terrace at Las Granadas. I think the class was about $50 US, which was well worth it.
We also took a tour with Alvin Starkman (he lives in Oaxaca and runs a B&B) – He picked us up in a nice, large van with a driver, and he took us to see mezcal being made, potteries, woodcarvers, weavers, and a knife maker. Walt had been writing to him beforehand and they came up with a pre-planned itinerary. Alvin assured us it was not required to buy anything from the people we visited. It was a really long, action-packed day that we thoroughly enjoyed.
We spent some time in Puebla, which we loved, and then in Cholula, which we loved even more. My only regret was that we didn’t get to stay in Cholula longer. If I were to stay there again, I would definately pick a hotel that had a kitchen because that market is spectacular!! They had EVERYTHING you could possibly want. There was a seafood stand that had tons of different kinds of fish. And crab. I could have lived right there at that stand. We also found some soft queso there that had a green herb in it, which we found out later was epizote. Loved it. I am going to grow some of that herb this year and Walt is going to make some cheese with it.
In Mexico City, we went to Frida Kahlo‘s home, which is now a museum, the Casa Azul. I am fascinated by her life and was thrilled beyond belief to actually be roaming around her home. We also went to the museum in Mexico City and saw her largest painting, Las Dos Fridas. That might have been my favorite part of the trip, to be able to stand right in front of a painting that I have only dreamed about seeing. I must have stood there for 20 minutes. One of the workers came up to me and explained what the painting meant. He spent a good 15 minutes telling me, in great detail, all about it – I just wish it wasn’t in Spanish…
We were traveling with three kids, ages 15, 13 and 12. This was the first time the kids had been out of the country, and also the first time they had to live out of a backpack for three weeks. I must say, they did extremely well. I don’t know too many kids that would be able to sit in a bus station for FOUR HOURS without going crazy. It did help that there was a churro vendor right inside the bus station LOL Transportation-wise, they experienced: Planes, trains, cabs, mini-cabs, first and second-class buses, trams and subways. They lived through semi-cold showers, roosters crowing all night and long travel days. They saw poverty, simplicity, generosity and celebrations. They learned to use pesos, and to order lunch in Spanish all on their own. We grew closer as a family, and I can really see a change since we’ve been home. We all loved Mexico, and especially the people of Teotitlan del Valle, who found a place in my heart. We spent the most time there and enjoyed every minute of it. I especially miss Roberta. She rocks!!
Sorry to ramble on here, I can’t help it! If you have any other questions let me know, and I will try to answer them in 300 words or less. LOL
Have a great day!!
Annette Q McAllister