Tag Archives: cuisine

Oaxaca Photography in Teotitlan del Valle

What an incredible photography and cooking class day with Reyna Mendoza Ruiz at her family home. El Sabor Zapoteco is the cooking class program. And we did so much — photographing each other doing the food preparation in the traditional ancient Zapotec way, making mole rojo, the traditional fiesta mole of Teotitlan. The photography expedition is an extraordinary cultural immersion experience. Sam and Tom Robbins robbinsx2.com provide great coaching and instruction.

Oaxaca Breakfast with Carina Santiago Bautista

Carina Santiago Bautista prepares desayuno (breakfast)

I landed on Saturday and have been breathless ever since.  After two nights and days in Oaxaca City, visiting friends, shopping, sightseeing, and walking up and down hills, we have now settled into the pueblo of Teotitlan del Valle.  Here it is fresh, calm, peaceful, a rural village a mere 30 minutes outside the city and a different world, a quieter pace.  Stephen and I decided to have breakfast at La Tierra Antigua, the restaurant operated by Cari Santiago Bautista and her husband Pedro Montano Lorenzo.  We hopped on a tuk-tuk (moto taxi) and landed in paradise where their stainless steel, commercially equipped kitchen is the foundation for preparing delicious local foods.  We ordered more than we could possibly consume for the full-taste experience and Stephen asked for “para llevar” — to go.

Fruit plate with homemade jam at La Tierra Antigua

Cari preparing homemade hot Oaxaca chocolate

Vegetarian omelet

Cari’s vegetarian omelet uses two eggs (fresh from her own hens), stuffed with quesillo (Oaxaca string cheese), salsa fresca (tomatoes, peppers, onions) plus sauteed onions, served with a side of nopales (cooked cactus) — very high in vitamin C, and refried beans.  Stephen had his with chilequiles (dried tortillas soaked in black bean sauce).

Cari with basket of fresh eggs from her hens

Organic corn, dried on the cob, ready for planting

Behind Cari and Pedro’s home is a large tract of land that they will plant with corn, squash and beans — the traditional Zapotec milpas.  The nutrients from the roots of each plant give just the right mix of fertilization needed for an outstanding crop.

This is planting season.  The earth is rich and fertile. The farmers are in their fields, oxen yoked with ancient wood to plow the fields into deep furrows.  Along wooden rod extends from the yoke to make the furrows.  One can smell the history, the steamy loamy earth.  In the distance, a curl of cloud embraces a mountain peak.

Everything that Cari serves is organic, include the incredible whole bean coffee she grinds that comes from Hidalgo.  We had three cups and were definitely ready for the day.  Breakfast lingered and the multi-course meal plus conversation took about three hours — a luxury where we live, part of life here.  One reason that we love it so much in Oaxaca!

Restaurant Tierra Antigua, Av. Juarez #175, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. Tel (951) 166-6160, email: zapotecweavers@hotmail.com

Oaxaca Cooking: Flavors of the Grandmothers

Quesadillas with quesillo, huitlacoche, corn, chiles poblanos, salsa fresca

Written recipes for traditional Oaxaca cuisine are a recent phenomena.  As with most cultures that create art through food, the way of cooking is passed through the hearts, hands, and soul of women, generation to generation, a folk-tale. Everything is by hand and by memory, intuited.  Measurements are imprecise, to taste and to touch.  Add a dash of this, a handful of that, stir, taste again, “correct the seasoning.”   The the preparation of mole, salsas, tortillas, the growing of the food that ends up on the table, is not easy because everything is prepared fresh.  Yet, this is satisfying for those who cook because it is a blessing of the sisterhood and creativity.  And, for those who eat the food, it is a blessing of sustenance, flavors, aromas, and appreciation for what has gone before us.

Quesadillas in the making on the comal

Oaxaca chef Pilar Cabrera Arroyo says that you need to have a passion for the food to create authentic cuisine.  The outcome of a meal depends on the cook’s state of mind, the “estado de animo.”  If things are not going well in life, that is reflected in the taste of what is prepared that day.  I can believe it!

Chef Pilar Cabrera Arroyo with cooking class student

Years ago, when I led a group of people on a culinary tour of southern France, starting in Lyon and fanning out through the Loire valley, we visited some of the great chefs of the time:  Paul Bocuse, Georges Blanc and Alain Chapel. Their auberges (country inns and dining rooms) were on the lands of their parentage.

These were the first generation of men who sat at their mothers’ and grandmother’s knees in the kitchen and popularized French cooking (to say nothing of Julia Child).  They learned the mother cuisine, translating it into 4-star and 5-star brilliance for the world to know and enjoy. Gourmet French cooking has its roots in Lyon in the kitchens of the grandmothers, just as Oaxaca cuisine has its roots in La Cocina de la Casa at the comal and in the fields.  Fresh ingredients, organically grown without pesticides, harvested by the men, prepared by the women.  This great tradition has been translated by Rick Bayless, Diana Kennedy and Susanna Trilling through their books and restaurants.

Pilar Cabrera learned at her grandmother’s knees and offers us the experience of authentic Oaxaca cocina de las mujeres through her cooking classes.  For that, I am grateful.

A Su Salud--To Your Health. A shot of mescal at the end of the cooking class and before we sit down to eat lunch.