Oaxaca is blessed.
Blessed with a springtime climate, culture, arts, and traditions. If you ask most people right now what they've heard about Oaxaca, it's probably going to be something about food.
Rich in gastronomy, Oaxaca is the capital for food in Mexico, say's everybody! The cooking here is deeply rooted in tradition and native dishes like Zapotecan cuisine which can be traced back 2500 years.
If you're coming to Oaxaca and love food, well, get yourself signed up for one or both of these iconic cooking classes.
Below are two of the most popular and respected chefs and culinary instructors in Oaxaca.
Reyna Mendoza Ruiz and Nora Valencia.
If you want proof that Oaxaca is one of the top food destinations in the world, these talented ladies will prove it effortlessly.
This is Reyna Mendoza of El Sabor Zapoteco. She hosts cooking classes in her private outdoor kitchen at her home 30 minutes outside Oaxaca. You will be picked up in Oaxaca City and brought to the foothills of the Sierra Juarez Mountains to the small village of Teotitland del Valle. A famous weaving village where her family also makes the famous textiles and rugs that are woven here.
First off was the market tour that's a short walk from Reyna's home. The market is filled with vendors from all over the region selling everything that you would need to create a traditional zapotecan meal. Meats, homegrown vegetables, dried chilis and salsa, homemade cheeses and tortilla presses are all available here. Armed with baskets begging to be filled, we strolled through the open-air market following Reyna like eager children ready to learn more about the truest sense of market to table cooking.
Once back in her kitchen, our baskets were emptied and organized for our recipes. Instruction and explanations were given and the hands-on experience began. Everyone takes part and helps with every dish for the meal.
Once everyone has had their fair share of roasting, mashing, grinding and plucking and the meal is plated. We all sit down at the family table to share our new creations. Reyna sits down with us and we toast to our new skills and Reyna's generosity with local Mezcal.
Hungry, thirsty and happy.
Our second cooking class was with the beautiful a gracious Nora Valencia of Alma de Tierra Cooking Classes.
We booked a private cooking class to celebrate a friends birthday. Nora begins her classes off at Mercado de la Merced which is just a few blocks from her home where she opens up her family kitchen to you.
She introduces herself and immediately draws you in with her enthusiasm and knowledge of the history of Mexican food. "The history of food is important to the world. To its heritage." Mexico's blended cultures from Spanish and African influence have infused their traditions into ancient Zapotec traditions and are some of the reasons people flock here just to eat.
She also explains the importance of its markets. "If you can find the market, you will find the town church." People still prefer to come to the market instead of the more modern supermarkets. Nora explains that "You will know the history of the people by going to the market."
We follow Nora through the crowded market where she waves and says hello to all the vendors which I can only assume are friends as well. She's here probably every day. We're educated on some special properties and heat levels of different chilis, which I already know will forever change the way I make salsa.
Loaded up with all our ingredients for our multi-course meal, we stroll with her back to her home in Barrio de Jalatlaco. There were several times when we stopped in our tracks to admire and photograph how beautiful and vibrant the street where home is.
Our afternoon was spent in her colorful kitchen learning the secrets of making salsa, tamales, stuffed squash blossoms, Azteca soup and our special request for a green mole.
We were assigned tasks and rotated through them as we sipped mezcal and planned our future dinner parties when we returned home.
Once we prepared our meal together, Nora and her assistants plated each course then sat down with us to share in our favorite meal of the trip.
I started this blog so that I could document and share my adventures in travel, photography, food and the things that inspired me. It's a work in progress as are most things in life.