Our first cooking class was scheduled the day after our Oaxaca orientation. Because we were a large group (24), we divided into two teams. "Team A" would have their class in the morning and free time in the afternoon. "Team B," which included Jim and me, would have morning free time and an afternoon class. I don't recall what we did in our free time. Whatever it was, I didn't take any pictures. I do remember walking to a nearby park where we had a tasty lunch in one of the recommended restaurants: La Casona del Llano.


Miller visit

Chef Gerardo Aldeco Pinelo met Team B members at the hotel and rode with us to our first stop: the molinero or miller. Every neighborhood has a shop where corn or other grains can be purchased and ground. It is much easier than using a metate!

Local housewives who make mole in bulk will also bring it to be ground because mole is usually made in batches too large for a home blender and no one who is not attending a cooking school will grind it by hand!

The white bucket had some corn that had already undergone nixtamalization to enhance its nutritive value. Lou, George, Kevin and Marie are giving it the eye.


La Merced

The next stop was the La Merced market. Chef Gerardo led us through while explaining the items on his shopping list and some of the other offerings. It was much quieter than the two markets we had visited the day before even though there was live music playing.

"Group A" said that it was more crowded and hectic in the morning. Plus no live music!


Masa Vendor

Our first stop was this vendor who was selling masa, among other things. We purchased some white corn and blue corn masa.

Later, after getting to the cooking school, we would do some additional kneading before using the masa to make tortillas.


Chickens

We would be using shredded chicken in one of our dishes. The workers quickly trimmed up and dismembered the chickens. No, we didn't use the feet!


Chef Gerardo Aldeco

Chef Gerardo explains the difference between the various types of produce available. We will be using Key limes and Roma tomatoes. There is some controversy about the desirability of Key limes, or Mexican limes as they are sometimes called. I can attest that the ones we used really were hard to juice.


Corn smut

The package has one unusual food that we would be using. The Nahuatl name for it is huitlacoche, which sounds a whole lot better than the common English designation: corn smut. Others call it Mexican truffles.

Whatever it's called, it's really good! We would be using it in soup.


Ingredients

Once we arrived at Chef Gerardo's home, which is where the class would be held, we found ingredients already gathered together and attractively arranged for our use. His mom and aunt had done a lot of prep work for us along with their kitchen helper!

These are some of the ingredients for Mole Coloradito, one of the Seven Moles of Oaxaca.


Cooks

Admittedly most of the time was spent chopping and grinding, but there were some opportunities for actually cooking as well. George and Tom are stirring up a storm under chef Gerardo's watchful eye.


Shipwreck

The work table had started out so organized and neat!

Now pans, blenders, and molcajetes are full of chopped roasted and ground ingredients. Cheryl is looking glad that she doesn't have to clean it up.


Tortilla making

Chef Gerardo is demonstrating tortilla making. The tortillas are squashed thin in the blue press and then carefully transferred to the gas-fired comal for roasting.

Like just about everything else, it's harder than it looks!


Tortillas

Marty and Tom are giving it a go.

It's not long after this that the earthquake hit! Jim & I got pretty used to quakes while living in California, but this was MUCH more intense, at 7.2 magnitude, than anything we had experienced before. The local alarms went off and the chef and his family hustled us all out into the patio. The quake lasted a surprisingly long time, but after it was over, the family determined that no damage had been done and we went back to cooking.

Even the 5.8 aftershock, which occurred while we were eating, only caused minor disruption.

Although the magnitude of the quake was 7.2 and the intensity was VII, "very strong," the damage was only moderate -- and then only in a limited area. By comparison the 1989 Loma Prieta quake outside San Francisco "only" had a magnitude of 6.9, but the intensity was IX, "violent," and the damage was heavy.

Earthquakes are strange beasts.

Before we left there were five (5) quakes over magnitude 5.0!


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