When I was in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico last week, I took a cooking class at Marilau Mexican Ancestry Cooking School. I was attracted to this particular school in general because 1) It had an easy to navigate website with lots of information 2) The website portrayed the instructor's obvious devotion to traditional Mexican food and techniques, and 3) Of her rapid response to me via email. The school was also an easy walk from where I was staying in San Miguel. I chose a class that was making Sopa de Lentejas (Lentil Soup), Arroz Verde (Green Rice), and Pollo en Pipian Verde (Chicken in Green Pumpkin Seed Sauce).
It was a small class, just me and another couple, who were visiting from Miami. The class was taught in English, and lasted 2 1/2 hours, with plenty of time for questions throughout. Maria, the owner and instructor, is incredibly knowledgeable, and the class was informative and well-organized. The classroom kitchen is a beautiful space, with traditional cooking pots hung on the wall, an ample sized prep table, as well as a mirror above the stove for easy viewing. She made sure we all got a chance to stir the pots, strain the ingredients, and chop the vegetables, among other things. I have been cooking for 25 years, 10+ years of those professionally, and traditional cuisines of the world is where my passion lies. Maria answered all my questions thoughtfully and thoroughly.
The most eye opening aspect of the class for me was her comment about not using traditional French techniques for cooking traditional Mexican dishes, in this class, all of which were pre-Columbian (before the Spanish came to Mexico). I particularly enjoyed the lentil soup, as being part Turkish, I have enjoyed many bowls of lentil soup in my life, and did not expect to be wowed by this one. The flavors were intense and addicting, and the unexpected addition of plantain in the lentil soup really sealed the deal for me--I savored every last bite. The flavors in Maria's cooking class were delicious, the techniques simple and precise. I'm excited to bring these ideas and dishes back to my kitchen in California, and hope to take another class with Maria when I am in San Miguel de Allende again.