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back to school – La Gourmandista

Cooking in progress...

Etiqueta: back to school

Where to study traditional Mexican Cooking in Mexico City

Once we were back in Mexico and had gotten settled, I was anxious about sharing my cuisine with family and friends. I therefore decided to organize a small get together on Epiphany (January 6). I called some of them. Everyone happily accepted my invitation. I thought it would be an amazing chance to share something of what I had learned during the last year of my life.

I started to get ready. It was a little bit difficult to find some of the ingredients I had gotten used to, but once I had everything at hand, I very easily began to prepare a Parisian-style ‘Galette des Rois’. For the Mexican version of the ‘Rosca de Reyes’ (King’s Cake) I preferred, however, to go with a commercial version rather than experimenting, since it was the first time we would get together with some of the people we had missed the most. I wanted it all to be perfect.

I cannot deny it was a very nice soirée. However, I thought it would have been better if I had known more about Mexican bread-baking. I began once more to think about what I was still missing to learn. I only knew how to prepare my mother’s cuisine. And honestly, my mom prepared Enchiladas and Chicharrón in Salsa Verde, never did she prepare Pozole or Cochinita Pibil, even less a King’s Cake. And it’s not because she didn’t know how to cook, it’s just that I don’t come from a family where a hundred tamales were cooked for Christmas or ‘Chiles en Nogada’ for Independence Day.

I made some research here and there -especially on the Internet-, and everything I found directed me towards the same professors; the same school. I had no idea who they were or how much they knew. I visited the place, asked everything I was curious about, and given my interest but my dubitative state, I was offered to go see a class. The place was divine. It was an antique house in the middle of the ‘Colonia Condesa’ which had been adapted. I later learned so much about this place. However, it was unbelievable for me to learn that this small place would be the only one where traditional Mexican cuisine could be learned, when my country has such a gastronomic tradition. I went back home and talked about it with some of my people. I found someone who knew them, and she gave me all the information I needed. I felt comfortable now. Everything I needed was for someone I could rely on to know who they were, and then everyone started telling me how good they were. It was like magic. Everyone recommended the place and even started to teach me about their amazing trajectory. I would have to invest another year, but it seemed like I would learn much more than how to do chilaquiles and tamales.

French Culinary School 101

I was still on vacation, but the excitement towards the project which would begin on January 6th invaded my thoughts more and more. Emotions kept me running high every time someone asked me something about it, anything.

In this day and age, as we are always connected to the Internet, even when far away from home; where we look for an open public network or wi-fi available to log on to, it’s no surprise I refreshed my email feed while I was waiting at the bus stop on my way home. Thus, I found the message with the details for Orientation Day asking me to arrive sharply first thing in the morning to be welcomed into the program and receive my tools and uniforms. Now, I generally arrive to my appointments on time, but this day I wanted to be even more punctual.

The night before “D-Day” I went to bed early. I think it was barely 10:00 p.m. when I was ready to go to sleep, just like an elementary school girl would do. It is true that the mind plays games on us at all times, day or night, so, I was the earliest bird ever seen. I woke up at the crack of dawn at 5:30 a.m. My father would have been very proud, even though I would have enjoyed sleeping a little longer, but honestly, I didn’t seem to need to. I was ready to go and own the burners, so I got ready, had breakfast, and set out on my journey. I thought I had arrived too early, but in fact I hadn’t. I wasn’t the first one to arrive, even when it was 30 minutes before the alleged time to begin the session where I was to be present.

The second surprise was that upon my arrival and as I entered the school lobby, there were people from literally all origins welcoming us, the rookies, and they were doing it in our mother tongue and on a first name basis. Totally my style. My being identified as student number 15 854 is totally unlike me; it makes me ultimately unhappy.

Before anything else, there were forms to complete. Then, we were welcomed. We were reminded of the school rules -which even though they seemed very similar to those of the military, it is fully comprehensible given the risks lived in a kitchen- and of course, each student introduced him/herself, say where he or she came from, but all of that after having enjoyed one of those small pastries customary in delicious French restaurants at breakfast.

Later, we went here and there, walked all around the building where we were going to be for at least the following three months, since each student has a different study plan. Later, we went to the administrative department to verify data, paperwork, etc. and last, but definitely not least, we tried on the necessary uniforms to be received together with our books and tools.

And it was in that very moment when things changed, because even though everything was peaceful in my surroundings, my internal self took charge and completely overwhelmed me. Nothing bad, but all I wanted to do was to sit down and cry. I wasn’t sad, all the contrary. I wanted to scream THANK YOU! once and again because I was here, where I had always wanted to be, where I had dreamed about since I was very young. But it was now when I had come, and just the idea of it was almost unthinkable. I guess the desire had been stored in a drawer somewhere. However, true it is that dusting it and pursuing it with great effort until making it true was the overwhelming feeling I had. Now, for nine months I will be living in this halls that smell like butter morning and evening. I will be answering ‘Oui, Chef!’ as many times as I am asked to do something, and we will most probably eat as many calories as practical sessions we have at school, as well as at home.