During what has been a rather hectic summer for us, our camping plans diminished to almost nothing. Unlike our normal two-three trips per month, we were approaching mid summer with only our anniversary trip to Timothy Lake to talk about. But in spite of selling our house and family concerns, we were booked for a long weekend at the lake for the 4th of July, and we were NOT missing it!
I lowered my camera, sniffing the air around me like a dog. Jim and I looked at each other with the same silent question reverberating between us. Where was the smell of roasting coffee coming from? We wandered around corners and down cobblestone alleys, never quite finding what we were searching for, that elusive scent seeming to ebb and flow with each turn. Reluctantly, we returned to our hacienda for dinner, unsure that we hadn’t dreamed the entire olfactory experience. Tired, we called it an early night, sure that our quest for the coffee of Alamos was for naught.
I tried to slip deeper into the corner as the six or seven men crowding the room chopped and stirred with deliberate haste. The youngest of them crouched on their haunches, low to the floor, in that way some cultures seem born to do and I have yet to master. Chopping boards rested directly on the not so clean floor as they chopped and sliced fragrant garlic, onions and tomatoes. Upon seeing the amount of chilies being added to the mix, I knew we were ensured a fiery curry tonight! Two men worked feverishly over large, dented metal pots, cooking down the mutton and vegetables, as the fragrant smell of spices circled above them. In spite of the cool desert air, perspiration glazed their skin.
I stood in awe, incredibly honored to have been asked to watch the dinner preparation, for in India, women did NOT cook outside the home. Intimidated by being jammed into a 10X10 room with these hardworking cooks, I reflected on the miracles of time and place that had brought me here.
Three knives, two cutting boards, and a two-burner hot plate. That was all required to serve up a fantastic dinner that fed the entire camp of over twenty. It forever changed my view of the “necessary”.
Undoubetedly our favorite evening on our recent family trip to Mexico was the night we took a cooking class at Robert & Dolores Brittingham’s house.
Formerly from Seattle, Robert & Dolores have called Puerto Vallarta home since 2002, starting Essence of Cuisine, Dolores’ cooking school, in 2006. We girls in the family had taken several cooking classes in the past and knew it was something we wanted to take advantage of on this trip to Mexico. After months of searching online, I was growing frustrated. Of the many different types of classes offered around town, none of them seemed to suit our group. A couple were perfect for me, 6-7 hours of total immersion, beginning with shopping for ingredients at the market, but deemed much too intense for mom and Wendy. A few well-known classes had great reviews, but were extremely expensive and mostly featured simply watching the chef cook.