I met my informant at a cooking class in Cancun, Mexico. She and her husband hold these classes in their home just outside of the Hotel Zone. They’re both in their mid-50’s and have lived in Cancun with their three children for close to twenty-five years. My informant was born and raised in Mexico City, where she spent the majority of her youth mastering regional cuisines from throughout Mexico. She ultimately attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Though she is well versed in world cuisine, she considers herself an expert in traditional Mexican cooking, as the majority of her recipes have been handed down through both her family and her husband’s.
The classes she holds are for no more than twelve people and lasts roughly six hours. She gives a short lecture on different culinary regions of Mexico and then begins an interactive cooking lesson where the group prepares twelve separate recipes. The lesson was too long to record the entirety of the performance, but I recorded some of her specific introductions and explanations of several dishes. She also gave each participant a copy of the recipes, almost all of which were passed down through the generations. The informant transcribed them and included her own specific instructions.
“This is a salsa from the Yucatan peninsula, right here (gestures to map of Mexico)…right near Cancun…the word ‘xnipec’ comes from the Mayan language…in English it means like ‘dog nose’ (laughter)…but it’s good…very spicy so you just do a little drop like this…(takes a spoon and makes small drops on the back of her hand)…and you taste first…don’t do too much…we’ll have to take you off the floor (laughter).”
5 roasted habaneros
1 garlic clove roasted
2 tablespoons of chopped red or white onion
Pinch of oregano
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Squeeze the juice of several limes (Yucatan lemons, which are more like limes) into a small bowl if you don’t find them lemons are ok. In a mortar add garlic roasted Habanero pepper, ground the ingredients and add spoons of chopped onion, oregano, juice of limes and olive oil and season. Mix all this and set aside you can make the salsa a day in advance and this will make the salsa milder.
This dish was prepared with a stone mortar and pestle; the habaneros had been roasted on the flame of a gas stovetop shortly before we began the lesson. Claudia spoke at length about the different kinds of peppers used in Mexican cuisine, but interesting she did not appear to enjoy the habanero flavor herself.