Back to Best of Class

Liveliest Cooking School in Oaxaca  (continued)

Our Long Guelaguetza Weekend class (which took place during a popular regional dance festival) was evenly divided between hands-on cooking classes and field trips to markets and nearby towns.  To get to the school from Oaxaca, we were driven by van through tiny mud brick colonias, down bumpy dirt roads bordered with cactus and wild bamboo, eventually splashing through a small stream before arriving at the ranch.  At first glimpse, we knew we could happily move right into Trilling’s domain.  Beautifully situated on a hill, the domed school is reached by wide steps inlaid with rounded river rocks; from a shaded portal that runs around one side, there is an alluring vista of the foothills of the Sierra Madre.  We walked into an inviting open space crowned by a sky blue dome. Colorful paintings hung on pale pink plaster walls and vases of calla lilies were set on a trio of hand hewn wooden tables where students eat and take notes.  The large, well-equipped tiled kitchen had lots of counter space and plenty of room for a dozen or more people to cook without bumping elbows.  

Our group of eight tackled three ambitious menus, making five-course meals from three regions of Oaxaca:  Tuxtepec, the Pacific Coast, and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.  Standouts included manchamanteles, literally “tablecloth stainer,” a rich tropical mole with three types of roasted chiles, almonds, sesame seeds. pineapple and plantain; salsa de queso de Rosa Matadamas, thin wedges of creamy queso fresco in an irresistible “soup” of roasted tomatoes, chiles and onion; and pastel de tres leches, a stellar cake filled with whipped cream, mango and strawberries, drizzled with a mixture of crema, condensed and evaporated milk.  Although we worked hard, ingredients were pre-measured, and Lorenza and the rest of Trilling’s capable staff were always there to demonstrate how to roast chiles over a wood fire or steam banana leaves for tamales.  Trillling’s majordomo, Oscar, a poultry farmer and onetime Phoenix bartender, kept the party rolling with a continuous flow of margaritas and ice cold beer.  

We didn’t spend all our time over a hot stove, though.  One day, Trilling’s friend Dominga came to the school to demonstrate the ritual preparation of atole, an ancient corn and cacao drink; another friend, Silvia, showed us how to make a delicious queso fresco from rich, unpasturized milk.  We had an exhaustive tour of Oaxaca’s sprawling Mercado de Abastos, beginning at a molino, or mill, where residents bring their own chiles and chocolate to be ground into mole paste and ending with a tasting of mescal, the potent local brew made from the maguey plant.  Another day, we traveled to the village of San Antonio Cuajimoloyas, where a mushroom hunter took us up a misty mountainside to search for wild mushrooms; later his wife cooked our bounty in her tiny comedor.  In the village of Ocotlan we visited a family of cheery cooks who showed us how to prepare sopa de guias, a garden fresh squash blossom and corn soup, tejate, another corn and cacao drink, and tlayudas, large tortillas baked on a clay comal over an open fire, topped with thinly sliced grilled beef.  

The best part of the class is Trilling herself.  A cheerful, generous, open-hearted person, she seems to have devoted admirers in every village and marketplace around Oaxaca.  She is genuinely passionate about the people and food of her adopted country, and has the gift of communicating that enthusiasm and her intimate knowledge of the region’s cuisine to her students.  Mostly, she wants you to have fun, eat some good food and learn how to make a few fabulous dishes.  We’ll be back for seconds.  

Contact:  Seasons of My Heart , Rancho Aurora, AP #42, Admon. 3, Oaxaca, 68101, Mexico.  Telephone: 52 (951) 518 77 26; 52 (951) 508 00 44.  Website:

Back to Best of Class

Home - About This Site - Contact Us

© Copyright 2004