Last week, my friend and I took part in a Mexican cooking workshop in Farzaneh Hall, offered as a part of OU’s Latin America Week. This week, I still haven’t applied my new skills to make my own guacamole or salsa, but I’m looking forward to using the recipe I got next time I have access to a kitchen.
Armando Rivera, the owner of Puebla Tacos y Tequileria on Main Street and our instructor, greeted the class of ten or twelve warmly and asked who had traveled abroad this summer and who spoke Spanish. He then expressed to us his passion for Mexican food and culture because it is an integral part of his life — he grew up in Mexico and first learned to cook from his grandmother when he was six years old.
As he told us a brief history of the South and Central American civilizations, the adoption of the tomato by the Spanish, and the Aztec origins of salsa, Rivera passed around specially fire-roasted tomatoes, garlic and jalapenos to smell. The technique of fire roasting chars the outside of the vegetables and sugarizes the inside, he explained, resulting in an unrivaled and irresistible flavor.
Rivera drafted a few volunteers to help him prepare the ingredients, which he sources and hand-selects, to ensure quality. I asked him where he buys his avocados, and he vaguely replied that he has four sources, and he buys his from whichever source offers the best avocados on that particular day.
Finally, we gathered around several bowls and enjoyed the best salsa and guacamole we had eaten in our entire lives. Needless to say, I’ll be paying a visit to Puebla on Main very soon.
When I’m traveling, trying popular food is always an important part of experiencing other cultures. But when I’m chowing down on chips and salsa or guacamole at home, I don’t always take the time to appreciate their close ties to Latin American history. This workshop and Mr. Rivera’s enthusiasm for Mexican food and culture was an excellent reminder that the United States owes appreciation to countries around the world for many of its popular foods. And thanks to other cultures, in my opinion, the United States is a much more delicious place.