Let’s make guacamole! Creating a good time—is an art. And as is true with most artistic ventures—as in life in general—some people do it better than others. Enthusiasm is infectious and it generates such greatness from its energy that is should be harnessed. It is about this that I write today.
So hearing the charge “Let’s make guacamole!” will be for some a really exciting, if not challenging opportunity, while to others it will suggest a rudimentary task and prompt eye-rolling. Those with a lack of enthusiasm or optimism, that everything can be fun with the right recipe, will be the
eye-rollers thinking—what’s the challenge of making guacamole? Having done that a million times and regarding its mastery as already accomplished, will not look forward to such an opportunity.
It’s like all enthusiasm, the glass half empty or half full…and with that let me share with you a cooking class that was such fun that is warranted this blog. Despite the fact that the setting was in a tropical jungle, there were many options that day for activities that would blow your paradise-seeking mind. And with all those incredible options I was having great difficulty making decisions each of which eliminated one over the other.
Otherwise probably not to keen on the idea, but having been romanced by the paella lesson left to simmer on the open grill, I had half an open mind about the seemingly simple offer of a guacamole class.
So with a small herd of turtles in front of and behind me, we climbed the stone steps that wound through the lush green vegetation. Barefoot and still in my wet-suit from an educational and invigorating morning snorkel, I wondered if I should be returning to the beach or investing the precious time in the seemingly rudimentary guacamole class.
My reward was at the top of the hill…a statuesque chef donning his attenuated white hat graciously greeted us—welcoming us into a beautiful open-air palapa with its bony wooden structure beneath the layered palm thatch ceiling. There before us was a long rustic banquet table beautifully dressed with multiple molcajete vessels of various sizes filled with dark ripe round avocados, blackened/roasted plum tomatoes, grilled onions, blistered serrano chiles, freshly cut limes, red ripe plum tomatoes, fresh serranos, bunches of aromatic cilantro and pristinely peeled white onions.
At the point of arrival, a bounty of various specimen chiles were presented on a large rust-colored clay barro platter and stacks of little barroware plates were in piles interspersed among the molcajete.
Giant steel stars pierced to allow twinkling light to dance at night painted turquoise for pop in the daytime hung at staggered heights from the center of the grand, voluminous palapa. Surrounded by verdant jungle and colorfully painted concrete walls, the room was expansive yet intimate. The chef in his starched white uniform embroidered with his name and proud logo of the establishment greeted us in his towering hat and welcomed us into this scene that dazzled the eye.
Guacamole I’m thinking…this looks like a bit more fun than merely mashing up some avocados!!! And with that he began his friendly introduction to the fiery cuisine of Mexico’s flavorful salsas! Presenting the platter of chiles he held each up for all to see asking the group if anyone could identify them. The replies came from all around “serrano, jalapeno, chipotle, banana, arbol—cola de rata, poblano, guajillo…” The rapt audience sat encircling the grand buffet on rustic wooden stools engaging in lively conversation as the chef spoke in his open and encouraging manner describing each of the chiles and their many uses.
Now we were invited to approach the table where spaced evenly along each long side were stacks of white linen—pressed aprons and chef’s hats for each one of us—how fun and what a nice addition to the otherwise casual scene. We donned our outfits with giggles and proceeded to admire each other’s instant transformation into the appearance of proper culinary participants!
The chef alternated each pair across the table from one another assigning guacamole for one pair and salsa molcajete for the next and so one down the line. This too produced camaraderie between strangers who at once bonded in the fun of the festivities. Oh, and did I mention that for those who chose to partake that delightful beverages were served of all manner of tropical delights from straight tequila shots to refreshingly poured on the rocks with lime to jaca, papaya, pineapple juices, and rum? All this as the chef assigned tasks for each around the table resulting in a chatter of conversation and progress reports as each tackled their portion of the process—dicing, mashing, mixing and squeezing. The action continued to unfold as the capable woman behind the counter made fresh corn tortillas and delivered them oozing with molten Oaxaca cheese—quesadillas ready to scoop up the magnificent fresh salsa and guacamole!! Smiles and groans of delight emanated from around the room.
So in summary…the recipe for creating a good time: Presentation, welcoming attitude, disarming graciousness, with the best representations/samples of the product around which the good time is based! Know your theme/subject and make it fun!