Isla Mujeres Mystery ~ Lynda L. Lock

Flavours and fun, Americans Vs Canadians

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Alejandro assisting Angelita with making mole
The diminutive, and very patient, abuelita Angelita prepared to teach a roomful of strangers the intricate procedure for creating Mole de Oaxaca, that delicious Mexican sauce created from spicy chilies, and fragrant cinnamon and luscious dark chocolate.   

But she didn’t count on what can happen when three Americans from Minnesota met up with three Canadians from British Columbia: a lot of laughter and noise, and inattention to our teacher.  We were such bad, bad students!   

Angelita – roasting vegetables on griddle
Angelita Cu Barrera was born in Campeche City as was her mother before her.  Her papa was from the nearby larger city of Merida.  She moved to Isla Mujeres about fifteen years ago, to be with her two sons Jacky and Carlos.  Her daughter, Cristiana, and family still love living in Campeche.  

Angelita’s two older grandsons are busy with advanced education; one studying international business, and the other is in seminary school.

Angelita, Christy Dix, Alejandro
Those of you that frequent Isla Mujeres probably know some of her island family members.  Daughter-in-law Christy Dix owns On Target Language Services, specializing in language boot camp for both Spanish and English speaking students.  Angelita’s older son Carlos works at the IxChel Condo Hotel, and youngest son Jacky has recently started his own business Jacky Miquel Construction and Remodeling.  

And then there is four-year-old Caitlin, my favourite promising artist.  I am reasonably certain that the drawing she confidently handed me was of our semi-famous cat, Thomas.  Caitlin knows all about Thomas as her momma, Christy, assisted with the English/Spanish translation for our children’s book The Adventures of Thomas the Cat.

Chicken, plantains, chocolate, tomatoes, cinnamon, garlic
As for Angelita, she offers lessons on preparing traditional Mexican food, everything from enchiladas Suisas, empanadas, chilies rellenos, to tamales.  The lessons typically take about two and a half hours, but for our unruly class it was closer to three hours from start to finish.  Angelita chatted in Spanish while she prepped the chicken, vegetables, and spices for the mole.  Her culinary-school trained assistant, Alejandro Fernandez Heredia, worked steadily in the background preparing guacamole and Pico de Gallo, for the hungry mob. 
Tim, Curt, Deanne, and Denise 
By the time Angelita had sautéed the plantains, melted the chocolate, and roasted the garlic my taste-buds were working overtime in anticipation of the finished product.  

The next step was to grill the six chilies mulatos and three chilies anchos before pureeing. Wow!  Did that cause an interesting reaction! 

Hot spicy smoke curled through the kitchen, creating coughing fits amongst the novice students, then laughter, then more coughing as we discovered that laughing causes a person to inhale large gulps of air – laden with spicy oils.  Capsaicin the active ingredient in the pepper spray, used for self-defense, is derived from chilies.

Alejandro plating our lunch.  Yum!
Neither Angelita nor Alejandro were bothered by the effects, having experienced the phenomena many times.  A little fresh air through the two kitchen windows, and everyone recovered nicely.  

A few minutes later Alejandro and Angelita plated up the delicious Mole de Oaxaca over chicken, with rice and pickled onions on the side.  Yum!  

I did notice when I got home that the spicy chili oil was still clinging to my clothes and hair; a quick shower and a change of clothes fixed the problem.  Even so, I really enjoyed the cooking lesson and highly recommend the experience.
And despite what the other students might tell you, I was the quiet, well-behaved one, taking copious notes and paying strict attention to our instructor.  Honest!  I was!   Well, at least there aren’t any incriminating photos – that I know of.
Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie

Alejandro, Angelita, Marcy, Lynda, Tim, Day, Curt, Denise  Facebook link for Cooking with Abuelita Angelita.  For information on cost and the lesson schedule please check the Facebook page or contact Christy Dix. 


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