Yep, it's true. After more than a year of writing about Mexican food on this blog, I finally took the plunge and signed up for a diploma program at the Escuela de Gastronomía Mexicana. It's a cooking school that specializes in Mexican gastronomy, and it's conveniently located near my house -- just a short bike ride or 20-minute walk away. The program is 13 months long, and classes are held one night a week for three to four hours. During half the class period, we'll cook authentic Mexican dishes; the rest of the time, we'll learn about Mexico's culinary history and culture. (Seriously. Does this not have my name written all over it?) At the end of the program, graduates receive a diploma in Especialización de Gastronomía Mexicana. I took a Mexican salsas class at this school a few weeks ago, so I already knew that I liked the instructors. They're very nice, knowledgeable about Mexican cooking and open to answering any questions. Our first class was yesterday, so I got to meet all of my fellow students for the first time. There were about a dozen of us, an equal mix of men and women. We each received a welcome packet and a little notebook. Then instructor Yuri de Gortari spent a good 90 minutes lecturing about corn and its influence in Mexico, and another three hours or so talking about prehispanic ingredients. It was fascinating. I scribbled furiously in my notebook, while many of other students just sat and listened. No doubt they knew a lot of the material already. I, for one, had no idea that a corn cob is called an "olote" or that the real name for the dried corn husk -- that is, the real Nahuatl name -- is "totomoxtle." I didn't know that piloncillo cones used to be available in smaller sizes, and that you'd nibble on them as you sipped atole. Or that chicatana ants are abundant and eaten regularly in Chiapas, and spirulina algae was a prehispanic food. Think I'm gonna need to buy a few more notebooks. At the end of class, Yuri announced that we all needed to buy our own molcajetes and metates. The former is a lava rock mortar-and-pestle; the latter is a lava rock tablet and grinding stone. We're going to learn how to grind corn, chocolate and salsas by hand. This is how they used to do it, back in the olden days: On the off chance that I don't like the program after all, I can leave whenever I want. It's pay-as-you-go. But I'm really excited about everything I'm going to learn. Off to Mercado Merced next week to get grinding stones. Woo-hoo!