Susana Trilling in New York a few years ago, at a culinary event given by Zarela Martinez. I was from Mexico (or visiting anyway), and so was she, so I boldly approached her and introduced myself. She was gracious and warm, and we ended up keeping in touch once I got back to Mexico. A few months ago Susana invited me to visit Seasons of My Heart, the cooking school she runs in San Lorenzo Cacaotepec about 45 minutes from Oaxaca City. She gives an open cooking class on Wednesdays for $75 USD, which includes a visit to the Wednesday Market in the nearby town of Etla. I finally took the tour a few weeks ago and I'm so glad I did. The market itself was worth the price of admission. The Etla Market: A must-visit We met Yolanda, one of Susana's market guides for the past several years and a Oaxaca native, at a central meeting point. She spent the next 2 1/2 hours pointing out the ceramics and herbs, and giving us tastes of nicuatole, homemade smoky requesón, sesame-topped pan amarillo, nieves, tamales and more. The tamales, sold from a stand near the back entrance, nearly swore me off of Mexico City streetside tamales forever. The squash flower-chepil variety (there was a squash-flower chepil variety!) tasted like the ingredients had been plucked from a garden somewhere nearby. And theI met
coloradito amarillo. Oh god. These were the tamales to end all tamales. Returning to the Cooking School Back at Seasons of My Heart -- the school is tucked off a dirt road, nestled in the Etla hills -- I volunteered for team tasked with making chichilo mole. My partner and I gathered at the outdoor wood-fired kitchen stove and toasted our chiles and tomatoes. We lit a tortilla on fire with a few spoonfuls of chile seeds and watched it burn. It started to rain, and I finally had a chance to think about where I was and what I was actually doing -- standing in front of the wood fire and a comal de barro, blackening a tortilla until it smoked, in the same way who knows how many women had done before me. Then, finally, it was lunch time. The food kept coming: nopales salad, pumpkin seed dip, corn soup, corn antojitos called tetelas, chichilo mole, rice. We stuffed ourselves and talked. By the time the class ended and the van arrived to pick everyone up, the rain had started again, and thick swaths of dark clouds covered the mountains in the distance. I wanted to curl up in a chair with a blanket and a cup of tea and stay until the stars came out. I'd highly recommend Susana's class if you're visiting Oaxaca. (You can reserve directly through the Seasons of My Heart website.) I'll leave you with more photos of the Wednesday Market in Etla.