On leaving the Yucatan we headed to San Miguel de Allende a city far eastern part of the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico. It is 274 km from Mexico City or a three-hour drive ( or if #1 daughter is driving make that just 2 hours)! Historically, the town is important as being the birthplace of Ignacio Allende, whose name was added 1826. However, the prosperity of the town waned during and after the war of independence, and at the beginning of the 20th century was in danger of becoming a ghost town. However its colonial structures were “discovered” by foreign artists who moved in and began art and cultural institutes.
This attracted foreign art students, and a very large number of foreign retirees,North Americans, especially those wishing to escape the freezing temperatures of the North America, artists, writers and tourists, which is shifting the area’s economy commerce catering to outside visitors and residents.
The main attraction of the town is its well-preserved historic center, filled with buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. The town was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 2008.
We rented a house overlooking the town and the main cathedral, with Bougainvillea all around. It was Semana Santa, or Holy Week, or Easter, and as such there were parades almost all day. Deeply religious and almost shocking in their intensity we witnessed enormous parades, with children dressed in white carrying various forms of crucifix or statues of bloodied martyrs.
The restaurant scene here is very much alive and kicking and I have to admit that we ate out every day. For breakfast, we ran down the hill ( we always took a cab back up, I hasten to add) and went to a restaurant by the name of Cumpanio. It is famous for the pastries as well as the wonderful breakfasts.
Huevos Poche, are poached eggs in a small casserole, with either a red sauce or green sauce, and cheese, but meanwhile the crepas de chicarron, is pork scratchings in a crepe with again a red sauce over it. Himself said, OK BUT! Meanwhile, I tried the stuffed cactus, convinced that if I tried it enough times I would eventually say, “YEAH!” but so far I have not.
Moving swiftly on, #1 daughter and I enrolled in a cooking class. This class has been featured in several publications, including Texas Monthly, Austin Home & Living, Travel Lady Magazine, the Miami Herald and The Washington Post.
The school is called La Cocina, and the classes are conducted in English and Spanish with the chef, being Mexican. The school is in the centre of San Miguel in a beautiful old building, lovingly restored with a central courtyard. There were about 12 of us in the class, predominately Americans some of whom were expats making the most of cheaper living in San Miguel. Also in our group were some tourists like us, a honeymoon couple and a couple from Canada. We started out with a trip to the local market to buy our supplies, including a ready roasted chicken, interestingly the spit roasted chicken which we purchased had no skin on (not sure how they do it). So, a skinny bird!
Between us we cooked a number of different dishes, including a smoked salsa, stewed cactus, Guacamole (wonderful to get an abundance of ready to eat avocados) the best we can do here in the UK either a local ethnic market, where some of the produce can be a bit iffy, or a supermarket, where likewise it can be a hit and miss experience. Sometimes when it says “ready to eat”, it really means “ready to eat next year, not today”!
We spent a long morning at the cooking school and was a good experience, we learnt a lot and it was mostly a “hands on experience”. This really depended on how pushy one could be, one American woman always seemed to be the first to put her hand up or grab the apron or smush the avocados. For me that was fine, but # 1 daughter only managed to chop the cactus! Maybe this did not appeal greatly to pushy woman.
Finally everything was ready and we ate lunch, ample quantities of everything including margaritas and strawberry daiquiris. Now that is what I call a cooking school!
We finally caught up with husbands and small ones, who it seemed had spent the day touring the toy museum and eating pastries and ice cream! More on that next time…