The third cooking class we had was with Soledad Ramírez Heras. She lost her father at a very young age, and her mother would go from house to house selling tortillas to make a living. When she was nine years old, in order to help her mother she offered to work in the kitchen of a family that would buy her mother’s tortillas. The lady of the house originally refused to take her as she was too young and would cry for her mother, but she insisted that they take her and promised she would leave with her mother the next time she came to sell tortillas if she was too difficult. In the end, the stayed on with the family until she was a teenager and then moved on to work at a restaurant in Mexico City.
When we met her, it was clear that she stood for traditional Oaxacan cooking. You knew that this woman knew how to use a metate and a molcajete, as electronic gadgets and the convenience of a molino (a mill) or blenders did not exist when she was learning to cook. She knows how to do it the traditional way, and how to do it well. (She often referenced teaching her granddaughter how to cook). Her class was, in a nutshell, cooking with grandma.
We learned to make a Spanish-style caper and almond sauce with tomatillos, rice with carrots and tomatoes, and Sopa de Guias with masa dumplings. Sopa de Guias is a “field soup” – its origin comes from farmers throwing whatever edibles they could find in their fields into the soup pot. The ingredients that distinguish it from most other soups is the use of tender squash vines, squash flowers (flor de calabaza), and herbs that most would consider as weeds that can be found growing in cracks of the sidewalk.
We also made two aguas with her – one tamarind and one from cucumber (pepino). The cucumber one was most definitely my favorite, and quite easy to make. You peel one or two cucumbers and puree it. Some water needs to be added to facilitate the blending, as well as to dilute the pulp. Add sugar and lime juice to taste. Delicous and refreshing!