La Cocina Que Canta; the kitchen that sings. It’s the name of the cooking school at Rancho La Puerta Spa in Mexico where I’ve been teaching classes this week. My aim here, as it is with Nourish Network, is to show people how to enjoy food that’s healthy for both our bodies and the earth. Nothing fancy, nothing extravagant; just incredible flavor coaxed from inherently healthy ingredients eager to give it.
[ photos clockwise from top left: a storm brewing; one of the many fountains gracing the grounds; sunrise on ancient “metate” divets in stone; sunny flowers swaying along the pathways ]
We start in the garden harvesting basil or spinach or greens or eggplant—and a bundle of fresh herbs for centerpieces—with Salvadore. Salvadore is the man in charge of the six acres of organic gardens. The man whose eyes twinkle with pride as he lifts handfuls of soil up to people’s noses. The man who brings me “dancing carrots” each morning, of roots entwined together in odd shapes. The man who stops to point out a bee burrowing in a head of romaine to explain that it, too, is looking for food.
[ photos clockwise from top left: a sculpture blessing the garden; rich, organic earth; Salvadore’s “dancing carrots”; students ready for the garden ]
Then it’s inside to the airy tiled kitchen where I encourage the students through chopping and slicing and pounding and grilling their way towards our meal. Some learn new techniques for chopping garlic. Others reconnect with roots through long-forgotten words and scents. Still others discover the ease and enjoyment of pounding the day’s pesto with the basalt molcajete mortar and pestle.
[ photos clockwise from left: slicing figs for the mini oatmeal tarts with figs and honey; a very content instructor; pounding several varieties of basil for the pesto ]
What we do in the kitchen is really just gilding the lily on what’s already been accomplished outside in Salvadore’s soil, whether the end form is a creamy corn polenta, a fig and oatmeal tart or a smoky melizansalata with Mexican spices. This is healthy cooking. This is cooking that’s gentle on the earth. This is cooking that brings a smile to the soul . . . and to everyone seated at the table.
Si, this kitchen sings indeed.
A rooster crows,
Laughter wafts over fields of green
And gold and crimson
And plum and rose.
More than a meal, a feast.