Cookbook author Marilyn Tausend is a legend. Over the past 21 years, she and her staff at Culinary Adventures have arranged hundreds of tours throughout Mexico. Recently, I signed on for a weeklong session held at the Sazón Cooking School (www.sazon.com), in San Miguel, a Spanish colonial town so beautiful I must have photographed every one of its quaint doorways and cobblestone alleys. But I learned one lesson right away: Don’t be late for class. Things happen quickly during this course, and you don’t want to miss anything. Famed instructors Roberto Santibañez and Ricardo Muñoz Zurita were on board for some sessions, joining other professionals who delivered the basics on adobo, mezcal, and chiles. (Mexican-food expert Diana Kennedy and celebrity chef Rick Bayless also participate in the program.) For our finale, we were teamed up to prepare a meal for the instructors. Fierce competition ensued. One group ordered the slaughter of a young goat; another tracked down the freshest cactus leaves they could find. At the end of a long day of cooking, each dish would be critiqued by palates so discerning that even the best cooks in the group felt nervous. (253-851-7676; marilyntausend.com; $3,750 for a week, double occupancy, including most meals)
What I Learned
Toasting chiles brings out essential oils that add complexity to a dish.
How many kinds of chiles there are.
Before You Go
Prep your skin with self-tanner and your tongue with Tabasco for one full week prior to departure.