Anyone that knows me well knows I can’t cook. I pretty much burn everything. I am just not good at it, don’t have the patience necessary, and honestly don’t care that much (grubhub is just too easy).
Needless to say, but when Mike offered to cook for the students and teachers of our school on our first Thursday I had a minor panic attack. What were we (he, let’s be honest…) going to cook? A full meal in a kitchen that is smaller than the one in our Chicago apartment? Would others like it? How do you clean veggies in water you can’t drink? Will we kill someone? These are all questions running through my head when Mike raised his hand to volunteer.
On Tuesday, Mike had decided that we would be serving traditional Chiacgo-style hotdogs for the main course. Many people questioned this idea, however, we quickly found out that hotdogs are everywhere in Xela, so the idea wasn’t too outlandish.
Pair the ‘dogs with guacamole for an appetizer and a yogurt/fruit/granola for dessert and we thought we had a solid meal. We were still a little iffy on our vegetarian option but felt confident enough to head to the market on Thursday morning with our teachers to buy the necessary ingredients. I am so happy they were there. It was a bit overwhelming but a lot of fun. So many vendors, so many choices, so much Spanish that I did not understand!! Thankfully we walked away with the majority of what we needed for our “perro-cailente”, including a $6 jar of Vlasic pickles, mustard in a bag, and 8 avocados for less than $2.
After returning to the school to start the prep/cooking for dinner, we decided to make a cucumber/tomato/onion/pepper/cilantro/lime cold salad, to be served on rice for our vegetarian dish (thank you – allrecipes.com). We washed and chopped all the veggies in a specific chlorinated veggie wash while other students popped in and out to help us along the way. We made the guacamole and left the pits the bowl so it wouldn’t turn brown (thank you, Emily Schenk). We had extra cilantro so I made a cilantro-lime rice (all by myself!!). The hotdogs (which were individually wrapped and lead to many inappropriate jokes) were boiled to perfection.
I am happy to report we made a great meal for almost twenty people! The students and teachers ate a ton (including the Guatemalans, who went back for seconds). We learned how to clean veggies and fruit safely and, to my knowledge, no one has died thus far. Plus, cooking with Mike was surprisingly fun. I am not sure it’s a habit that I will bring back with me to the States, but it proved that being open and saying ‘yes’ to good opportunities, even if it’s outside your comfort zone, can turn into great memories.