Day 5 — Details

“There's something magical about Oaxaca and the vibe of the people.” — Mike White
Day 5

Cooking, Savoring & Giving Back

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks & Beverages

You’ll find a wide range of salsas served with all your meals in Oaxaca.  

These salsas range from mild to extremely hot and can be made from chiles, nuts, herbs, and other ingredients like tomatoes, tomatillos, and avocados.

In fact, many of the local salsas you’ll sample are made with chiles that are not available in the United States but unique to the region, including the chile de agua, native to the Oaxaca Valley.

We invite you to try as many of these delicious salsas as you can during your journey, but with this advice: Always use the salsa serving spoon to put a small amount on your plate and taste-test the salsa from your plate before you put it on your food!

¡Buen provecho!

Today our Academic Exploration takes us to the Oaxaca village of La Ciénega de Zimatlán — a village of about 3,000 people a short distance from Oaxaca known for the flowers it grows for the Día de los Muertos — Day of the Dead — celebrations and its annual Danza de los Jardineros — the Dances of the Gardners.

Over the years, more than 50% of the village residents — mostly young people — have left the village for the United States due to economic necessity, but people are slowly returning to the village and helping to revitalize it. Our goal is to further that revitalization in this day of hospitality and creativity.

We begin our Academic Exploration to La Ciénega de Zimatlán by preparing local specialties for our lunch. You’ll get hands-on experience cooking Oaxacan dishes in a typical outdoor setting!

Local residents will teach you how to make authentic tamales wrapped in banana leaves — a Oaxacan delicacy. 

First, you’ll learn how to make the filling with homemade masa (dough), chicken, vegetables, sauce, cheese, and other tasty ingredients.

Next, you’ll master wrapping your culinary creations in banana leaves, tying them up just like a gift package to prepare them for steaming.

Next on our Academic Exploration in La Ciénega de Zimatlán is a service project to share a colorful and inspiring part of ourselves with the community by painting a mural created by a local artist.

Colorful murals and brightly painted buildings are a part of the culture of Mexico, including Oaxaca and its surrounding villages. Academic will keep you posted on our website on the progress of the mural that our travelers will help to create in La Cienega.

In time, your efforts could transform the streets of the village!

The culinary highlight today on our Academic Exploration in La Ciénega de Zimatlán will be lunch at the home of a local family where we’ll enjoy the food we help prepare in the morning before our creative interlude brightening the village.

Your hosts for this day are our transportation managers, Juan and Fidel Hernández, their families, and others from the village, who will work with you to prepare local dishes. And, while we’re busy painting an incredible mural, they’ll fix other tasty offerings for your home-cooked lunch.

Before lunch, you’ll also learn how to make the perfect tortilla by hand — using locally grown and ground corn — and cook them on the comal, a traditional griddle used in Oaxaca. It’s a skill that will impress and delight your friends and family back home!

This will be an incredible opportunity to enjoy a delicious meal — that you help prepare — with local residents and have the chance to experience a family celebration-meal in this personable and welcoming culture.

In the late afternoon, our Academic Exploration will end and we’ll return to the hotel.

You’ll have time to take a dip in the pool, relax, and shower and freshen up after a long, fun day of cooking, painting, and socializing.

The culinary delights continue with tonight’s dinner at a neighborhood restaurant with a charming and peaceful courtyard. There, you’ll enjoy memelas — pre-Hispanic corn cakes similar to fresh corn tortillas but thicker and topped with delicious fresh ingredients.

Memela is the Oaxacan local name for the almost identical sope and huarache served in other parts of Mexico, but with different regional toppings.

Traditionally, toppings include black beans, salsa, shredded cabbage, mole negro, guacamole, and cheese. Today, more modern versions can include vegetables, shredded chicken, beef, tomatoes, onions, chiles, and other goodies as toppings.