One of the best things that we did during our travels to Guatemala was to take part in a cooking class on Lake Atitlán. Run by the lovely Anita, this half-day cooking class took place in the village of San Pedro La Laguna and was a definite highlight of our ten days in Guatemala.
We enjoyed this particular cooking class with our two children but Anita, who runs the school, gives classes to people of all ages. We booked this class through Kayak Guatemala. We also booked our tour of Lake Atitlan through them and they are an excellent outfit.
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Cooking class San Pedro
Although I am by no means a Cordon Bleu cook, I am very good at eating and love sampling local foods wherever we travel. What’s more, my mum loves to cook and is an excellent chef. So, whenever we’ve travelled together and there’s been the opportunity to take part in a cooking class, we’ve done it. This, however, was our first cooking school experience with the kids.
We met Anita, the owner of the Lake Atitlán Mayan Kitchen on a sunny January morning at the docks of San Pedro La Laguna. This town, located on the southwest shore of the lake, is a Tz’utujil village and popular with travellers who arrive to learn Spanish and soak up the laidback lakeside vibe. We, however, were on a mission to learn how to cook. Or at the very least enjoy lunch, which we were promised would happen just as soon as we had prepared it!
Anita led us up the steep, cobbled hill towards the centre of town and the market. Along the way she chatted with my two older children, Alfie and Tess, (aged 9- and 7-years-old at the time) about what they might like to cook and, armed with a chosen menu, they entered the market to buy supplies.
One of the things that I really enjoy about travelling is visiting local markets. To me, markets are such a wonderful insight into local daily life; the people, the food, the colours and sounds are a fantastic way to understand a place.
The market in San Pedro was no exception; dozens of stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables (some of which were completely unrecognisable to us) alongside vendors hawking rice and beans, as well as freshly made tortillas.
Ingredients bought it was time to head to Anita’s home, where she runs her cooking classes from the top floor of her house. This, as you might expect, is no Michelin star kitchen but rather a lake house cooking school held on the rooftop with wonderful views over Lake Atitlán. We loved it.
Anita has run cooking classes from her home for the last four years and has taught a mishmash of people along the way, including kids. She’s also a mum herself and so it’s no surprise that she knows exactly how to get kids involved. Alfie and Tess were the busiest in our group of seven (my parents were with us on this trip) as they mashed potatoes to create tortas de papa (potato pancakes) and smushed plantain to make rellenos de platanto (banana balls) that they then filled with chocolate.
Our menu was a typical Guatemalan meal and consisted of halacha, beef with potatoes, carrots and spices in a tomato sauce, tamales made with chipilin (a common leafy vegetable used in Guatemala cooking) and masa (dough), and tortas de papa. For desert we enjoyed the incredibly moreish rellenos de platanto.
Up until our cooking class we had tasted, but not really enjoyed, traditional Guatemala food. Living in Mexico, we were used to rich flavours and strong spices. By comparison, the local food on our trip had just tasted a bit, well, meh.
The traditional dishes that we prepared under Anita’s guidance, however, were delicious and we all agreed that it was the best meal of our trip!
What really made the experience, however, was Anita. Over lunch she shared her story and how she came to be the entrepreneur that she is today. I’m not exaggerating when I say that she is a really inspirational woman and her journey is seriously impressive. This was far more than a cooking class, rather it was a cultural experience that gave us a much better understanding of Anita and Guatemala.
And, if you’re wondering where our toddler was during this time, Anita had arranged for her sister to help look after him, which worked brilliantly.