Culinary traveling at it’s best

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Hacienda Petac
Hacienda Petac

As an avid home cook and perpetual traveler, I’m always looking for that next experience to enrich my life story. An opportunity to go somewhere completely new where I will return home a little better than when I left. My visit to the Yucatan region of Mexico fit the bill and Hacienda Petac exceeded all my expectations.

I arrived with a favorite friend, recently turned business partner just in time for dinner. Awaiting us was a mixed group of traveling companions, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives and colleagues and friends. The group ranged in age from 57-87 and had traveled from both coasts of the US. All strangers ready to become fast friends amidst the sounds and smells of the teaching kitchen.

Happy cooking students

All the dishes created in class were part of authentic, traditional Yucatan meals. Many of the fresh ingredients came from the organic garden on the grounds of the property or locally sourced. We used just picked banana leaves to wrap our traditional creations before burying them in a freshly dug fire pit to cook. We discovered what indigenous seeds, beans and grains were used for special sauces and tried and sampled the staple seasonings of the region.

With poetic precision the local women formed corn tortillas by hand just as the women in the Yucatan had done for generations before them. Their culinary teachers were their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. We all got to chop, shred, knead and taste test together.

The multi-generational cooks of the Yucatan & me

The guests ambled through each day’s cooking class enjoying whatever recipes were on the menu with a welcome openness and flexibility. I wondered if this come-what-may attitude was an after effect from the oppressive lack of experiences and months of restrictions during the pandemic, a lifestyle we were all trying to leave behind. We rose impatiently above the boredom of the past year and eagerly grasped the happiness this moment offered to us. Somehow befriending the uncertainty in life gave us all an opening to be more alive.

The participants relished creating the daily fare and making new memories together. There was palpable good energy in the air. A mixture of kindness, humor, attentiveness, and optimism bonded us almost immediately. We shared our life stories, late afternoon jacuzzi soaks and lots of laughter.

Each night we filed back into the teaching kitchen to compose a special cocktail for the evening. The recipe always included some fresh squeezed juice of watermelon, grapefruit, limes, or coconut water. We leisurely feasted on our constructed dishes of the day and lots more created just for us.

Panuchos, a Yucatan staple

Every dining experience included a table scape of fresh flowers from the grounds and an intricate spectacular napkin folding design. It was simply beautiful.

Tablescapes

The time at the Hacienda was so freeing. No need to lock your door or carry your room key at this private oasis whose lovely local staff attended to our every need and desire with unparalleled grace. We got to expand our knowledge of Mexican cooking, see the nearby cultural sites, lounge at the pool, and still have time to pamper ourselves at the spa.

Poolside

Waking up to fresh brewed coffee at my door, doing yoga to the sounds of the morning birds, cooking, sharing meals and gathering with new friends filled me with possibility and inspiration. For a moment, all was right in the world. I left the week wondering how soon could I come back and where in the world should I go next?

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