Dolores "Lola" Wiarco Dweck from 'Lola's Cocina'
Lola, 34, has a serious passion for Mexican cuisine and culture. Over the years, Lola has been mentored by close family and friends to bring some of the best Mexican food recipes to her blog 'Lola's Cocina.' Lola has also created relationships with chefs and home cooks who have shown her the tricks of the trade. Lola has a masters in business administration and arts in Latin American Studies from San Diego State University. She focused her graduate thesis research on Oaxaca's emerging culinary tourism industry.
You can find her favorite recipes on her website - make sure to check it out. Trust us, you don't want to miss out on her mango salsa and chilles rellenos!
You have an extensive list of recipes! How long have you been writing and exploring Mexican cooking? I began cataloguing my family's recipes nearly 20 years ago. It started as a personal project that continues today. I believe that we are able to keep my grandmother and great grandmother alive by sharing and continuing to make their recipes. In graduate school I began my academic research, which explored Mexico's culinary tourism industry. As part of my research, I took cooking classes, conducted surveys, and interviewed and worked alongside Oaxaca's great chefs and home cooks to learn about how they marketed their services in order to attract tourists.
What is your favorite meal to make? I really enjoy making tamales for the holidays. All of the women in my family get together right before Christmas to drink mimosas and catch up on family chisme as we prepare hundreds of tamales! There's a hierarchy too. You have to master spreading the masa and the hojas before you're able to stuff and fold. And if you mess up in your current position, you can be demoted.
What is your favorite meal to eat? I enjoy shrimp al mojo de ajo, with garlic rice and a fresh salad. I also enjoy tamales and a good bowl of homemade menudo because they're dishes we usually have around the holidays.
How many years have you been cooking? I have been cooking since I was eight years old. My mom used to call and walk me through the recipes so that dinner was ready by the time she came home from work.
Why we were you inspired to study Mexican cuisine? On a personal level, I have always had an interest in traveling and Mexican cuisine. My graduate thesis provided me with the perfect opportunity to spend time exploring various aspects of food tourism in one of my favorite countries, all in the name of research! In 2010, the same year I began my studies, UNESCO recognized Mexican cuisine as a "cultural treasure worthy of preservation." Despite this honor, there is limited academic research that explores Mexican food as it relates to tourism, despite rapid growth in this industry. My study provides practical insights for cooking instructors, destination marketers, and small business owners who seek to offer a unique culinary experience and attract tourists not only to Mexico, but also to other emerging culinary tourism destinations.
We saw you have classes featured on your website. Who would you recommend sign up for these classes? I think that people who enjoy cooking or learning about different cultures and food would enjoy my classes. I try to make them accessible to novice cooks, but interesting for people with more kitchen experience as well. I also like to introduce ingredients with which most people are unfamiliar, such as hibiscus flowers, prickly pears, or cactus!
Of these three types of Mexican cuisine - Morelia, Oaxaca, and Puebla which is your favorite to cook and why? I spent the most time in Oaxaca, so I would have to say that I appreciate the traditional techniques that are still used in Oaxacan kitchens. For example, there are women who continue to use the molcajete to make salsas and the metate to grind ingredients for moles and masa. There's just something I enjoy about maintaining ancient cooking rituals even with all of the luxuries and modern appliances we have accessible today.
Of these three types of Mexican cuisine - Morelia, Oaxaca, and Puebla which is your favorite to eat and why? That's a tough one! I love the paletas and corundas from Morelia. Corundas are a local style tamal, peak-shaped and wrapped in the actual leaf of the corn as opposed to the husk. I also love the tamales in Oaxaca, and anything made with quesillo, especially the tlayudas. I've also had the best chiles rellenos in Oaxaca - they're made with spicy chiles de agua and filled with a flavorful chicken picadillo. In Puebla, I of course love the mole. Any trip to Mexico always includes lots of Mexican-style elotes and esquites and churros rellenos!
How often do you visit Mexico? I visit Mexico at least once a year. When I lived in San Diego, I used to cross the border several times a month just to eat and shop!
In three words describe Mexican food? Flavorful, fun, and versatile.
Ultimately, what is your goal in sharing what you know with others about Mexican food? Mexican cuisine has roots as deep and rich as its history, but can be adapted to contemporary lifestyles and cooking techniques. Mexico's true culinary traditions are just beginning to be unearthed. They can be as simple as a homemade pot of beans or as complex as a rich mole sauce that requires over 25 ingredients to prepare. It's truly one of the most diverse and flavorful cuisines on the scene! Most dishes are usually much easier to make than people think, but it's great to start with easy recipes to build confidence. You can also host a themed cooking party with friends where people learn together and from one another. I'm also a fan of cooking classes because you meet such interesting people in a fun environment while learning something new. Whenever my husband and I travel to a different country, we make it a point to take a cooking class. We have found it's one of the best ways to learn about a culture.