Escape from Winter - 2012 travel blog

the chef speaks

caution: dangerous chef

working hard

cooking stations

cruise ship canyon parrot photo

sister ships

cruise ship canyon

The trip from New Orleans to Cozumel, Mexico was unique. No one got seasick, but strong winds hit the side of the ship just so and it rode at an angle that made us think of the poor Concordia on her side off the coast of Italy. We did our usual vigorous deck walk trying to burn off a few of the millions of calories we had consumed and it felt like we were walking on a roller coaster track. A large stack of bowls crashed to the ground in the buffeteria (luckily they were plastic) and the ice skatng show was cancelled. The captain struggled a bit getting us safely tied off at the dock and it was nice to have solid ground under our feet once again.

Recent drug traffic gang troubles have lead to a drastic reduction of cruise ship traffic to Mexican ports, but no one seemed worried about Cozumel. There were four large ships in port today. We’ve been here many times and have enjoyed a lengthy shopping street, snorkeling trips and bike tours. So we were glad to see something different on the shore excursion list - a cooking lesson.

We were taken to a beach resort which had a specially equipped kitchen that can accommodate up to 36 rookie cooks at once. We were lucky that only four of us took the tour and we had the chef to ourselves. He made us wash our hands as if we were about to do a surgery and gave us aprons, hair nets and tall white hats to wear. At least we looked like we knew what we were doing.

First we prepared the dessert - after sprinkling sugar and cinnamon on plantains, we cooked them in butter. Then we made a chocolate sauce which would accompany them - main ingredients: bitter chocolate, heavy cream and tequila.

The main course was fresh grouper covered with sauteed vegetables and tamarind sauce. It’s true we did all the cooking, but it’s so much easier when some nearby elf has diced all the vegetables, filleted the fish, and measured the ingredients. The appetizers were sopas filled with shrimp in a tomato sauce. The sopas were little globs of dough that we flattened and cooked on a griddle. Then we pinched the edges creating little tarts that could hold the shrimp we had prepared. Our chef was big on plating techniques and for each course we played with squeeze bottles filled with colorful fluids that we swirled and dotted on the plates. It’s amazing that I can remember it all since the little elves were constantly pressing us to have more margaritas as we cooked. Except for the step where Ken added too much olive oil to the pan and flames rose two feet in the air, there were no major mishaps and we much say we enjoyed everything we prepared.

After that great meal we adjourned to the beach and watched our fellow cruisers getting their hair braided and taking photos with parrots and iguanas. Loud music with a heavy beat added to the atmosphere and the liquor continued to flow. Those Mexicans know how to party.

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