We all think travelling is fun, but occasionally we have a bad travel experience that either hurts our pockets, de-rails our plans or is just disappointing.
I had a bad travel experience in Mexico City that hurt my pocket. It was so underwhelming I felt I had been cheated. We organised a cooking lesson to learn about Mexican food that cost $400 USD and was awful.
We were staying at the Four Seasons Hotel, a beautiful hotel. As part of their concierge services they contact you before you get there to discuss want you might like to do while you’re under their watch.
I love cooking so when they offered me the opportunity to cook and learn about the local cuisine I jumped at it. It never occurred to me it would be anything other than fabulous, as the hotel was amazing.
Cooking is one of the things I am always interested in when traveling. After visiting Vietnam a few years ago, I contacted the president if the Vietnamese Society in Auckland and had a lovely Vietnamese women come to our home and give me cooking lessons. It was great and I learnt a lot. As well, I got to keep her plastic mats which make rolling fresh spring rolls a breeze.
We arranged a day and a time to meet with our chef at the market. As we perused the food we were given the history on the ingredients only to discover our chef was not a chef, but a food anthropologist.
Having purchased some ingredients for our cooking lesson she took us to the ‘bugs’ counter for want of a better description. Bins of dried insects and larva, as well as fresh were laid out as you would expect in the nuts and seeds section of any New World supermarket. Before I knew it I was being offered a free sample. Insect flesh and larva wrapped in what looked like a small taco with sauce. Gingerly I had a bite, swallowing it as quickly as possible before my taste buds could react!
Insistent the flavour would grow on me our chef bought some dried cicadas and worm lava.
Just as we were leaving the market Tim spotted some extremely large, fresh prawn. Purchasing some we thought if all else fails we would have some delicious prawns to feast on.
Arriving back at her house were surprised to find the small kitchen was shared by two other dwellings. Plus, the tap water was not fit to drink or wash vegetables. None the less we got to work chopping and dicing the ingredients on the dining room table and ducking in and out of the kitchen as it only had the capacity for one person.
We prepared a number of dishes over the two hours. There were no recipes and the Mexican names allude me, but here is a sample of what we ate.
The guacamole could have been edible before she added the insects, but as she vigorously stirring them through the avocados, there was no hope. The prawns would have been fabulous too had she allowed us to cook them in a little garlic butter, but instead they were butterflied and marinated in lime juice, but without the other ceviche flavours.
And so it went on…
Lesson learnt to avoid a bad travel experience:
- When embarking on a cooking experience ask the credentials of the chef.
- Check out the standard of the kitchen.
- Be very specific about what you are going to learn to cook.
- Check there are recipes for you to take away.
- Go to a professional organisation.
I felt the Four Seasons Hotel had let us down. They were interested in the feedback, but not a refund.