Hola ciudadanos de Denver! Tienes hambre?

On a cold, December night, TEDxMileHigh hosted its first ever, all-in-Spanish Adventure!  Sandwiched between two large, American holidays where family comes together over food, Conversaciones Culturales de la Comida (Food as Cultural Conversation) offered Adventurers a chance to exercise their Spanish-speaking talents while exploring the cultural significance of food.

The Adventure was hosted at the popular Comal Heritage Food Incubator in the RiNo Art District of Denver.

TEDxMileHigh Adventure Conversaciones Comida Comal

As the night began, attendees escaped the frigid winter air into a warm room of friendly faces. Most everyone grabbed a margarita and mingled in English while a few brave Adventurers asked the bartender, “Una cerveza por favor.”

Inside, beautiful murals covered the walls of iconic artists and leaders like Frida Khalo and Malala.  Smells of traditional Mexican food emanated from the kitchen while subtle sounds of maracas played in the background.

TEDxMileHigh Adventure Conversaciones Comida Comal

Then, the stars of the night emerged from the kitchen to greet the Adventurers. Arriving in Colorado in 2013 from Mexico City, Silvia Hernandez, a 47-year-old mother of two and entrepreneur welcomed everyone as they sat down. Next, Martha Uroza, a killer cook with a dry sense of humor introduced herself before the group.  Coming from a town called Cuernavaca Moreles known as “la ciudad dela eterna primavera” in Mexico, Martha came to the US to make a living and take care of her ill mother in Mexico. Lastly, Erika Rojas, a 37-year-old and youngest of the trio came to Colorado from Guadalaraja in the state of Jalisco, Mexico in 2001.  After their introductions, the cooking was set to begin.

In an effort to expand everyone’s taste buds from salty to sweet, Silvia, Martha, and Erika each taught their own dish in three separate stations. Silvia began one group by vivaciously leading them through a step-by-step process to prepare the unusual, but tasty Ensalada de Nopales (cactus salad).  Using various methods that her mother had passed on to her years ago, she passed the torch to each person letting them prepare their own ingredients: nopales, onions, tomatoes, serrano chiles, cilantro, and lemons. Even though there was a wide range of Spanish-speaking talent spread among the group, most everyone could understand the hand gestures, and smiles that filled every conversation.

TEDxMileHigh Adventure Conversaciones Comida Comal

Next, they moved to Martha’s station inside la cocina where they learned how to make and prepare Mole Verde, a traditional Mexican dish from the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca consisting of serrano chile, tomatillos, pumpkin seeds, chicken, onion, and garlic.  Bouncing from the cutting board to the grill to the blender to the oven, Martha moved quickly while the Adventurers looked on with salivating mouths. Words like, “Picante! Ahora! Rico!” people could understand the gist of the dish.

TEDxMileHigh Adventure Conversaciones Comida Comal

In their final round, Adventurers inundated Erika’s station where the smells of sweet candy trickled in from down the hall. On the table, there was a plethora of evaporated milk, azúcar, vanilla, and eggs. El postre se llama Flan Napolitano. Many people were familiar with what flan was, but that was the extent of their knowledge. So, while they learned a lesson about the history of flan and how it’s prepared, Erika enlightened them with fascinating stories of her life growing up in Jalisco, Mexico.  

TEDxMileHigh Adventure Conversaciones Comida Comal

The dinner bell rang calling all Adventurers who wandered off into the kitchen or down the hall, back to the dining area where family dinner was about to commence. Now, with a little food in their bellies and sipping their third margaritas, the rambunctious group conversed audibly in English and Spanish.

People packed the communal picnic-style tables indulging in the feast that they had prepared at each station. Meanwhile, a performance was underway. Everyone put down their forks to turn their attention to the floor where, dressed in traditional dress from Mexico, la hija de Silvia (Silvia’s daughter) took to the floor to dance for the group. Supported by melodic clapping, tapping of the feet, and boisterous applause, Silvia’s daughter danced effortlessly to the traditional folklore of Mexico.

TEDxMileHigh Adventure Conversaciones Comida Comal

Lastly, Silvia, Martha, and Erika took to the stage to answer questions about their past, present, and future. Each one of them had big goals of building something new and creating a community around it.  For instance, Silvia’s biggest aspiration is to open up a Mexican Cory street styled taco cart in Denver. Martha’s dream is to open a tamaleria (she makes some amazing tamales) in Breckenridge while Erika’s goal is to develop a Jalisco-styled catering service. In addition to their future endeavors, they talked about their heartfelt journeys to the US and what remains most important to them — family. With some questions in Spanish, others in English, there was no shortage of smiles to accompany each. It seemed as if in the short three hours together, everyone had come together as a family.   

TEDxMileHigh Adventure Conversaciones Comida Comal

Soon afterward, the room slowly emptied while everyone continued eating, drinking, and mingling. People had left with the secret recipes that las mujeres had graciously given them on their way out the door. Whether someone had an excuse to practice their rusty Spanish or start from scratch, each person left with a deeper perspective of their Colorado community.