I met Ms. Palazuelos yesterday at a cooking class sponsored by the Mexican Consulate in Vancouver, British Columbia. I heard about the class on Friday, called Edible British Columbia on Saturday, signed up for the class, booked my hotel room at the Marriott Pinnacle, and by Monday at 1 p.m. I was on the road headed north.
Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. Susanna started her presentation with Crema de Aguacate (cream of avocado soup); she seamlessly moved on to Ensalada de Nopalitos Y Jícama (cactus and jicama salad); and then she gradually built an incredibly complex Ceviche (marinated fish), all the while peppering her talk with facts and history about Acapulco and Mexico.Born in Acapulco to a food-minded family, Ms. Palazuelos' great great grandfather penned one of Mexico's early cookbooks in 1895. Her father was an exacting self-styled gourmand and everyone in her family cooked. When she was eleven years old she went to boarding school in San Antonio, Texas to Our Lady of the Lake School. In her twenties she went to hotel school in Switzerland and from there she got a job with the Hilton Hotels in Public Relations. She met her husband and they settled in Puebla for a few years, but she yearned for the open-air freedom of Acapulco where, "A bird can fly in one end of your house and out the other". Back in Acapulco, she started catering and doing weddings and one day a prospective bride told her that she wanted something spectacular. Susana had them get married on the beach with flowers, dramatic lighting, and beautiful displays.One thing led to another; people wanted more and more elaborate events. She catered for Henry Kissinger and Queen Elizabeth. She counts among her clients corporations as, Sony, American Express, Aero Mexico, Ford, to name a few. Back in the 80s, when the airlines started to pay more attention to Cancun, her beautifully crafted caterings revived destination travel in Acapulco.
Her earliest culinary memories are of mangos, jicama and chiles; ceviche with clams and oysters; and a complex tomatillo soup called clemole which her mother made with poblanos, radishes and lemon. Wow!
Ms. Palazuelos taught us how to make Huachinango a la Talla (grilled red snapper) which was painted with a beautiful sauce made of guajillo and ancho chiles and perfumed with cloves. Capirotada, the traditional Lenten bread pudding dessert, was served with ice cream made with vanilla beans from Papantla, the birthplace of vanilla.