In the heart of Oaxaca, where the Earth whispers stories of generations past and present, lies a culinary wonderland that beckons food enthusiasts and soulful wanderers alike. This captivating region, steeped in tradition and blessed with diverse microclimates, is a beacon of vibrant flavors and culinary artistry. Recently, I had the privilege of sitting with an extraordinary individual deeply connected to this land, its people, and its magnificent cuisine.
Susana Trilling, a multifaceted culinary professional with a rich and diverse career, is at the core of this colorful narrative. Renowned as a chef, teacher, caterer, author, TV host, and food consultant, she has significantly contributed to gastronomy. Trilling’s professional cooking career began in 1974. In 1999, she achieved a significant milestone by publishing her second book, “Seasons of My Heart, A Culinary Journey through Oaxaca, Mexico” (Ballantine Books), accompanied by a 13-part TV series for PBS.
The story continues with her love for the Earth and the bountiful crops it yields. Nestled within the embrace of nature, she and her team of farmers cultivated tomatoes and other treasures from the soil. Living so close to the land, they witness the journey of their produce from seed to plate, appreciating the depth of complexity that food embodies.
The iconic Mole often takes center stage when one thinks of Oaxacan cuisine, yet there is so much more to discover. Oaxaca is a region of diversity, with each geographical zone boasting its own distinct flavors and ingredients. It’s a land where endemic plants, like the Holy Trinity of crops – squash, corn, and beans (known as the Three Sisters), reign supreme. Not to mention the 60 varieties of peppers cultivated in Mexico that boasts an astonishing array of flavors, ranging from mild and earthy to fiery and complex, embodying a rich tapestry of tastes deeply rooted in the region’s culinary heritage.
The allure of teaching, rather than just cooking, became a calling for Susana Trilling. Through teaching, she found a way to share the culinary techniques and the essence of nourishing our bodies and souls. For her, it’s the connection with people that makes this journey extraordinary—the joy of inspiring others to embrace the art of cooking and savoring the shared experience.
Executive Chef Reyna Venegas of La Cocina Que Canta had the privilege of delving into Susana’s world and experiencing the vibrancy of Oaxacan food and its diversity. The encounter proved to be an inspiring and enriching experience. This journey offered a rare moment of clarity and appreciation. It was a chance to connect deeply with a beautiful soul who has dedicated a lifetime to crafting delectable meals infused with love and shared her culinary wisdom with the world.
On a recent trip to Oaxaca, Chef Reyna found herself not only diving into the culinary expertise of Susana but also hearing her story of passion and dedication. It was a time to celebrate the pleasures of food, she says, and its diverse ingredients, to honor the wisdom handed down through generations, and to draw inspiration from the art of heartfelt cooking in tune with the changing seasons.
I’m filled with gratitude,” says Chef Reyna, “for the opportunity to befriend Susana Trilling, a true culinary luminary. The anticipation of further culinary adventures at La Cocina Que Canta, crafting delightful memories for cherished guests, is a prospect that brings immense joy and excitement. We will cook for a Chef’s Table Specialty Dinner, which will be very special.”
The creative spark ignited during their time at Seasons of My Heart in Etla, Oaxaca, was transformative. It awakened Chef Reyna’s culinary relationship with the land, ancestral Mexican flavors, and the essence of life itself. She says this experience will forever remain etched in her heart, a reminder of the privilege of meeting Susana and the delight of sharing the rich tapestry of Mexican cuisine with all those they encounter. We’re grateful for this opportunity to enjoy a meal created by two chefs cooking as one.
Learn more about Susana’s and Reyna’s Thanksgiving Dinner and Hands On Cooking Classes.
See Susana’s Ensalada de Betabel Bendito (Blessed Beet Salad with Goat Cheese) and Learn more about her.