The aroma of tangy spices and savory vegetables filled Lola Wiarco Dweck's kitchen at her Day of the Dead Mexican cooking class.
A large altar in a nearby room was covered with vibrant flowers, a portrait of her father, sugar skulls — sugar molds decorated with colorful icing and objects — and other items representing her loved ones who had died.
“This holiday is not about worshipping the dead,” said Hannah Johnson, a cooking assistant. “It's honoring the dead in a very positive manner.”
Dweck, a Mexican-American food blogger, hosted the cooking class at her home in Highlands Ranch on the Nov. 1 holiday.
“Not many people in Highlands Ranch know about Day of the Dead,” she said.
Dweck's father was born in Mexico and she grew up in Southern California, where the holiday was widely celebrated.
Her cooking class drew 10 people from around the community. They spent the day learning about Dweck's altar and preparing a full menu associated with the day.
“Every single thing on here has significance,” Johnson said of the altar. “This handmade border (of intricate paper cutouts) shows the delicacy and fragility of life.”
The cooking was interactive — one person chopped garlic while another stirred rice. And one peeled prickly pears for what would be a fresh juice.
Dweck encouraged students to taste their creations.
“We're learning about ingredients that we've never worked with before,” said Nancy McBie, who heard about the class through word of mouth.
A nearby table was set with patterned plates, sugar skulls and skeleton candles. Chili-covered orange slices accompanied two bottles of mescal tequila.
The final dishes included chicken with almond-chipotle mole, hibiscus quesadillas, garlic rice and Mexican chocolate , or popsicles. Each had significance to the Mexican holiday.
“It's amazingly fun,” McBie said. “And the smells are incredible.”
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