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Cooking With Soul in Cozumel

Author: Eric Moss
Date of Trip: March 2013

My 10 year-old daughter loves two things (among many): Mexican food and cruises. She chose to take a cruise to Cozumel instead of the Bahamas because she wanted “to eat real tacos in Mexico.” Aboard the cruise ship, two culinary shore excursions were offered, only one suitable for children. Ignored them.

Josephina’s Cocina Alma was recommended on TripAdvisor, so I booked it. Alfredo Rojas was SO good about instructing me on how to pay using PayPal and find a taxi to the location. We leaned about how the Mayas used flowers, seeds and roots to color and flavor food. We watched as bright red pods became achiote. The no-shows were hardly missed as Josephina escorted us to the market where we saw a cow head walk by, several unidentifiable cuts of meat, the most brightly colored papayas, oranges and chiles imaginable. Then on to a little hole-in-the-wall tortilla factory before heading back to the house to start cooking. We made poc chuc, nopales, salsa verde, an amazing salad with grapefruit mango and ground chiles, frijoles negros refritos, all the while chatting, learning and singing along to Josephina’s Beatles songs on her MP3. As the dishes were cooking she introduced me to the fine art of margarita making using an ingredient I’d seen used to make the famous “ti punch” of St. Lucia, but not in a tequila-based drink. Que rico!

Naturally the food we ate was divine in every way–fresh, full of texture and flavors of Yucatan like pickled onion, achiote, chile habanero, pumpkin. We were stuffed! Then, to cap it off, because it was just my daughter and me, Josephina and Alfredo arranged for and accompanied us on a private tour of the Kaokao Chocolate factory in San Miguel town. The owners were exceedingly gracious and informative, and my daughter was treated beautifully throughout this experience by people who understand children. This was exactly the kind of immersive Mexico experience that reinforces my kid’s first-year-Spanish and gave me a chance to show off mine. Pricing was equivalent to similar shore excursions offered by Royal Caribbean. I felt inclined to buy Josephina Luigi’s cookbook (2 copies, actually) and quite an assortment at the Kaokao factory store. You will get back to the ship on time. Outstanding in every way!

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