For the past nine years I’ve hosted a bilingual conversation group as part of my job. It started somewhat accidentally. While I was taking a Spanish class a local technical college, the teacher organized a class visit to an ESL class. We met new people, spoke in Spanish for a while, then in English. We brought food to share. It was something of a language potluck. My teacher, Trish, worked with me on organizing a few opportunities like this outside of class at our public library. It was such a great idea I thought it would make a great library program. And so it started.
Tonight will be the last Conversation Group at the library where the program began. The group will continue at another library, but as I prepare a Rosca de Reyes for tonight’s program, I’m becoming nostalgic. It occurs to me that this group has been as much about food as it has been about learning a language.
Because ready-made Mexican foods aren’t available here or are fairly expensive, I’ve taught myself how to make many of them for this group. I’ve made flan, Mexican hot chocolate, Pan de Muerto, horchata and multiple kinds of salsa. I even tried making tortillas (don’t ask). Group members have made and brought foods like atole and tamales. One year, I brought sugar skulls carefully packed and hand-carried back from Mexico. We’ve met at various Mexican restaurants. Through food we’ve been able to learn something about other countries and their cuisine and customs.
It’s been a fun journey. I plan to continue learning and preparing new dishes as I continue hosting the program in a different place, but I’ll always remember the library where it all started…this sharing of food and language.