Cooking With Kids
Oaxaca Family Cooking with Bricia Lopez
While Bricia Lopez's life's work is to share her Oaxacan culture with the world, she explores how sharing it with her young family connects them to their heritage–and each other.
- Bricia Lopez
- Interview By
- Katie Covington
Even if you don't know Bricia, if you've eaten tlayudas or sipped a mezcal recently, you've felt her influence. Her family restaurant, Guelaguetza, is a James Beard 'American Classic.' Her 2019 book, Oaxaca: Home Cooking From the Heart of Mexico is the first by a native of the region and you'll find 'Bricia' cocktails on bar menus across the United States in her honor. Here, she shares what she makes on Dia de Los Muertos, when she breaks out the rare mezcal, and the breakfast her six-year-old Eduardo cooks before school.
For anyone who hasn't been to Guelaguetza, can you share a bit of its history and how the restaurant has evolved?
My dad opened the restaurant in '94, and nine years ago, my siblings and I took over. My parents are retired now, and they live in Oaxaca. They were just so tired of everything. It was right after the last economic recession, and we just lost everything. He was devastated and rundown. He found it mentally exhausting so he decided to sell his businesses. My siblings and I decided to buy this restaurant; he transferred everything over. We started over from scratch and just turned it around. Since then, we've launched several businesses, like our mole starters.
"We stick to what we believe in: serving our culture, retaining the recipes that we've always had, treating our restaurant families like the family they are–giving a LA little bit of Oaxaca."
What is it like to get together with your siblings when you're off duty?
My sister and I get together often. It always revolves around food in our home. With us, it's always let's get together and eat carne asada, have the kids come together and play and swim.
We talk about work, but it's more about dreaming about what is next or talking through a good idea in a creative setting, thinking big out of the day-to-day. We started our podcast Super Mamas when I had just become a parent. We just saw a shift in our lives, and we'd get together and talk, and one day I decided to put a mic in front of us and put it out to the world. It's so funny to see the evolution through the episodes - what I used to talk about when I had my first, and I want to talk about what my second. So many Super Mamas have grown up with us - we are about to record our 300th episode. It's really special.
You come from a family of Oaxacan Mezcal craftsmen and are known for opening a mezcaleria in Guelaguetza that introduced the LA food world to the nuances and terroir of mezcal. So, on a fall evening, if you're having a drink, what are you pouring?
On Friday nights I'll have like one nice cocktail to treat myself. After I had my daughter last year, I had a bit of a come-to-Jesus moment where I decided I needed to make alcohol less of a part of my life. But Friday night, when my husband gets home, the kids are asleep, and we get some time for ourselves; I look forward to it. My husband loves cocktails, and we have an excellent Oaxacan Old Fashioned, a Mezcal Negroni, or a mezcal neat. We have a pretty extensive collection, so I'll have something very rare that I didn't open for other people.
"I wanted to make sure that he felt like he was part of the family, and a lot of that has to do with food."
What does breakfast look like in your house? Is your son interested in cooking?
On weekdays we have hard-boiled eggs that my son makes. Whenever he gets up, he puts the water on, peels, it the whole thing. So we'll do that with a bagel, cream cheese, egg, and a little balsamic. I feel like I can trust him to do things like hard-boiled eggs, so he's in charge of breakfast in the morning.
I looked into RIE Parenting when my son was little–I never wanted my kid to feel that he was separate from us. I wanted to make sure that he felt like he was part of the family and a lot of that has to do with food. When we go out to eat, we never really order from the kids' menu, and that's translated to "what we are going to make together at home?" That just sort of evolved into our routine now–he knows that when we're making something together, he will help in the kitchen. Little by little, I was already making things and involved him in the cooking. There have been accidents–he's cut himself or burned himself, but we don't make a big deal out of it, and it became a learning experience.
If he'll want to make cupcakes over the weekend, and together, we'll go to the grocery store, find the recipe, get the ingredients. He knows how to measure with teaspoons, level the flour, mix things, and feel a sense of pride. He'll pretend he's on a cooking show sometimes and we take turns presenting our dishes, it's fun!
His favorite? He can eat taquitos all day. The recipe from Oaxaca is a go-to in our house.
Now that it's fall, are you thinking about Dia de los Muertos. How does your family celebrate together?
It's a huge time for my family, my home. I set up in the ofrendas with my son. I have a friend that sends me candles and decorations from Oaxaca so I always have a fresh color palette. A couple of days ago, my son asked me how many days until Muertos when his grandpa comes and visits. He's grown up with these traditions his whole life. He doesn't remember when we didn't celebrate Muertos, and it was the same for me. When I grew up, I would go to my grandma's house, and she had an ofrenda set up all year that she would dress up for her husband, my grandpa. I'll put pictures of my grandparents and then my husband's dad. My husband's dad liked a special Northern Mexican dish, so I'll make that for him, and we'll put it up in the ofrenda.
I'm always thinking about food, so we're planning workshops for the holidays making tamales with out mole and I'm already thinking about my Mom's Thanksgiving Spaghetti in Poblano Salsa.