Spanish Lessons and Dinner Parties

I’m just wrapping up my second week of Spanish lessons, and I have to say, it’s been a hard week for me! The first week was a bit of a refresher course for me (which was much needed, I assure you).  We covered a lot of things I had already learned in high school Spanish class, and I was introduced to some new words, and new verbs, but nothing too difficult for me.  And just when I thought I had things language learning thing all figured out, I was ambushed by self-reflexive verbs and past tenses – BAM!

There were a couple times in class when I thought I was lost for good, but professora Rocio does a good job of keeping us in the game.  While it’s difficult, it’s still really interesting and always fun. And that’s one thing I really like about International House, they know how to keep things fun! As I mentioned in my last post the after-school schedule is full of fun events like Salsa dancing lessons and walking tours of this city and its cultural centers.

Two Happy Cheese Crumblers

The other day, I had the chance to participate in the cooking class.  Jacob, one of the professors at International House leads the class, which is held in the kitchen of the residence, just a couple blocks from the school.  We were told the day before that we’d be cooking the traditional Mexican dish, Tinga de Res, or Beef Tinga.  This dish is typical in most of Mexico, but each region has its own version. Even though California has lots of great Mexican food, I’d never had Tinga de Res before, so I was excited to get the chance to eat it, as well as learn how to cook it.

We had a good turnout of about 10 students, and Jacob handled the group well, assigning tasks of chopping and pealing various vegetables while tackling the task of boiling the beef brisket himself.  There were onions to be chopped, tomatoes to be sliced, garlic to be peeled, and cheese to be crumbled – all with instruction and conversation in Spanish.  I brought a couple cervezas to share (I’ll never show up to dinner party empty handed!) and helped Kat to break up and wash the lettuce and then I gave my fingers a workout shredding the beef. The onions, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes and beef are all cooked together and then everything is piled onto a crispy tostada and enjoyed with an ice cold cervaza. Muy Bueno!

The Tinga de Res, ready to be scooped onto a tostada.

Travel and language learning are all about cultural exchange. And the cooking class is a great example of that exchange. As a group, we learned how to cook and appreciate a typical, local dish, but under the guise of fun and food – we actually had a lesson in the Spanish language and Mexican culture.

For more about the International House Language School Social Program, click here!


Want to try cooking this delicious feast yourself?  Try the recipe below, courtesy of Jacob and the International House team!

Tinga de Res


  • 500 grams (about 1 pound) of Beef Brisket (Falda de Res )
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 6 tomatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 4 garlic cloves, fineluy chopped
  • 2 potatoes, cut into 1cm cubes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Chipotle chili peppers
  • Lettuce
  • 200 grams (about ½ pound) of crumbled Queso Fresco (you can substitute with a mile Feta cheese)
  • Sour Cream
  • Refried Beans
  • Tostadas

First, Boil the brisket until fully cooked, then shred the meat into small pieces.

Heat come oil in a large pan, add the onions, and let them cook for about 3 minutes.  Next, add the garlic and cook for another 3 minutes.

Add your shredded beef brisket, chopped potatoes, and tomatoes to the mixture and let it all cook together with a bit of salt, pepper, and let it all cook together for just another 5 minutes.

While this is cooking, warm your refried beans in another pan or in the microwave wave.

Take a tostada, add a layer of refried beans, a healthy portion of your beef mixture, and top with crumbled cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and chipotle chili.

Buen provecho! (Enjoy your meal!)


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