Irma Cubillo grew up in a traditional family in Jalisco, Mexico, where every meal prepared at the family’s home was a special occasion. Cubillo’s family owns the D’Casa Mexican restaurants in Tupelo, which opened in 2002.
When Cubillo arrived in Tupelo, she began taking ESL classes at a local church where she met Lauren McElwain, who invited her to teach a Mexican cooking class.
“All my life I have been surrounded by people who taught me to cook in the same way,” Cubillo said. “When I first arrived in Tupelo, I started taking English classes at First Baptist Church, where I met people from different countries. We began sharing the traditional foods from our respective countries in what felt like special occasions, and we fell in love with each dish we shared.”
Cubillo recalls taking a classic Mexican dessert recipe for flan and adding a twist to it for a gathering of friends, which had disastrous results.
“My friends always ask me to bring coffee-flavored flan to our reunions,” Cubillo said. “One day a friend of mine gave me kefir grains to make yogurt and suggested that I use them in the flan, that it would make it ‘tastier.’ So I did, and judging by looks on my friends faces, it did not make my flan tastier.”
For Cubillo’s Mexican cooking class, she made Pozole Verde, a traditional Mexican hominy soup, chicken tamales with green and red salsas, poblano peppers and cheese, flan and a rice and cinnamon beverage called horchata.
“We prepared what you would normally cook for one complete meal in Mexico,” she said.
Cubillo said she has loved meeting people from different places and learning new recipes through the classes.
“I have learned that cooking unites us as people, far beyond borders or language, and that a good home-cooked meal speaks louder than any differences between us,” she said.