Author: Julia Sherman –
There are some people in this world who just make you feel right at home the minute you meet. No matter their other commitments or obligations, these people make you feel like they have been waiting to meet you their entire lives, and they just can’t believe it took you so long to arrive. I would venture to say, 80% of these socially gifted people live in Mexico.
Ezequiel and Laura live just 15 minutes outside of Ensenada, down a winding dirt road that will tempt you to turn around and check your directions. But once you spot a radical school campus built from shipping container and perched on the cliffside, you will know you have arrived. Ezequiel opens the narrows passageway that secludes their secret garden property from the rest of the somewhat rag-tag part of Baja, and there you are – olive trees, turquoise pathways, an outdoor kitchen, a series of adobe buildings and a posse of 8 plucky rescue dogs.
What began as a brief visit with my friend/chef Niki Nakazawa, soon mushroomed into a maelstrom of hospitality. We went to Ezequiel’s factory, where pretty much all of the top quality fish in Mexico is received straight-off the boat, packaged and sent to the best restaurants. Ezequiel has been in the fish business for over 30 years, and there’s not a chef in this country who doesn’t know him by name and covet his product.
René Redzepi’s entire team came to his house as research for Noma Mexico this winter, and Ezequiel has the signed copy of their cookbook to prove it. But did René get to hand-pick his dinner from the tank of gurgling sea water at Ezequiel’s warehouse? I think not. Niki and I on the other hand, got to hold a 5lb lobster (not so cuddly, but thrilling), we picked out pismo clams, yellowtail and chione clams, but we saved the uni for another trip. The next day, Ezequiel assured us, he would take us to an uni processing plant, where we could bring home a kilo to scoop onto tostadas and even scramble into our eggs. Oh yes, he had already invited us to come back for breakfast in the morning.
While I was more than googley-eyed at the sheer indulgence of all this seafood, Ezequiel and Laura have a larger story to tell.
Laura is the principal at the small school across the road, a pedagogical project that they initiated when they first moved to the region and started their family over three decades ago. Simply seeking a better education for their kids, they organized their friends to teach everything from cooking and rare cactus cultivation, to more traditional core subjects like history, chemistry (Ezequiel still teaches that), and literature. One of their students gave us a tour of the grounds (we later realized that while this pupil’s own family lives a couple of hours away, he lives with Laura and Ezequiel during the semester so he might attend this beautifully progressive school). Drunk on their homemade red wine, olive oil and fish stew, I chatted with Laura and Ezequiel about how they found themselves in this enchanting place.
Find original text, full gallery (and a delicious recipe) in: https://saladforpresident.com