Mila and Norma Salazar bring years of experience in cooking up Mexican cuisine to their Lighthouse for Learning class that steps off this fall.

Both sisters have served for several years in the WISD as receptionists – Norma at Dunaway Elementary School, and Mila at the WISD Administration Building.

Beside being passionate about their jobs with WISD, another great passion is their love for cooking traditional Mexican dishes and sharing their knowledge with the Lighthouse for Learning classes.

Their family migrated to Texas from Durango, Mexico when Mila was 4 years old. She and Norma started out at a very young age, helping in their mother’s kitchen, and learning the family recipes.

“Growing up, we would always be expected to assist our mother in the kitchen while she was cooking,” Mila said. “We either heated the tortillas or set the table – but my first time preparing a complete meal without my mom was probably when I was in my teens and I was in Mexico for the summer. My cousins and I wanted flour tortillas to accompany the chili con carne and rice that we had just prepared. We laughed so much that evening – our chili con carne was too soupy, our rice was mushy and tasted burnt and half of the rice stayed stuck to the pan, and our tortillas – oh our tortillas were crispy and oddly shaped, so we just used them as chips.”

Their childhood cooking experiences were a significant part of holiday celebrations.

“Like my sister said, growing up, we would always be expected to assist – especially during Christmastime when mom would make tamales,” Norma said. “She had all of us around the table spreading the masa onto the hoja – or corn husks.”

Asked if Mila and Norma use family recipes that have been passed down rather than creating their own, both sisters admit no matter how much they may experiment with their cooking, they keep coming back to their mother’s recipes.

“I pretty much stick to the same meals we grew up with,” said Mila. “I will sometimes change it a bit – add different ingredients or try to customize them for my son. I have had success in creating my own though, but there’s just something about my mom’s recipes that keeps me coming back to them.”

Norma agreed.

“Yes, well at least I try too, but there’s something special about my mother’s touch,” she said.

Both ladies also say they feel a great sense of fulfillment in sharing their knowledge about Mexican cuisine with students in their Lighthouse for Learning classes.

“It’s nice to see (our students) excited in preparing the meals and then sit down and everyone say, ‘I can’t believe I just made this,’” said Norma.

The fulfillment not only includes being gratified by the class’s response to the dishes, but a strong sense of pride in sharing their family traditions.

“I am very proud of my heritage and I love that our traditions are so unique,” Mila said. “We share great laughs and pride with our finished meals, and it’s very rewarding to hear (our class) say, ‘This is something that my family will love.’”

The girls each have their favorites dishes.

“My favorite recipes right now are ones that my 12-year-old son can assist me with – tostadas, quesadillas and different tortas,” said Mila.

Norma favors the basic recipes – from papas con chili to gorditas.

“It’s something simple, easy to prepare and reminds me of the days when my dad was here and we’d all enjoy a simple meal,” Norma said.

For further information about the Salazar sisters’ class, Cooking Mexican Food, email them: Norma – nsalazar@wisd.org. or Mila – msalazar@wisd.org.

To register for the class, contact Melissa Cobb, Community Education Director at 972-923-4631, extension 142, or email mcobb@wisd.org.

Contact Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com or 469-517-1450.