“¡Hola y bienvenidos a clase!” I begin my 1st class for a Cooking Matters series held at a local elementary school. The class is full of Spanish speaking women and a few of their children. My volunteers and I, all non native Spanish speakers, will be conducting the series entirely in Spanish. I am hesitant to speak to these women in their native tongue for fear that I will butcher their language and not get my point across. As we begin to talk, my fears dissolve and I realize that we are communicating well. The women are full of questions and are eager to learn. In the first class we cover the food pyramid and discuss healthy food choices the women can make. All of the women have children and want to make better choices for themselves and their kids. We name the food groups by color: anaranjado para cereales, verde para verduras, rojo para frutas, azul para productos lactéos, morado para carnes y frijoles y amarillo para las grasas. The next week we learn about fiber. I make a silly mistake, as we compare the fiber content of different food items, by saying “purée de pata,” which means pureed foot, instead of saying mashed potatoes. The women laugh and suddenly the room feels more comfortable- we realize that no one is perfect when it comes to language or food choices. We make a vegetable stir fry with Quinoa. The women are excited to learn how to use Quinoa and how nutritious it is. One woman has been cooking it all of her life and another has a bag in her pantry and she doesn’t know what to do with it. The one woman shares how Quinoa is an important part of her culture and greatly enhances the quality of our conversation. We throw a few new vegetables into the stir fry- baby bok choy prompts “¿qué es esto?” as we talk about its origins and great flavor. There is also some tofu- many of these women have never eaten it before and are surprised to learn it has no cholesterol and is quite inexpensive. Another week we make Turkey chili and the chef brings in masa harina and a tortilla press. As she starts to make a tortilla and show it to the women, someone gets up and takes over the tortilla making. She expertly mixes the masa harina with water until it’s just the right consistency and presses the tortillas so that they are flat. She cooks them and they are delicious. Who knew masa harina was a whole grain? Cooking healthfully does not mean giving up a part of your culture; instead, it might mean you go back to its origins. Most of these women know how to cook and how to do it well. Our classes have helped to highlight the nutritional benefits of the foods they may already be consuming and to encourage greater consumption of those basic, healthful foods. It has also surprised them how inexpensive many of the ingredients are. We’ve helped them to find ways to use those healthy and inexpensive ingredients in order to get their families to eat and enjoy those foods. The greatest reward has been the sharing of culture and information. I think I can safely say the volunteers have learned just as much from participants as they have from us and that we all speak the same language.