An aroma of spices floats within the Old Town Marketplace, located at 332 Main St., home to Abuelita’s Empanadas. The vibrant stand located on Main Street features an array of authentic Mexican empanadas with fillings like spicy chicken and sweet pineapple. Behind the counter stands the business owner, Mirella Wood, a Longmont resident of about forty years who seized the opportunity to share her family’s food with the city.
Wood was born in Durango, Mexico, where she learned the ins and out of cooking. Her grandmother, mother and aunt taught her to create delicious meals. From childhood, Wood, fascinated with the tools and techniques, sat in the kitchen while the women in her family cooked. Empanadas made from leftovers were on the dining table most evenings, provided by her grandmother.
“Desde chiquita, si mi mamá hacia tortillas, yo tenia que hacer (Since I was a child, if my mom made tortillas, I also had to make them),” Wood said. Soon, she had her own kitchen tools and never sat on the sidelines when food was being made.
“Yo queria ser igualita que ella, igualita. Le llevaba empanadas y las probaba ella. (I wanted to be just like her, just like her. I brought her empanadas and she tasted them),” Wood said, referring to her mother.
Wood’s mother guided her through the empanada making process, suggesting less filling and different masa or dough. When Wood was frustrated with a failing recipe, her mother was a shoulder to lean on when mastering her craft.
Although the recipes are passed down from generation to generation, Wood experimented with the ingredients and measurements to find her own unique style in the kitchen. “Yo pruebo la comida, le encuentro algo que no me gusta, se lo quito, lo pongo, y sale bien! (I taste the food, find something I don’t like, take it out, put something in, and it goes well!)” Wood said.
Her journey to open an empanada stand began in 1986 when she visited Longmont for the first time. “Un primo me invito a venir y a conocer la nieve, y conoci a mi esposo en el transcurso de esos seis meses … y ya no me regrese (A cousin invited me to come and see snow and I met my husband within the span of six months … and I never went back)” Wood said.
Her grandmother and mother had never been presented with an opportunity to open a business and Wood took advantage of the chance.
Looking to the future, Wood aims to write a cookbook on her favorite empanadas like chicken tinga, chile relleno, camote (sweet potato) and more authentic recipes.