GREAT BARRINGTON — When Yuridiana Zaragoza started selling her homemade food in the Berkshires, she scouted for potential customers by knocking on doors and approaching other Latinx people outside supermarkets.
“I was like, ‘I’m from Mexico, make a different dish every day. Here is my phone number, you can order and pick up from me in Great Barrington,” Zaragoza said.
What started as a small operation – with Zaragoza cooking one or two days a week to help earn money to support her 3-year-old – has grown into a day-to-day business. She now prepares up to 50 dishes a day and sells them through her Facebook and Instagram pages called Yuri’s Kitchen.
Zaragoza, 27, who moved to Great Barrington in 2019 from Oaxaca (pronounced wa-ha-ka), Mexico, said her food was more traditional because she didn’t try to cook only dishes Americans would recognize .
“Sometimes I feel like people here don’t know much about Mexican food beyond soft tacos and flautas,” she said. “Mexican cuisine is much more diverse than these two recipes.”
Zaragoza likes to vary its dishes. For example, on a recent Wednesday, she cooked huarache, a fried dough named after a Mexican salad, topped with marinated pork cutlets, nopales and guacamole.
Two weeks ago, she cooked molotes, a corn-based pastry filled with potatoes and chorizo, wrapped like a cigar, resting on lettuce and topped with bean sauce and cheese.
About 80% of Zaragoza’s customers are from the Latinx community, and some come from as far away as Lee or Pittsfield. The dishes are a way for some customers to ease their homesickness.
“Especially the children, they are far away, they want something of their own and they ask me for very special things,” she said.
At the beginning of each week, Zaragoza publishes its weekly menu on social networks. She starts preparing food around 6 a.m. and finishes at 11:30 a.m. After cleaning, usually around noon, she starts selling food. Zaragoza is sometimes open until 6 p.m. to accommodate people’s work schedules.
The last six months have been particularly difficult with rising inflation. In addition to meat prices, many takeaway items – such as boxes, bags or cutlery – have also increased. She raised her meat dishes by a dollar but tried to keep her other prices low.
On her days off, she travels to Poughkeepsie, NY to buy the ingredients at a cheaper price. Some food products such as dried peppers or Mexican tomatoes are not available locally.
Zaragoza is originally from Oaxaca. Growing up, she and her mother Juana Agustín sold tamales and tacos.
A year ago, her mother opened a restaurant in Mexico. It is also a dream that Zaragoza is working on. Three times a week, she takes entrepreneurship classes on Zoom.
“A lot of my customers say they would love to have a space to come and eat my food, but we know it’s hard and there’s so much to learn first,” she said. “But I didn’t think I would be so successful before. It showed me that if you want it and keep going, you will succeed.