A Mexican grandmother finds the right recipe for culinary stardom

Bradley Coss and his mother, Cruz Ortiz, watch Doña Ángela’s YouTube cooking videos from their home in El Paso, Texas on March 23, 2023.
With a small stack of handmade tortillas at her side, a shy Mexican grandmother in a purple apron looked at the camera and introduced herself to the world.اضافة اعلان

“I’m going to present to you this recipe,” Doña Ángela, or Mrs Ángela, says in her first YouTube video, from August 2019, speaking Spanish in a dulcet tone that creaks slightly like a sturdy barn door. “I hope you like it.”

Millions of people did. And they have adored her ever since.

Doña Ángela, whose full name is Ángela Garfias Vázquez, has quickly become one of the most watched and beloved cooks in the extremely crowded market of online food shows. The roughly five- to 10-minute videos are recorded at her ranch in Michoacan, Mexico, by her daughter, who tracks her dicing of onions and grinding of corn with a phone camera.

Doña Ángela’s channel, “De Mi Rancho a Tu Cocina”, which means “from my ranch to your kitchen”, has more than 437 million views.

That is more views than Martha Stewart’s channel (roughly 172 million) and the NYT Cooking channel (about 72 million) combined. She has nearly overtaken Food Network’s YouTube page, which has about 590 million views and hosts several big names in food entertainment.

Rural appealWhat explains Doña Ángela’s popularity?
“At the end of the day, she is showing us that all you need is fire, a comal, and some ingredients to cook up these amazing meals.”
“The kind of rural space that Doña Ángela represents is not as visible in food media,” said Ignacio Sánchez Prado, a professor of Spanish and Latin American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, who specializes in Mexican culture. “And I think she hit a nerve with that.”

Many fans and Mexican cuisine experts believe the appeal lies in her grandmotherly aura, which particularly enchants people of Latin American descent who see their abuelas, or grandmothers, in Doña Ángela: her shirts flecked with flowers, the dark spots on her hands, and a mysterious ability to handle burning-hot tortillas without flinching.

Of course, the food she makes is also just delicious, said Richard Sandoval, the Mexican chef and prolific restaurateur.

The range of Doña Ángela’s seasonal dishes, experts said, highlights the ancestral tradition of Mexican cuisine and the persistence it takes to feed a family for decades in the countryside, as she most likely has in Michoacan. Her recipes include earthy-tasting tacos filled with huitlacoche, a bulbous, blue-gray fungus; fried pork skin soaked in green salsa; chunks of salted steak served with tart bits of prickly pear cactus; and a rich, mahogany-colored sauce known as mole that is packed with dark chiles, chocolate, and cloves, ground with a stone mortar and pestle.
“There are folks trained for the camera, and there are people like Doña Ángela, whose charm is simply magnetic.”

“At the end of the day, she is showing us that all you need is fire, a comal and some ingredients to cook up these amazing meals,” Sandoval said.

Sunlight and warm vibesThat simplicity is also reflected in her low-budget production values and earnest manner. Doña Ángela has a large comal (griddle), a blender, pots, and daylight that casts her kitchen in a pale-yellow hue reminiscent of chicken broth.

Doña Ángela is warm, but reserved. She wants you to know, as perhaps your grandmother once did, that she has made this food for you, and hopes you like it. “Muy sabroso,” she promises at the end of each video. “Very tasty.”

“There are folks trained for the camera,” said Steven Alvarez, a professor of English at St. John’s University in New York who teaches classes on Mexican food. “And there are people like Doña Ángela, whose charm is simply magnetic.”

In 2019, Doña Ángela amassed one million subscribers after uploading just 15 videos. She has since uploaded more than 300. In 2020, Forbes Mexico named her one of the country’s 100 most powerful women. But she does not appear interested in such fame.

Doña Ángela did not respond to interview requests for this article. Even YouTube has had trouble reaching her. A spokesperson for the company, Veronica Navarrete, said that she had been “trying to get in touch with her for a while” and had failed.

When a team at YouTube tried to ship her awards, Navarrete said, they realized the “not very tech-savvy” Doña Ángela had no cell signal or Wi-Fi at her ranch, where she lives with her husband and some of her children.

Information about her background is sparse, though some tidbits have been reported. She is in her early 70s, and in 2020 she told Notivideo, a news organization in Michoacan, that she had three daughters, five sons and 20 grandchildren, and that her mother had taught her to cook.
“You can see in my mom the genuine joy it brings her to watch those videos. It’s like speaking a language that’s not invented. You just feel it.”
She displayed an entrepreneurial spirit in that interview, saying that even though she was running out of recipes, “I have to search for ideas to keep going.”

The comforting voice of a grandmotherSometimes it is hard to know if Doña Ángela is fully aware of her culinary stardom, which makes her all the more endearing to viewers. Still, she most likely has some idea. Doña Ángela’s daughter said in a video that she reads online comments to her mother.

In that video, a teary-eyed Doña Ángela looks at the camera and tells her fans: “I love you all so much. I give thanks to all of you. And may God bless you.” Later, she shows an altar she made for her parents and says, “I want you to know me more.” She then points at the decorative offerings: Marigold flowers to welcome sprits with fresh aromas, salt to keep the evil away, glasses of water for tired souls.

It was a scene familiar to Bradley Coss, 48, of El Paso, Texas, whose family is from Chihuahua, Mexico. He has watched just about every one of Doña Ángela’s videos with his mother, Cruz Ortiz, 93, who also grew up on a Mexican ranch. Recently, on a cold night, she grabbed her walker and sat with her son in front of a monitor, snuggled in a blanket and mesmerized by scenes so familiar to her.

“You can see in my mom the genuine joy it brings her to watch those videos,” Coss said, noting how it sometimes made him tearful. “It’s like speaking a language that’s not invented. You just feel it.”

Ortiz watched Doña Ángela, whose hair appeared grayer than in her debut video, her voice slightly raspier. The serranos on the griddle sizzled. The tomatoes in the blender whirled. As Ortiz fell asleep to those sounds, her son, too, looked on, pressed pause and saved the rest for later.

Read more Good Food
Jordan News