Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sol's Cookie Shop

Changing Directions: from Criminal Lawyer in Mexico to Baker in Canada

Sol Barrones grew up in Pachuca, in the province of Hidalgo, about 90 kilometres north of Mexico City. Her father was a lawyer and Sol and several of her brothers and sisters followed in his footsteps. She married Alejandro and they moved to Chihuahua, where her husband had a job as an aircraft mechanic.

Criminal law in Mexico
Sol was employed by the state as a prosecutor, representing the government in criminal trials for 12 years. Chihuahua is a northern border state, and the work was stressful, but Sol thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Mexican legal system is very different from the Canadian as the cases have traditionally been presented in writing rather than orally in court.

In 2007, Chihuahua was the first to make the transition from a written to an oral system. It was a huge change for all the lawyers and judges and very stressful. A slow, reflective process was transformed into a courtroom drama. “Now you’re like an actor in front of the judge,” explains Sol. “You need to convince the judge that the individual is a criminal, while the other side is trying to convince the judge that he’s a good guy.”

The other Mexican states are now following Chihuahua’s lead and adopting the oral criminal justice system as they believe it is faster and more efficient.

Decorating cakes and cookies
During the transition to the new legal system, Sol started taking baking classes as a way to relax and create some balance in her life.

Girls in Mexico learn to cook and bake from their mothers, grandmothers and aunts, but Sol had never done fancy baking or cake decorating. She enjoyed it and became expert at decorating cakes and cookies.

“You get really involved,” Sol says. “It’s like painting a blank canvas.” Sol’s friends and neighbours started ordering birthday cakes and cookie bouquets.

Moving to Canada
A year and a half ago, Sol’s husband was offered a job in Saskatoon, and they accepted. Alejandro’s co-workers at Transwest Air welcomed him and were very helpful. Their son (now 9) started attending school, and Sol started learning English.

It was a big change for all of them. First of all there was the weather – from 40 above in Mexico to 40 below in Canada. And the culture was different. Sol had been driving since she was 15, but she had to take the driving test three times before she finally passed. She learned how to take the bus, something she had never done in Mexico.

But the hardest change of all was being unemployed. “I cried when they told me my qualifications were worthless in Canada,” Sol says. “I miss wearing high heels and professional clothes and being busy all the time.”

Saskatoon Farmers’ Market
Sol and her family had always shopped at the market in Mexico, and she enjoyed visiting the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market and buying Saskatoon berry pies. So when one of her teachers at the Open Door Society suggested that she try selling her baked goods at the Market, she was delighted.

She wouldn’t be practising law, but she would be using her baking and decorating skills. Sol’s favourites are the cookies, and they come in all shapes and sizes – from high heels and dresses, to butterflies and tulips, to ice cream cones and cupcakes. For Father’s Day, Sol plans to make footballs, baseballs, soccer balls and tools.

Sol’s son, who says his name is Alex, not Alejandro, now that he lives in Canada, is her official taster.

Individual cookies are $2 or you can purchase a custom-designed cookie bouquet for $10 and up. What could be nicer than to welcome a new baby with a bouquet of cookies shaped like a baby bottle, a baby carriage and baby’s clothing – or a yellow duck and a pony?

Sol also accepts requests to decorate birthday cakes – and her favourite form of decoration is cookies.

Sol’s brownies are also delicious, particularly the ones iced with dulce de leche. Sol says that dulce de leche used to be made with goat’s milk and she remembers her grandmother stirring, stirring, stirring as she cooked the milk and sugar. Sol has found an easier method: place an unopened can of condensed milk in a basin of water and cook it in the oven for an hour and 15 minutes. Then take it out, but don’t open it until it has cooled down. You now have dulce de leche.

Learning English
It’s not easy learning another language. Sol says that she gets frustrated because she can’t speak faster and more fluently. But she is determined to learn so that she can go back to university and requalify as a lawyer.

So, help her out. Stop by Sol’s booth at the Farmers’ Market and have a chat – and buy a cookie!

You can follow Sol's Cookie Shop on Facebook.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Sol!!!! You and your family are an example of overcoming. We are very proud of you.

Regards X, L, O.