I cook for the people I love: Maria Goretti

DECCAN CHRONICLE | NANDINI D. TRIPATHY
Published Nov 19, 2015, 4:40 am IST
Updated Feb 23, 2016, 2:43 pm IST
Maria Goretti talks about her love for cooking, how she makes every new dish her own by experimenting with it
Maria Goretti
 Maria Goretti
Maria Goretti is all heart. That’s the first thing you learn about her as you observe her watching over her family — her children Zeke and Zene and hubby Arshad Warsi — as she simultaneously greets old friends with a hearty hello. There are plenty of hugs to go around and pretentious air-kisses are nowhere to be found. The family of four was at the launch of Maria’s debut publication as a food writer — From My Kitchen To Yours, unveiled by Om Books International and Bollygoods. Palpably excited and bubbling with energy, she shares with us her journey with food, her madness in the kitchen, her dream to travel the world and more. 
 
“Cooking happened to me out of desperation,” she says as she begins to trace the trajectory of her life over the past few years from being a successful model and VJ to a food writer of some note, courtesy her much loved and followed food blog, The Maria Goretti Corner. “I had to cook because I had Zeke, who was two years old at the time, and he’s perennially hungry like me. I used to take him to an Italian restaurant and he used to love the risotto there. So, risotto was actually the first dish that I learnt how to make. After some time, I started enjoying the whole process of cooking. And here I am, today!” she reveals. Not too many people know that she then decided to take professional training at Tante Marie Culinary Academy, Gordon Ramsay’s chef school in London. She shares, “I realised that I wasn’t actually qualified for anything in life. I mean, you aren’t required to be of a certain school to become a VJ or to talk on television, and so I thought I needed at least one degree besides my graduation. I went to Tante Marie in 2011 and did a three-month certificate course there.” 
 
She adds, “The reason why I could do it was because Arshad stayed home for those three months and looked after Zeke and Zene, who were both pretty young at that time. I think that was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.” At this point, Arshad — whose own prowess in the kitchen with his famous biryani and nalli nihari is much talked about — interjects with a slightly different version of the story. “Can I tell you how it really began? Maria cooking the way she does now? I’ll probably get beaten up for it later, but anyhow I used to keep telling her as a joke that in Hindi, a lot of us Indians often say, meri ma ke haath ka khana bohot achha haibut our kids would say instead, mere baap ke haath ka khana bohot achha hai!” he says, and both break into a hearty guffaw at the memory. 
 
Now that Maria is a qualified chef and has a cookbook to her credit too, are there any plans for a restaurant perhaps? “I can’t do a restaurant,” Maria says with a decisive shake of her head. “See, when I cook, I cook because I want to feed the people I really love. A restaurant would be a problem because I can’t tell people, I don’t like you, you can’t eat here. And we can’t put Arshad in the front either to manage everything — he’ll call in everyone he sees for all meals free. That can’t work, right?” she adds. Arshad, on his part, has a hilarious anecdote to narrate in this context. “I bought a place for her in Mumbai, a beautiful place, thinking that it would be great to start a restaurant now that she’s doing such great cooking. I gifted it to her for her birthday and she said, I don’t want it Arshad. I only feed people I like. And I was left wondering, ab iska kya karoon main?” he recalls with a laugh.
 
For a person brimming with so much energy, one cannot help but wonder what Maria is like in the kitchen – calm and methodical or spontaneous and experimental? “Your energy always finds its way into your food. Happy energy makes for happy food, and that’s why I always do dishes that make me happy. I’ve never been a stick-to-the-recipe kind of cook. I stick to a recipe the first two times that I’m trying to learn something, but I have my own way of doing that too. Supposing I discover a new recipe. I’ll make three versions of that new recipe from three different recipe sources and then try and merge them together or add something of my own to them— I make the dish my own that way. I think that’s really important with food,” she responds and adds that while she does most of her cooking “like a crazy person”, baking is one thing that has given her the means to channel her calm and patient side. “I’ve learnt that when I bake, I cannot be all over the place. And I’ve learnt that through various burning sessions! Baking has taught me patience — you have to wait for the dough to rise, you have to whisk the eggs till they become stiff, you have to fold in the flour very, very carefully. You can’t be in a hurry when you’re baking and it takes its own sweet time. So, a part of me learnt a lot because of baking,” she affirms. 
 
Ask her how her children are taking to her new avatar and she says, beaming, “They’re both most excited and most proud. They would ask me questions like, so are you an author? I would tell them that I will be once the book is published, but I’ll be a food writer and not a storybook author. They’re two very different things, after all! But you’re an author, they would insist. And I would say, okay yes, I’m an author, technically. And they love going through the book and picking out things from it. Sometimes, when we have a few days off and are at home together, they like to cook from the book too, and that makes me feel really good.    

 

 

 

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