There are things you should know about my mother. You should know that she’s full of passion and love and a zest for life unlike any I’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing. You should know that she doesn’t even really like to cook all that much, but that she loves feeding people. You should know that she was born to be a great chef but chose to be an even better mother. I sit here, typing away in a kitchen perpetually used as a central hub of my household (for good reason), and I feel as if I’m writing a eulogy. Perhaps it’s better that way. Mothers deserve to be remembered, even in life. Especially in life.
My mom has taught me many things throughout my life (as mothers are often prone to do) and will likely continue to do so for the rest of her life (as children secretly wish their parents would). But this isn’t supposed to be a section about me. This is her story and it’s one very much worth telling.
Valerie Mahtani was born on Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean. Her mother had lived in South Africa growing up and Gandhi himself had dined with them many times. I mention this because I feel it is important, Gandhi wasn’t exactly known for eating very often and when he did I doubt he would choose to eat just anything. I like to think that he got skinnier when he went back to India simply for lack of any food that dared compare with one of my family recipes. But I digress. Though my grandmother was, from what I’ve been told by countless relatives, a divine cook, my mother did not share her enthusiasm.
It wasn’t until she was fifteen that my mother truly gained an interest in the culinary arts. Though her parents were initially against it, my mom decided to take Home Economics. Her teacher, Mrs. Camelleri, was, simply put, terrifying. I’ve heard many stories about how Camelleri demanded nothing short of perfection from each and every one of her students. At first my mother stumbled, but faltering isn’t falling. Eventually she thrived. It’s rather odd when you’re told a teacher is both scary and perhaps the greatest inspiration of all time.
My mother traveled extensively around the Mediterranean, Europe, and the Far East. She observed a myriad of cooking styles from street vendors to master chefs in fine restaurants, all of which was adapted towards her home cooking. She got private cooking lessons in India and Malta. Afterwards she moved to the United States with my father where she received formal training at New York Cake and Bake, Peter Kumps New York City, and The New School in New York City. She also attended several different workshops with some of the top chefs in the world.
With this blog, my mother hopes to finally share her recipes with all her friends and family members who have been requesting them for years. If she just so happens to reach a few more people… well that’s just a bonus.