New Normal//

I’m Drawn to the Simple Things in Life: Maria Goretti

Sorting our insides is a rare opportunity that the lockdown has give us, says the VJ turned chef.

Photo by The Times of India
Photo by The Times of India

From teen travails to pantry posers, Maria Goretti is going through the same dilemma as many of us during lockdown. That aside, there’s nothing common about this celebrity VJ, model, actor turned chef, turned poet and writer. She is also a tap and jazz dancer, mountaineer, marathoner (at this point, she will be quick to clarify that she has run three “Mumbai half marathons” and had to opt out of the last edition due to an injury). Phew, her accomplishments run on. Yes, she smiles, she has scaled Mount Kilimanjaro and is also an advanced deep sea diver. And her cookbook From My Kitchen to Yours (March 2016) won the India award at the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

Named after an Italian saint of the Roman Catholic church, she also has a curious fascination for the letter ‘Z’—her son is Zeke Zidane (15) and daughter Zene Zoe (13), her dogs are named Ziggy and Zuni Boo, “I love the Zs,” she laughingly confesses to Dr Marcus Ranney on the third edition of Thrive Live chat on Instagram recently.

Basking in the rare luxury of staying at home, Goretti shares how it is to be under lockdown: “I’m absolutely okay with it. For the first time in my life I don’t have a schedule. I started working when I was 17 and stopped when I wanted to have kids and thereafter have been on call. It is more rigorous when you have kids.”

Afforded with an opportunity to reacquaint with herself she is aware that “we don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, now is all we have!”

“It is so nice to wake up without an alarm… I don’t have to drop or pick kids or make tiffins, and I have been cooking every day, my mum is really impressed.” She is cooking “one big elaborate meal and one simple Indian staple such as rice, roti, bhaji and pickle”. Recently she also learnt to cook ishtew and appam: “Loved my version of it.”

An unlikely chef, anyone who follows Goretti would know that she got cooking when her son Zeke was two-and-a-half years old and she was running out of ideas for feeding him “real food”. At that point, “ except for a baked chicken and bread pudding”, she knew “nothing!” “I’m still terrible at boiling rice,” she candidly admits. One thing led to another and she did a baking course at Mumbai’s Sophia Polytechnic and in 2011 earned her Cordon Bleu certificate in culinary, bakery and boulangerie from UK’s Tante Marie Culinary Academy.

The lockdown has indeed imposed new habits on us. Goretti shores up her pantry two days in the week from a local market while wearing a mask and maintaining social distance. Even Zeke is whipping up chocolate eggs and sandwiches between dalgona coffees. Her focus though is on getting “enough fibre, protein and carbohydrate” in the diet. Her favourite food? “I like spicy, buttery pasta and Indian staples plain dal-chawal, papad and pickle.” She adds, “When it gets down to brass tacks, I’m more rustic at heart and get drawn to the simple things in life.”

We don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, now is all we have!

Maria Goretti

Her immunity-boosting food recommendations in these times include lots of vegetable soup—orange and white pumpkin, carrot and tomato cooked with a handful of pulses for a thicker texture and enhanced flavour.

As a parent to two teenagers, Goretti claims she can’t get through a day “without screaming at least once—my kids are at a stage when they pretend they cannot hear me so now I’ve changed tactics.”

Her current reading list includes Che, A Lion Called Christian, Everything is F*cked along with the Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. “I’m also filling in the My Family Cookbook with recipes I really love.” Between collecting her recipes for another cookbook in the works, she is also going through the last edits of her book of poetry, mulling homeschooling for the kids as she gets used to seeing her daughter login for online classes on the laptop while chatting on her iPad with classmates. The new normal is “bizarre” though it has “given all of us a lot of time to sort our insides”.

What after the lockdown? “I will go to some place close to nature!”

The future is full of promise. “I want to start a small place, a café, a place where I can teach… if I don’t do this now, I never will.”

As a last thought to her fans, she says: “Nobody lives like their Instagram handles, what goes on Instagram is always the happiness so don’t look at someone’s handle and crave their life.”

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- Marcus Aurelius

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