Valerie Mahtani

 

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. 

-Ashish Mahtani

email: meggamoma@aol.com

16 Responses

  1. Dear Ashish,

    I’m an old school mate of your dads, but I’m not old at all :-O.

    It thrilled me to read your piece about your mum. I too have the greatest respect and love for my mum, bless her, and after all, we are what we are because of our parents. I am often saddened to see many of the newer generation with new fangled values, who frequently cock a snoot at the older generation. While I’m all for progress and change and all that, it saddens me to see this and was therefore immensely heartened to read your words.

    I really admire what your mum has gone through and thoroughly enjoyed reading about her. You are blessed to have her as your mum as I’m sure you know, and I’m equally sure she and your dad are very proud of you and Rahul. As for your dad, I enjoyed the best time of my life with him and he must have told you about those irreplaceable laughter filled years.

    If yours and Rahul’s paths ever bring ya’ll down my neck of the woods you must come and visit me – I would love to meet Mohan’s chips of the old block.

    God Bless,
    Soli

  2. What a beautifully written tribute to your Mom, Ashish. I have to say, I’ve only grazed on the exteriors of this blog, but so far I’m loving it. I’ve always admired your Mom for her spunky attitude and love towards life. She has influenced my life greatly and the career path I have chosen. I hope to continue seeking your Mom’s guidance and work more with her in the future!

    Every experience I’ve shared with your Mom, from a family gathering, dinner, or brief phone conversation has been truly memorable and exciting.

    Mrs. Mahtani is proof that an Indian woman can be a successful wife and mother while following her dreams and passion for food. Hats off to her!!!!

  3. Valerie,

    What a wonderful blog yo have set up! It is so generous of you to take the time to share not only the ingredients, but, also, the origin of the dishes. I feel like an invited traveling companion to those parts of the world where I have not had the pleasure of visiting. Thank you so much!

    I am looking forward to sampling the Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes. They sound yummy! 🙂
    I may be ringing your doorbell soon to borrow a cup of sugar!

    All the best,

    Carol

  4. I love your site. Keep it up !

  5. I am a first time visitor to ur site.I have read the about section and i must appreciate the boy’s efforts for her mother. It’s rare that we kids understand our parents, their passion, and give them a platform to exhibit their talent.Its truly commendable on ur part to take such an intiative.

  6. hi,
    i happened to drop in on your site for the first time, and i must say i am very happy that i discovered it! 🙂 i am a vegetarian who does not take eggs, and it is hard to find recipes (esp dessert recipes) that cater to that preference – and i truly appreciate your mum’s efforts to share her knowledge with the world! and its really nice to put in the effort and set up this blog for her 🙂
    cheers,
    yamini

  7. Hi, I applaud your blog for informing people, very interesting article, keep up it coming 🙂

  8. hi,i happened to drop in on your site for the first time, and i must say i am very happy that i discovered it! i am a vegetarian who does not take eggs, and it is hard to find recipes (esp dessert recipes) that cater to that preference – and i truly appreciate your mum’s efforts to share her knowledge with the world! and its really nice to put in the effort and set up this blog for her cheers,yamini
    +1

  9. I googled no cook bacio cake and I got your website and to my surprise I had to find that its got Maltese blood and Camilleri knowlegde :))))))) I will definitely put it in my favorites.

    You did a wonderful job honouring your mother’s talent
    I will browse through the recipes hoping in some delicious old style Maltese cusine

    • Hi
      So great to find a fellow Maltese , its a rare joy . Thanks for your encouragement , I will keep trying . Not sure if I have too many good Maltese recipes as I have never been formerly trained in the cusine , but I will try to measure when I prepare some dishes for accuracy.
      Val

  10. Hi Valerie, Tks so much for the cookies I think they are incredible ,thankyou for everything I have never taste such exotic desserts in my life

    GOD BLESS YOU ALWAYS
    JOSHUA

  11. . Good article , thanks and we would like more!

  12. hi,i happened to drop in on your site for the first time, and i must say i am very happy that i discovered it! i am a vegetarian who does not take eggs, and it is hard to find recipes (esp dessert recipes) that cater to that preference – and i truly appreciate your mum’s efforts to share her knowledge with the world! and its really nice to put in the effort and set up this blog for her cheers,yamini+1
    +1

  13. Seems like the no bake baci cake is popular with us Maltese! I was considering if they could be shaped as a small cake to give one each to our wedding guests. Anyway congrats for you web page and keep posting those Maltese recipies!

    • Hi Robert,sounds like an awesome idea.Wish I could be one of your guests.You could buy chocolate molds and shape each piece in that.The molds are flexible so very easy to unmold a perfect mini Baci. I would freeze them briefly, then dip in really good melted chocolate and top with a chocolate covered hazelnut, place in a little petit four cup and voila!! Best of luck and thank you for the great encouragement.

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