Maria is the brand and Jose, her spouse is the mastermind of the food blog, an online sensation, Maria’s menu. We write her story on popular demand made by friends, who have for a long time been using her recipes to competently russle up meals for family and friends. Maria’s menu, the website, claims to have over three hundred tested recipes used by over eighteen thousand smart cooks. She also tells me that there is an equal number of recipes that didn’t make it to her blog, since they didn’t make the cut. With her exacting standards, the simplicity in her recipes, vibrant food photography combined with Jose’s efficient targeting, her blog today carries a pricey tag. Yet she insists that this blog is personal to her keeping her tones rather intimate and confidential as if she were having a conversation with a dear girlfriend.
Maria and I went to college together and the one memory I have of her is her standing for the post of college president. Her trysts with her kitchen began far later when she was getting married and enthused about setting up her own home and kitchen. That’s when she started collecting recipes and experimenting in Bahrain while working with E&Y. Sitting at home one evening back in 2006, almost a decade ago, she was trying to organise all her recipes in one place, when Jose suggested they all be put online in a blog as a personal diary. That really was how “Maria’s Menu” kicked off, with an audience of one, in her words. When she took off work for a sabbatical for a bit trying to figure out her life’s purpose, she was simultaneously researching out recipes and experimenting all the more in the kitchen and continually updating her blog. In a while, she realised that her life’s ambition that she was in search for was staring her in the face all the while and she made the blog her full time career.
Maria’s philosophy is to be faithful to the traditional recipe passed down generation to generation as much as is possible. She doesn’t believe in giving every recipe her own twist since to her a recipe followed to the T but made by two different people tastes differently and in that personalised. It seems to be for that very reason, her blog is as popular as it is. Her readership constitutes mostly of young women getting married and trying to master the kitchen and they go for the authentic and traditional cuisine. For the festivals, the traditional recipes are always put up in time for all her readers to feast and celebrate. Linda’s Pesaha appam and paal for Easter was courtesy Maria’ Menu. On Eid, I stumbled on the Erachipola and there in understood how magically simple it is to blindly follow her instructions, and served it to an ecstatic and Riyaz far away from home. Google any recipe, especially the Kerala variety, and Marias menu will miraculously come up in the first few hits. She additionally does cakes, quiches and pies and dabbles in other cuisine as well.
Maria gives credit liberally, and at times even saves a link of the recipe that she has tested out adding the photograph of the dish she put together and her own notes which could be a variation to the original recipe only to keep the form as for instance not soaking sponge fingers too long to not make them soggy in a tiramisu. Her blog posts are sure to leave the reader with a smile in the simple, personal way she writes, regaling memories of her marriage and humorously giving away pointers like the wife is always right. Jose figures prominently in her posts and their marriage clearly is filled with love and joy. Most of all she keeps that personal connect even with her readers, engaging them, putting up on a weekly basis the photographs her readers share from their kitchens as a souvenir to her. And amazingly and charmingly she reverts to everyone who comes by and puts up a good word for her showing her gratitude and affection. Many thanks to Maria for allowing us write of her and we eagerly await her book she plans to publish to leather bind and keep intact in our libraries for future generations. For what Maria is really doing is preserving our culture and traditions for us and passing them down to the youth of tomorrow and their offspring.