Hello, I am British, married to a Madrileño and we have been based in Madrid since 2014, although I have lived here 3 times on previous occasions. An avid traveller and linguist, I have spent time in more than 86 different countries however, my 2 children have restricted me to armchair travels more recently. I have spent my career working in the wine industry although I now spend more time just drinking it. Hobbies include Latin American music (and dancing to it), jewellery making, writing and reviving my tennis.
Netflix, Spanish. Some have subtitles. You can find these shows with Netflix search bar.
*Las Chicas del Cable. A group of young women work as telephone operators in Madrid, from late 1920’s to late 1930’s. Love stories, politics, phone modernization (big implications for our “chicas”) and more. Very entertaining, though I didn’t like the last season as much as earlier seasons. Great clothes, and it’s fun to see places in Madrid that you recognize in a different period setting.
La Cocinera de Castamar. Young woman takes over job as cook in a noble house near Madrid (easily recognizable as the palace in Boadilla del Monte). The man of the house has a tragedy in his past, the cook has some big issues but is an astonishing cook. Things happen.
La Catedral del Mar. Based on a book by Ildefonso Falcones, this is about building Santa Maria del Mar church in 14th century Barcelona. It’s also a coming of age story for a poor young boy who helps build the church, and has some big adventures on the way to adulthood – and as an adult. This is sort of like a Spanish Pillars of the Earth.
Baztan trilogy, three movies, in this order: El guardián invisible; Legado en los huesos; Ofrenda a la tormenta. Based on books of same names by Dolores Redondo. Part pólice/detective, part scary supernatural, part return-home story. Some nudity and sex.
Amazon Prime, Spanish
Another treasure trove for language learners. If your Spanish is pretty good and you would like to know more about everyday life in Spain, check out Cuentame Como Pasó. This long-running series follows an everyday Spanish family from 1968 to 1992 (so far), key years in Spanish history.
French, a quick note: My Spanish is fluent, so I’m trying to recover my almost-forgotten French. Graded readers were really helpful, after level C1 and following suggestion of someone in Pasajes bookstore I jumped to unsimplified but easy reading: Harry Potter, figuring that an entertaining young adult book with a known story would be a good start (and yes, it is). For TV series on Netflix I’ve watched Bonfire of Destiny and Lupin, both are good, especially Lupin. Several other shows bookmarked for the future.
So will you be working on your Spanish in 2022? Language learning is not just memorizing grammar, mix it up a bit for more fun and probably faster progress.
Graded readers are simplified books, sometimes simplified classics, sometimes specifically written for language learning. They’re usually graded by classic language levels A1 to C2, and usually if not always have audio, CD or downloadable from Internet. Various publishers. Available at least at Pasajes bookstore (Calle Genova 3) and Casa del Libro (Gran Via 29 and other addresses).
Watching movies really can help, some people theorize that Spain is behind on language fluency because most movies are dubbed. Here are some tips for series that are entertaining if skewed to period pieces pieces which are my favorite genre (sorry). Depending on where you are or how you watch, some of these shows may not be available or might be available different ways (I think MInisterio del Tiempo was on Netflix in the USA), though all are available at present if watching in Spain. If you cannot decide, my suggestion is to start with shows with a * Another other option is to find a movie or series you like dubbed into Spanish and with subtitles.
RTVE Spanish TV. Since these were created for Spaniards, probably no subtitles.
*Ministerio del Tiempo. Time travel IS possible, and that means people going back in time can mess up the future (our present), intentionally or unintentionally, so the super-secret Time Ministry has a team of people to make sure that doesn’t happen. This can get complicated, but it’s fun, and you learn some history and meet interesting people, like painter Diego Velázquez. https://www.rtve.es/play/videos/el-ministerio-del-tiempo/
Aguila Roja. Gonzalo is a mild-mannered teacher in part of his life, superhero in another part of his life. His sidekick is the only person in on the secret, his son admires Aguila but thinks his dad is a coward. Some love interest, some really evil bad guys, lots of adventures. Historically fairly accurate, including King Felipe IV being a skirt-chaser, though the real Cardenal Mendoza is from another period and apparently was not as ambitious as the Cardenal in this series. Fair amount of violence (Aguila beats up at least one bad guy in every episode), some nudity or half-seen sex scenes. NOTE. This might not be available now, I was watching daily, stopped at a scary place and now looks like it will be hard to re-start, though the series may be available for purchase.) https://www.rtve.es/television/aguila-roja/capitulos-completos/
La Señora. Spain in the 1920’s, a young man and woman fall in love but it has to end because of social differences. They never forgot each other, meet up again years later. Just started watching this one, looks interesting. https://www.rtve.es/play/videos/la-senora/senora-capitulo-1/1583859/
Tiempo entre Costuras. Based on book by Maria Dueñas, translated as A Time in Between or The Seamstress (different titles in USA and UK); if you haven’t read it you should. Great story of a young woman from Madrid just before the Civil War who ends up in Spanish Morocco and eventually back in Madrid. Lots of things happen, can’t say more without spoiling the story. I loved the book, watched part of the first episode and as sometimes happens, one of the characters was so different from my imagination that it put me off, so can’t recommend personally (yet), though people who have watched most or all say it’s really good (I need to try again). https://www.atresplayer.com/antena3/series/el-tiempo-entre-costuras/ I think this is also on Amazon Prime.
Some of us spend decades searching for the dream job, Helen López, AKA Helen Chocolate found hers (and mine…) after a few years in journalism. Today, new INC member, Helen is at the helm of a 360-degree fine chocolate business that spans tastings, events, communication, public speaking, advice to producers and sales & marketing around the globe of a product with 5,000 years of heritage. The director of the Escuela de Chocolate of Madrid spills the beans on what it´s like to be fully immersed in chocolate.
How did you come to work with chocolate?
In 2009, when my father-in-law was hospitalised in Venezuela, I realised that there was a huge shortage of medicine there so I decided to hold “chocolatadas” or rather charity chocolate events in Madrid whereby I offered people a mug of Venezuelan hot chocolate in exchange for their medicines which we shipped back there. I discovered a talent for talking about chocolate and decided to make a career out of it.
What prompted your fascination with chocolate?
As a child I had always been intrigued by the aromas emanating from the local chocolate factory, of El Rey in Caracas. Perhaps like Charlie Bucket in Road Dahl´s world-famous book! My grandmother is from a cocoa-producing area of Venezuela and I have always been interested in gastronomy, culture, art and travel so the chocolate industry really ticked all the boxes of my wish-list as my work combines all of those different elements neatly together.
Can you name all the aspects of the chocolate industry that you´re involved in?
I run the Escuela de Chocolate near Opera in Madrid where I hold various types of tastings from interactive, fun consumer events to bean to bar production workshops for professionals.
I also have an events company that arranges diverse corporate chocolate-related experiences for companies.
I´m a public speaker on all things chocolatey such as innovation, sales and marketing.
I also represent several chocolate brands commercially in Spain and other countries such as Korea.
What are the latest trends in chocolate?
The growing trend in veganism has had a huge impact as the demand for plant-based food increases globally. There are lots of milk-substitute bars coming onto the market now.
I´ve also seen many original flavours emerge such as Ginger and Tamarind and Dark Milk is gaining ground in the popularity stakes.
Another huge change is that cocoa producing countries are increasingly involved in the finished bar as opposed to solely supplying the cocoa. This means they are better equipped to retain more of the value associated with the finished product.
How has the chocolate industry evolved over the past decade?
Like all food items there is a significant move towards premium quality that focuses on provenance. It is now possible to buy top end select cocoas, from single producers and pay 30 euros for a high-end bar.
I heard worrying rumours that there is a shortage of cocoa, is this true?
Far from it! There is a surplus of mass-produced cocoa, in part due to a spate of good harvests in Africa and prices have gone down dramatically over the years. In terms of top-quality cocoa, there is always fierce competition for premium beans but we´re not going to run out! [Editor – phew!]
What are some of the most original chocolates you have seen lately?
Japan produces some delicious chocolates flavoured with teas. Whilst Taiwan has come up with a surprising white chocolate and prawn combo. Closer to home, I´ve tasted anchovy-flavoured chocolate from Santander and another with Torreznos (porky scratchings) from León.
Tell us about your upcoming documentary on the history of chocolate in Spain
I am working on a film to recount the rich history of chocolate in Spain as Madrid is the capital city with the second highest number of chocolate establishments in Europe. Originally brought over from the Americas 500 years ago, cocoa was soon converted into a fashionable hot drink, enjoyed particularly by the aristocracy. [Editor´s Note: I can personally recommend a steaming mug of hot chocolate as the perfect end to a night out dancing].
Which lesson has been the hardest to learn?
Mastering all the different strands of my diverse chocolate business. In addition to leading chocolate tastings, I had to learn how to sell chocolate all over the world, teach business skills and take on an advisory role to producers round the globe. It is quite a solitary business and I´ve been a trailblazer in my sector which means there are many other people out there copying what I do which keeps me on my toes and can create a lot of pressure.
You have a notable theatrical flair when you lead your chocolate tastings, where does this come from?
I think it comes from my artistic aptitude for dance which I studied for many years and also my passion for storytelling. Chocolate, in all its various guises is also an artform in itself. My personal trajectory from one of the poorest areas of Caracas to setting up my own business in Madrid has resonated with a lot of people. At the end of the day my main aim is to inform and entertain people from all walks of life using chocolate as a vehicle.
You hold consumer tastings at your workshop near Opera in Madrid, I expect you have some funny stories to tell.
We´ve certainly had our fair share of unexpected incidents over the last 10 years. Once we burnt the caramel so we had to hold the chocolate tasting on the move around the Madrid, which later gave rise to chocolate walking tours. Another time a lady went into labour halfway through a tasting and on another occasion 2 separate groups realised they were remotely related to each other!
When it comes to chocoholics Switzerland leads the way with an average consumption of 8.8 kilos per capita or 1.6 bars of 100g of chocolate per week, how does that compare to you?
Well in actual fact I eat a lot of cocoa-based products in addition to the traditional bar. For example, caramelised or chocolate-coated nibs, barbecue sauce with chocolate and at home I like to whip up a chocolate mayonnaise with olive oil, garlic and onion to spread on toast.
In Spain we consume less than 2 kilos/chocolate per capita per year but my dream is for premium chocolate to regain popularity so as to benefit the entire supply chain.
What do your kids think about your profession?
My 9-year old son, Diego, loves what I do for a living and has even given several classes at school on the whole production process. It´s fair to say that in general there is a growing interest in the provenance of our food and in the producers themselves. My son is a great taster of white chocolate which, by the way, happens to be my favourite too (as long as the cocoa butter used is premium quality). Surprising as that might sound for a professional chocolate taster!
What´s next for Helen Chocolate?
Trips to chocolate plantations! Nothing beats seeing chocolate being made in its natural habitat.
For further details on tastings for adults, children, groups, corporate events:
The Editor would like to personally thank Helen for inviting her to attend her weekly tasting at the Escuela de Chocolate and for providing riveting insight into the tempering and refining process and generally coating her hands in the most delicious glossy mahogany-hued chocolate she has ever tasted.
A regular fixture at INC cultural events, this month we take a look at the rich tapestry that makes up, Australian, Mother of 2, former librarian, Angela Daley´s life spanning several continents thanks to the pioneer spirit of her parents who left behind war-torn Germany.
Growing up in Melbourne your mother tongue at home was German – why was this?
My parents were from Germany and Montenegro respectively. They migrated to Melbourne four months before I was born and decided to retain the German language and many German customs as well. Many of which we have kept to this day such as the annual chocolate Easter Egg hunt and holding a German-style Christmas dinner on 24th December.
Your father was originally Serbian and spent time as a Prisoner of War in Pompeii, did he ever speak about his experiences during the war?
My father fought for Yugoslavia in World War II. Many of the battles were brutal and he lost endless comrades. Eventually he was caught by Italian soldiers and spent two years in a prisoner of war camp in Pompeii. He never spoke about his experiences in the war but whilst my sister and I were growing up he suffered dreadful nightmares from those days and would often wake up screaming. Enduring the war and captivity developed my father’s survival skills and these certainly came in handy when he moved to Australia.
Your mother had to flee from what is now Poland to West Germany by foot during World War II, did she ever talk about her wartime experiences?
My mother also suffered trauma. She had been brought up in a wealthy home and was being groomed to take over her father’s empire. However, in February 1945 the Russians attacked the East German city, Breslau, where she lived and her family had to flee on foot. My mother did talk to us about some of her experiences during the war but she mainly focused on telling us stories about her happy childhood before that period.
Her family finally settled near Münster in North West Germany. My mother had studied English at university and was employed by British forces responsible for the repatriation of former German prisoners of war. My father was one of those prisoners and the rest is history !!! After getting married my parents decided to leave the ravages of war behind them by migrating to Australia.
What was Melbourne like during the 1950´s and 1960´s?
Melbourne was very different from how it is today. It was mainly populated by people of Anglo- Saxon descent, the level of culture was limited and the food was quite plain. Today the city is a thriving metropolis filled with people from all over the world. It has amazing restaurants offering all sorts of cuisine and culture abounds all around.
Have you been to Montenegro where your father was born?
Yes. My mother died suddenly in 2005 and my father became very depressed. They were lifelong soulmates. As a surprise we flew from New York to Niksic, Montenegro where my father was born and I phoned him from there. It was a special moment for us both.
You have enjoyed a long career as a librarian, what was it about law librarianship that appealed to you?
It brought an excitement to my work as a librarian that I had never experienced before. Loads of interesting and challenging legal research and pressure through deadlines. I loved it all!!!
Your first overseas posting with your husband was in New York, how did you find life over there?
New York is an amazing city to visit and it literally never stops. But trying to live a normal life in Manhattan did have its moments!!!
You then moved to Washington, how did that posting compare to New York?
Washington is also an amazing city but it was difficult for me to meet people and to feel like I belonged. Lots of networks exist but mainly in the sphere of foreign affairs and the military.
What brought you to Madrid?
My husband jokingly says that he is a “failure at retiring “!! He has had a few attempts. For a couple years he has been on the board of a Spanish company and he had recently even been considering attempting retirement once again. However, following a twist of events at a board meeting in Madrid in October 2019 he unexpectedly became the company’s full time CEO!!!
What’s unmissable for you in Madrid?
I love everything about Madrid and Spain. But more than anything I am very attached to Meninas in all shapes and forms.
Name a book that has inspired you and why?
“Spain” by Jan Morris. This beautifully written book is filled with heaps of interesting information on the history, geography and culture of España.
We are both keen linguists, what is it about languages that you love in particular?
Learning other languages opens up your mind to other cultures and gives you the ability to embrace and to feel part of them so much more.
It looks like the veroño (verano-otoño) we were enjoying is truly over so now that there are a dearth of Halloween pumpkins in the shops we can enjoy the hearty health properties of these orange orbs.
Originally known as “gros melons” in 1584 by French explorer Jacques Cartier, “pompions” as they were named in English eventually became known as pumpkins.
These colourful spherical superfruits have recently gained huge popularity here and Spain is now the number one producer of pumpkins in the EU. Having first arrived on Iberian shores in the 15th century from the Americas (via Asia) they are now cultivated largely in Málaga and Valencia.
Officially classified as a fruit, due to their seeds, pumpkins belong to the gourd family along with courgettes (zucchini), cucumbers, watermelon and regular melon. They are unique as you can eat the skin, leaves, flowers, pulp, seeds and even the stem!
With a composition of 90% water and three times fewer calories than their orange counterparts, the sweet potato, pumpkins rate high on the health scale. Shame the same can´t be said of pumpkin pie though. They have more fibre than kale, more potassium than bananas and are full of heart-healthy magnesium and iron. Frequent night time drivers will be interested to know that the high beta-carotene content can also enhance your nocturnal vision so you might spot those canny cameras before you get a speeding ticket.
The Moorish influence on Spanish cuisine can still be tasted today in numerous pastries such as ensaimadas and tarts that are filled with Cabello de Ángel (Angel´s Hair) which is essentially a caramelised fibrous paste of gourds and sugar. With the fibres resembling filaments, this Spanish version of pumpkin pie is one of many puddings that owes its heritage to 700 years of Muslim rule.
So if you´re fed up with waiting for your pumpkin to transform into a coach to take you to Prince Charming´s Thanksgiving Party you could consider the following enchanting recipe guaranteed to ensure you will remain the fairest¹ of them all for years to come.
Pumpkin Ravioli stuffed with mushrooms – serves 4
1 small pumpkin
Stuffing – 250 g various mushrooms, 2 cloves garlic, ½ onion
Sauce – 125 ml vegetable stock, red or white onion, 125 g various mushrooms, 25 ml white wine, 175 ml vegetable stock, 25 ml cream (or vegan cream), 1 sprig of rosemary
Salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil
To garnish – 1 cup of toasted hazelnuts
Cut the pumpkin into thin slices using a mandolin. You will need 16 slices at least.
Filling – Finely chop the garlic, onion and mushrooms. Sauté in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add vegetable stock and keep on a medium heat until the liquid has evaporated. Season accordingly.
Sauce – Sauté onion in olive oil until golden in a saucepan. Add chopped mushrooms for 2 minutes. Add white wine and turn up heat until all the liquid has evaporated. Add stock, Rosemary and cook for 10 minutes.
Liquidise the sauce and return to the pan. Add the cream and boil on a medium heat for 2 minutes.
Fill the pumpkin slices with the stuffing and pin together.
Steam for 3 minutes so that they remain al dente. Remove the pins (especially from the ones your mother-in -law is going to eat) and serve on top of the sauce, sprinkled with black pepper, fresh rosemary and the toasted hazelnuts.
Send me photos of any that you have made or do an over “lasagne” version with sheets of pumpkin instead of pasta.
¹Reference to the evil vain queen in Snow White “Mirror Mirror on the wall who is the fairest one of all?”
This month we dive across many oceans into the life of INC Board member on the VP Team, mother of 3, half Australian-half Filipino, owner of studio l’atelier Pilates 18 and Pilates instructor, Hyacinth Rebaud who after finishing school on a sheep farm in Australia went onto acquire a Master´s in Development and has carved out a career in the sector in various cities ranging from Manila to Manchester.
You started globetrotting from a young age, what was it like being sent from your home in the Philippines to school in Geelong near Melbourne, Australia?
This was definitely an experience that marked me profoundly and I made many lifelong friends. Once I´d got over the homesickness I took full advantage of the opportunity going away to school meant, especially for a girl from the Philippines. It gave me the mindset to believe that anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it (and to always be prepared!).
As someone used to densely populated Manila, how did you adapt to finishing high school on a merino sheep farm in Australia? What impact has that experience had on you in later life?
Well, it was certainly a steep learning curve! I wasn´t exactly enamoured with the remoteness of the location but I did acquire an appreciation for nature in all its raw beauty which has stayed with me today.
I also had to skill up on how to deal with bushfires, droughts and such things like having kangaroos running around your property or snakes under the house. I am not a country girl at heart, but I would not change that time for anything in the world.
Having met your French husband during a brief stint at home in the Philippines you took a 1-way ticket over to France to be with him. Would you describe yourself as a risk taker?
I´m usually completely risk-averse but I knew I´d regret not giving the relationship a chance so despite having spent only a few months together I jumped on a plane to see what his world looked like. It’s fair to say that I tend to trust my gut feelings/intuition (always have, always will).
You spent the bulk of your professional career in development and Corporate Social Responsibility – what attracted you to that sector?
Today, roughly less than 20% of the population live below the poverty line in the Philippines (about 18 million vs 3% in Spain). I simply wanted to understand this ‘inequality’, why it exists and what can we do to change that, practically speaking. Through my interest in Development, I have worked on a range of projects such as urban development and economic and social impact in China and Inner Mongolia; fundraising and implementing Gender and Diversity in Australia and the Philippines; female entrepreneurship in Uzbekistan and microfinancing in the UK and France.
Prior to moving to Madrid you spent three years in Athens, how did you adapt to life there?
Once we´d mastered the rules such as:
Guests should arrive at least one hour late for any dinner party
At 7 pm you will be served coffee not wine
Pedestrian crossings are decorative only
It is mandatory to invite ALL family members to children’s birthday parties and to stay for the entire day
Smoking is still acceptable in all indoor places
We found the Greeks were some of the warmest, most hospitable people we had ever met.
How did you enter the world of pilates?
Raising a family constantly on the move meant I had very little time to dedicate to self-care and I felt my body had almost been hijacked by the needs of everyone around me. Pilates provided a valuable one-stop shop in terms of healthy exercise and centering my mind and eventually, I trained to become a certified Reformer instructor to set up my own business. I feel privileged to have overcome the challenges that come with the territory of being a small business owner and Pilates has allowed me to really re-kindle my mojo.
You´re a great advocate of the Reformer in Pilates, what does it add in your opinion?
I am very biased I know, but personally, Pilates on the Reformer is a game changer and takes the Pilates experience to another level. It consists of various components that can be adjusted to each person´s specific requirements. If you haven’t tried stretching on the Reformer, then you have never experienced what a really good stretch feels like!
I have a small studio in which I teach 1:1 private classes. It is such a humbling and rewarding experience to be part of someone’s physical and mental journey to boost their confidence and “blossom again”.
Which is your favourite podcast?
I´m currently enjoying :
‘More Than One Thing’ with Athena Calderone – the imperfect journey of various creatives, storytelling about professionals who have not necessarily taken the ‘normal routes’.
Have you found any traits in common between the Philippines and Spanish?
Yes! The weekly family Sunday lunch ritual; warmth and hospitality especially to total strangers (I feel like I have been very fortunate! Finally, the love of dancing and music which are a frequent feature, Covid-permitting, of most social gatherings.
Last Saturday I went to Peru. Or at least it tasted like it. No PCR´s, no jet lag. Just a quick trip over to the Barrio de Salamanca to find Cilindro. The night didn´t get off to the best start. Finding a parking space in the street is akin to looking for an honest politician so we headed to the nearest carpark. Ten minutes later I was on the phone pleading with the restaurant not to give away our table as it turned out the so-called Parking was only fit for contortionists in a Fiat 500. After 65,000 manoeuvres and a few prayers we managed to squeeze the car into a space the size of a shopping trolley.
We then legged it round the block to the restaurant, past the outdoor terrace and the indoor high tables down to a welcoming cavernous dining room below decks.
Cilindro is the brainchild of Mario Céspedes and Conchi Alvarez. Mario hails from Lima and later emigrated to Asturias which adds an alluring layer to his international melting pot of fusion flavours at both Ronda 14, his original restaurant and Cilindro.
Within minutes a Peruvian waiter with Mensa-brain capacity memorised our order of half portions of numerous sharing plates or “piqueos” as they´re described and was able to divulge the ingredients of each dish with precision and enthusiasm.
We start off with one of my favourite dishes of all time: Ceviche. Husband tucks in heartily mumbling that this must be a synch to make, considering he can barely fry an egg I´d be very interested to know how he´s going to come up with cubes of firm-fleshed raw fish marinaded in lime and rocoto chilli in a creamy sauce.
As usual I feel compelled to request some spicy “ají” salsa on the side to authenticate the food. A generous dish of crimson red gloop appears. I promptly decide this must be spicy ketchup and start to bathe my seabass in it. Next thing I know Volcán Ubinas is in full scale eruption in my mouth and starting to spue smoke out of my nostrils. Husband snorts with laughter.
We order some Pisco Sours to ease the pain, the Peruvian national drink, although don’t mention that to any Chileans as also they claim it to be theirs. The heated dispute over the heritage of this colourless distillate makes the clash over Gibraltar look like child´s play. Either way, Pisco was by far the hardest drink for me to give up in pregnancy. The combination of grape brandy and a frothy bubble bath of raw egg white sprinkled with Angostura Bitters was much more tempting than pineapple pizza for some reason.
The restaurant takes its name from the “cilindro”, a traditional Peruvian cylindrical oven-grill for smoking and grilling. Céspedes has resurrected this Criolla contraption to great acclaim as I witnessed. Not a regular fan of “casquería” (offal) I happily gobble up every last morsel of the slow roasted tripe basted in cumin and paprika with black pudding: “Callos rachi al cilindro con morcilla asturiana”. Likewise the exquisitely-seasoned miniature Beef heart cube (“anticucho”) Gyozas with chilli and coriander slip down with unmeasurable ease.
The cilindro also exuded its magic on the silky smooth smoky pulpo which was so delicious I had to blank out the more emotional scenes from the docu-movie: My Octopus Teacher from my mind. Oozing with unctuous squid sauce, Peruvian olives and “olluco”, a vitamin-rich Andean root vegetable, this was a cracker dish.
We rounded off our savoury South American jaunt with the ubiquitous Bao, this time of “Rabo de Toro”; shredded stewed oxtail trapped between a delectable chewy bread bun that had been flashed over the griddle pan, a welcome original touch. Just the sort of sneaky snack I like to sink my teeth into mid-morning when the post-porridge munchies set in.
Puddings beckoned in the shape of “Cilindro de chocolate”, an intense chocolate mousse with perfectly ripe headily-scented mango ice cream which soothed the volcanic chilli craters forming on my tongue. We also tried the creamy lucuma fruit blancmange with tart strawberry sherbert. Lucuma is a centuries-old superfood known as the “Gold of the Incas”, famed for its age-retardant antioxidants and fertility properties. I was tempted to smear it over the wrinkles round my eyes as opposed to ingest it and risk a geriatric pregnancy. Although…watch this space in 9 months´ time…
They say you can’t live on thin air, yet Tatiana disagrees – “breath is the first food your body needs”
As a former executive in Private Banking, Tatiana has swapped providing shrewd financial advice for sound wellbeing tips based on a holistic approach and her decades of experience of yoga, Ayurveda and interest in people inside and out.
What is Foodshui?
Just as Fengshui is used to balance the energy in our homes, Foodshui is based on an Ayurvedic approach to enhance our own natural vitality. This is not a new fad or diet. This is about how to adjust your relationship with food, revive your digestion, to nurture your soul, to sleep better, boost your metabolism and zing with energy!
You started your career in Private Banking, how did you move into Fashion?
I have always been interested in fashion and had started to source clothes for friends and colleagues while I was at Merryll Lynch. My mentor at the bank advised me to choose which career to pursue and I chose to set up my own fashion brand in Miami but when I moved to Madrid I realised that the profit margins were much tighter and as I had always been interested in food and managing emotions I founded a 360 degree well-being business.
Tell us about the Foodshui catering side of your business
The food I produce is an extension of your own kitchen. I provide seasonal dishes for busy professionals, families or people on the go. Right now I have substantial silky soups with a range of flavours such as carrot and ginger, pumpkin and curry or green beans and basil. For main course we have a variety of quiches such as leek and mustard, portobello mushroom with balsamic followed by tempting treat biscuits of coconut, cardamom or cinnamon. Chocolate is a recurrent theme!
I did a one-year Ayurveda course after practising it for twenty years since I lived in Miami. What draw me most to it was the fact that it is a dynamic state that takes into account each individual´s body type or dosha and brings harmony between our mind, body and environment. The recipes I teach are based on these ancient principles.
What courses do you offer?
I run cookery lessons for both small groups and 1:1 on the basics of Ayurveda. We always start by understanding a client’s emotions and physical relationship to food before they join the group sessions. This course inspires you to look at food in a more dynamic, exciting light and boosts your individual well-being and metabolism.
I also offer a managing emotions course for small groups in which we meet once or twice a month over 8 months so that clients have time to apply the information to their own lives. I teach people how to think with their heart, feel with their mind and get to know themselves inside out.
In addition, I give classes in meditation with mantras and breathing techniques so that they become an integral part our daily life. The trick is to set aside 5 – 10 minutes at intervals to revitalise throughout the day.
Finally, I teach a course in personal and emotional development to nourish your mind, body and soul by incorporating all the Foodshui wellbeing elements in your life such as: breathing, laughter therapy, ayurvedic principles, sleep patterns, exercise and healthy recipes tailored to bring the best out of you.
What are your top tips for wellbeing?
Relax your jaw and the rest of your body will follow. Inhale slowly to eliminate stress. This break with your habitual frenetic rhythm will allow your heart, mind and body to change gear and change beat. (Editor´s Note – I have put up post it reminders to relax my jaw and have already noticed the difference).
What can´t you live without?
If I was sailing off to a desert island I´d have to take a supply of ginger, curcuma (turmeric), cumin and a fridge in which to keep the dark chocolate!
What are the next food trends to hit the headlines?
I think that we´ll spend a higher percentage of our income on better-sourced food, self-care and self-knowledge. Covid has taught us the merits of meaningful relationship with ourselves as opposed to a frenetic social life flitting from one event to another. I think that businesses will be more in tune with consumers and cardamom will gain popularity (Editor´s Note – our INC President is already on trend having brought her homemade coconut, chickpea flour and cardamom biscuits to our latest Area 4/5 coffee recently!)
What foods are great for boosting our wellbeing during midlife?
Pumpkins provide a lot of fibre, water and vitamin A to promote healthy eyesight whilst turkey helps you to sleep and avocados provide an important source of Omega 3 and 6. Other midlife superfoods include almonds, dark greens and beetroot which I tend to shred a lot. Brightly coloured foods such as kiwis, bananas and blue berries also play a key role at this time of our lives.
What are your most interesting food combos?
I make a delicious stewed chicken with prunes, nutmeg, red wine, cinnamon and Tamari sauce served with a crunchy almond crumble sprinkled on top.
Some people are lucky to get one successful career off the ground, Tatiana is on her third….with her recipe for purposeful longevity I suspect the rest of Tatiana’s talents are yet to emerge.
Originally from Sweden, we take a peek at the varied life of INC president: Malin Garemo, mother of 3, who despite having left school with no desire to continue further education, went on to acquire a PhD in Nutrition and has made a career out of it in Denmark, Abu Dhabi and now Madrid as well as trekking across deserts and mountains, cooking up a storm and devouring copious books.
You have made a career out of nutrition, what prompted you to study Nutrition at university?
I am fascinated by the power of food and its capacity to prevent, cause and heal diseases. Studying nutrition gave me a chance to learn more about the interaction between the body, the mind/brain and food, all equally important for our health.
You are originally from near Malmo and in your 20s you moved to Denmark, are the two countries less similar than outsiders think?
On the surface Denmark and Sweden are very similar but the more I got to know the former the greater my appreciation of their differences became. Both the Swedes and the Danes are grounded, genuine and sensitive to the environment and once you have made a friend, that person can easily become a friend for life. When we left Denmark, I felt we´d really had an expat “living abroad” experience.
What did you learn about women´s and pediatric health when you set up a health consultancy in Denmark?
Loads! Women are powerful and the impact mothers have on their children’s life is immense and vice versa. What we know from research today is that children who grow up with mothers who have a positive body image are happier with themselves, if a mother is doing sports it has a more positive impact on the children than if their fathers are doing sports. By empowering women we give children a better chance to thrive. For me it is a privilege to support and enable women and children to be their best.
After 9 years in Denmark how did you find life in Abu Dhabi?
Super interesting. The desert is beautiful and people are friendly, curious and generous. I was lucky enough to work at the university, teaching young women from a very different culture than my own. I think I learnt more from them than they did from me.
Do you have any stories about adapting to life here in Madrid after 9 years in Abu Dhabi?
Moving here I could only say Hola and Gracias. Getting help from my children (who knew some Spanish) to sort out the internet, deliveries etc was a pretty humbling experience. It really reminded me about the power of knowledge (and innovative speaking J). I was very happy when I found INC- a tribe that understands my language.
As an expert in nutrition and holistic health, do you practise what you preach?
Well, yes to the point that my children once asked the host at a party why she was serving Coca Cola and then promptly informed all the children there that Coca Cola is a medicine that is only fit for consumption when you have a stomach bug at both ends!
On a bit more of a serious note, yes, I try. I am lucky to be surrounded by people that I admire and love. We eat with joy, I have been meditating for many years and I also move a lot in my daily life. All of those ingredients are important for a happy, and thus healthier life.
What research papers are you writing up for Zayed University in Abu Dhabi? Why did you choose that particular field?
Right now I are working on 3 projects all related to children: one focusing on infant feeding, one about pre-schoolers and their overall heath and finally young athletes, their performances, drivers and how they can be utilised as role models in their social circles.
As a specialist in paediatric nutrition I want to understand what is happening with kids when they are young in order to support them, and their mothers, to create healthier family units. Working with kids is fun-they are completely honest and that has always appealed to me.
Not content with your PhD, why have you decided to study world history at Gothenburg University?
It is something I have wanted to do for a long time and coming here, the stars finally aligned-I have the time and Spain reminded me about how little I know about this country. The course is a way to help me learn more.
You are a keen hiker and traveller, across mountains and deserts – tell us about any interesting stories on your trips
Early on I got a taste for travelling and my kids came too since a very early age. I remember once, on our way to the Philippines, carrying my youngest in a Babybjorn sling , while asking the boys to be patient and wait for our luggage. All of a sudden one vanished into thin air, until my eldest, then 6 years old, delightfully pointed him out “ Mummy, look, Wilhelm is whizzing around on the luggage belt”. Fortunately I managed to get him off the belt before he disappeared with the luggage… There have been times when I wished I was an octopus.
What other hobbies do you enjoy and how do they enrich your life?
Reading, puppy training, gardening, summer house DIY, running and doing nothing …Does that qualify as a hobby? I am very good at spending time with family and friends doing absolutely nothing!
Reading has always been a big part of my life. I am now a member of the INC area 1 Book Club, coordinated by Irlanda. We have read some great books and the meet ups afterwards are always equally stimulating. We are honestly having a real blast!
I am keen hiker and one of the most memorable experiences was to cross the desert between Al Ain and Abu Dhabi together with 40 other women –walking 30-35 km a day in 40-55 degrees Celcius in the sun and no shade. Talk about girl power!
I have also been on a lot of hikes with the children and it is such a great way to hang out. You talk, you are silent, you are together and the pace is soothing, once you get into it. And of course, a nice picnic along the road is the big reward. I have also done some amazing hikes around Madrid and can’t wait to do more together with INC.
What´s next for Malin Garemo?
Short term I want to improve my Spanish, get back to running nutrition courses, and run a half marathon with my son. Long term I am dreaming about my own retreat place with hikes, meditation and nutritious food.
What do you hope to bring to INC under your presidency?
The success of INC is built on team spirit and enthusiasm for the club. In my opinion the stability by long-term members is crucial, as is the inclusion and diversity. By always being equally welcoming and grateful to new members and their ideas INC remains dynamic as well. Isn’t that a great cocktail?
As the president I will always have a listening ear, an open mind and I will also back the team. I will strive to bring out the strengths in each of the board members to ensure that we can build continued success both by our traditions and also by incorporating new events that are relevant and interesting to our members. I am utterly grateful for all the support offered by everyone. It means a whole lot when you embrace on a new journey.
Susannah Grant comes Face to Face with Cristiane Azem, acclaimed Director, Dancer and Artistic Producer. Originally from Sao Paulo, Cristiane weaves her oriental heritage into her love of belly dancing and explores movement from a fascinating anthropological standpoint.
How old were you when you first started dancing?
I started out with modern ballet and contemporary dance aged 10. Later, aged 15, I was introduced to Flamenco and Spanish folkloric dance for the first time and I instantly fell in love with it. My love of Oriental dance came to me through my family as my father was Lebanese.
You have three strands to your business. Tell us more
Yes, I do. I have had a Dance School in the centre of Madrid for 15 years, where I teach and direct various artistic training projects for professional and amateur students and we put on several artistic productions every year.
In addition, I am a stage director of projects of other professional artists such as the great Flamenco dancer Manuel Reyes or the creator Lenna Beauty from Brazil, as well as international artistic events, mainly in Turkey.
Finally, the third strand of my work is focused on me as a dancer in my own shows, and also as a guest dancer for musicians such as Eduardo Paniagua, Emilio Sanz, Efren Lopez and Misirli Ahmed among others.
What is it that makes your dance school different from others?
Before opening my own school, I taught for 10 years, focussing not only on the dance technique itself but also on the importance of the anthropological and historical features of Eastern culture.
When I opened my own school, I pioneered a method that I call TRANSVERSAL DANCE whereupon I incorporate the experience of literature, the arts, philosophy, anthropology and history into the very heart of teaching of dance. In this way I don’t categorise the students by their level, we practise more of ” a vertical-style learning”, just like it is done in the Eastern way.
Is there a huge difference between the different countries well-known for belly dancing such as Turkey and Middle Eastern nations?
Whilst there is a great variety of styles, there isn´t a huge difference because the steps and movements are similar. However, the way of performing them is the differentiating factor and it is very enriching to study the Oriental dance of each particular region, as well as the different periods and the personal style of the great dancers of the past.
What is the history of belly dancing?
The history of Belly Dancing goes back to the history of human mankind. Starting with the first sacred dances to goddesses and gods and then social dances as a means of communal identification which later became engrained in folklore.
And then came the artistic phase that we know more superficially as “Belly Dance” which was popularised at the beginning of the 20th century by Egyptian cinema. Today belly dancing continues to evolve, often far beyond its origins or its artistic purity.
What is the knack for mastering those tiny, impressive shakes of one´s stomach area?
The first thing is to recognise your own body as having different parts, yet one energy flowing through it. Then you start to investigate the specific movements of each zone in order to isolate them. This way the “shakes”, “shimmies”, “snakes” and “ondulating movements” gradually appear as something powerful, pleasurable and sensual.
What do Flamenco and Belly Dancing have in common?
Both Flamenco and Belly Dancing have long historical roots that stem from our need to connect with the forces of nature and pass down a cultural legacy to generations to come. Flamenco has a particular musical rhythm that the dancer has to master in order to dance it well. Whereas belly dancing, at first sight appears more subtly sensual and graceful. Both invigorate both body and soul and are very restorative!
What advice would you give to anyone who thinks they have 2 left feet?
Everybody in the world is able to dance. Dance is a gift we all have and if you are shown the doors, you can walk through them without fear and feel all its magic.
What is your secret Madrid?
My “secret Madrid” are the windows of my School which are very close to the sky of the Plaza de Tirso de Molina, in the city centre. There I can see wonderful sunsets and the moon… and the trees changing according to the season, I love that.
What´s next for Cristiane Azem?
I have three new dance plays about to be released in theatres:
JAMSA dedicated to the Woman of the Orient.
METÁFORA PARA FRIDA dedicated to the work and life of Frida Kahlo combined with women’s poetry.
And the other one, BOHEMIAN VINTAGE, is a show dedicated to an imaginary oriental café in the 30s.
I am also developing a project about García Lorca with important flamenco musicians where we will incorporate the Japanese Butoh technique into flamenco and Lorca’s poetry.
And as on top of all of that I’m preparing the edition of my first book on the anthropological evolution of dance. So lots to look forward to!