Tatiana da Silva talks to us about Foodshui – her business that focusses on healthy food and wellbeing courses for the heart, body and soul.

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!

Step into Tatiana´s soup: Spinach & Mint, Tomato & Papaya, Carrot & Ginger and Green bean & Basil

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.

Radiant Tatiana

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!

Tatiana´s flagship Portobello Quiche

Why Ayurveda?

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.

Tatiana keeps her calm

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.

Good times in the Foodshui kitchen

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!

Tatiana´s tempting chocolate and cinnamon cookies

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.

A touch of ginger adds zing to your spring

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.

www.foodshui.es

https://www.instagram.com/foodshui

tatiana@foodshui.es

Whatsapp  Tel 680 838 803

Avenida de Guadalix 35,
Centro Comercial local 51 A1
( Al lado del restaurante Xarello)
Urbanización Ciudad Santo Domingo, Madrid

Spotlight on Malin Garemo

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.

Colourful food is healthy food

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.

Malin in action

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.

Malin heads for Paris

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.

Malin´s family improvise some dining tables before their furniture arrives in Madrid

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.

Summer life in Sweden

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.

Asia is a key member of the family

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.  

Exploring Siem Reap, Cambodia

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!

Crossing the desert between Al Ain and Abu Dhabi

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.

Malin never shies away from adventure

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.

Face to Face with Cristiane Azem

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.

Some of the 25 dancers at the show, NIGHT, in the Teatro Galileo, Madrid

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.

Billowing silk at Cristiane´s dance school

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.

Night – a show encompassing both dance and literature at the Teatro Galileo

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.

Ziryab show in the Teatro Compac in Gran Vía

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!

Tel 649540067

Email – azemcristiane@gmail.com

www.cristianeazem.com

Ziryab show in which rose petals rain down from the roof of the theatre

Face to Face with Perla Gomes

Sapient samba dancer, Perla tells us how dance has opened numerous doors in her life and those of others in her native Brazil.

How old were you when you first started dancing?

I was 5 years old when my aunt taught me my first Samba steps. By 7 years old I was entering Lambada competitions and by 11 I was choregraphing my own dance routines and I got into traditional folkloric dancing which is huge in Belem, my birth city. At 16 I formed a dance group for lambada, mambo y folk dancing. I am actually self-taught, learning by osmosis from all the influences that surrounded me.

What does dance mean to you?

Dance spells freedom! In order for one to dance you have to shed lots of beliefs, prejudices and fixed mindset. Despite studying IT, in the end dance won me over and took me to Spain aged 22 with 200 euros in my pocket. This is where I really felt fully free to dance.

Perla puts some Belem university students through their paces

What is it about teaching dance that you like especially?

I like to emphasise to my students that anyone and everyone is able to dance any kind of dance, as long as you feel liberated. And also teach them to feel free to dance so that they feel that sense of freedom for themselves!

We´re never too young to dance

Tell us about your charity, Perlas da Amazonia

 Everything I do both professionally and personally is related to the cause of promoting the Amazon and its people. It´s a lifelong passion of mine and involves two-way cultural, touristic and sustainability programmes to promote the Amazon to those outside and help those within. It´s very exciting to watch it thrive and grow.

What sort of events does your company organise?

Prosperity Art Production organises shows and cultural workshops; audiovisual productions including digital marketing, editing and recording as well as event management (both corporate and private fairs etc) We have worked in Tourism Fairs in Madrid, Lisbon and Berlin, put on a Christmas Show for the Prado and a charity event for Circo Price amongst other activities.

What is the history of Samba?

Samba has a long history of amalgamating sounds from Europe, Africa with local indigenous rhythms. The strong drum beat is similar to one´s own heartbeat.

You´re also a trained pilates teacher, is dancing samba helpful for pilates?

It helps as good coordination and body sense is fundamental but it´s not strictly helpful as such.

What advice would you give to anyone who thinks they have 2 left feet?

Shut your eyes, feel the music and let your body flow. Tell yourself you can dance and the power of your positive mind will enable you to do it!

Perla in an Amazonian communities

What´s next for Perla Gomes?

To grow my business digitally and to carry on with Perlas da Amazonia until it´s up there as one of the most important charities in the world!

Perla Gomes

Perlarj@gmail.com

Tel +34 690 38 28 96

Instagram: @perlagomesworld

www.prosperityart.es     www.perlasdaamazonia.com

Spotlight on Mariate Vidal

This month we delve into the life of Mariate Vidal who has spent 20 years abroad and comes from a long line of Spanish Pharmacists. Not content with managing one of her family´s chemists in her home town of Tarragona, Mariate has acquired a PhD in Microbiology and two Masters in Food Science and Human Nutrition respectively.  Nowadays Mariate is putting her renowned cookery course skills to good use and enjoying her multitude of hobbies and industrious charity work.

Mariate enjoys Richmond Park, London

You´re now living in Madrid for the first time, after 2 decades years abroad, what is like to be back in Spain?

Funnily enough, it did take quite a bit of adjustment as we´d never lived in Madrid before.  I missed the international aspect of my life, hence joining INC and despite not being able to attend many events for obvious reasons it has been a positive experience.

Mariate´s life has taken many courses

Where have you lived before?

I grew up in Tarragona and went to University in Barcelona before moving back home to work in a Pharmaceutical Laboratory and do a PhD in Microbiology. After getting married we moved to Toronto due to my husband´s job and from there to Milan, Dublin and finally London where we spent 11 very happy years.

La Dolce Vita

Tell us about living in Milan

I erroneously assumed that by speaking a mixture of Spanish, French and Catalan I could make myself understood in Italian. We lived in the very chic area of Brera, in the thick of all the upmarket boutiques, museums and restaurants which was quite a contrast to the bucolic Toronto suburbs. However, we embraced the city and were soon nicknamed “Los Amigos” by the affectionate owners of a lovely local trattoria where we became regular fixtures.

Mariate cooks her native tortilla at a London street party

I don´t think I have ever met woman who embraces such diverse pastimes. What sort of activities did you enjoy in whilst living abroad?

I have always sought to take full advantage of every posting. In Toronto I took English and French lessons, cooking classes, learned to ice skate and I even enrolled in a Landscaping course at the University of Toronto, in addition to gardening courses at local community centres. In Milan I took up Italian and soaked up all the art, fashion and design features of our local area. Our time in Dublin was quieter because my hands were full with both babies.

In London, in addition to cookery I took photography courses, joined the PTA at our daughters’ school and became a volunteer in public health activities. I also studied a Masters in Human Nutrition and did a professional cookery course which led to a job as a Cookery Teacher Assistant at school and discovered I really enjoyed teaching.

Mariate the pharmacist at the pharmacy

Where does your interest in Science stem from?

It runs in the blood as I am a third-generation pharmacist. My father set up an analytical laboratory and my mother ran her own pharmacy so I was surrounded by science since birth!

Your passion for food has also taken on a more gastronomic approach, tell us about your prestigious cookery course you completed in London

Ironically I was a very fussy eater as a child however, during my Pharmacy degree we had to study food science for a year and that became one of my favourite subjects. I hadn´t cooked much before getting married so I took cookery classes when we lived in Toronto. Later on, I enrolled at Leith’s School of Food and Wine fulltime in London with the support of my husband and some childcare. It was a highly demanding yet stimulating experience which I thrived on and now I know how to make proper scones!

Indi enjoys the snow in Richmond Park, London

What international customs have your family absorbed into your own culture/family life?

Plenty of gastronomic ones! Such as maple syrup, porridge for breakfast and my daughters appreciate Indian food after their weekly curry school lunches in London!

What is your role at Manos Unidas charity?

This is a wonderful NGO whose aim is to empower local communities to tackle hunger, health and sanitation issues in Third World countries. I prepare reports on the various projects that Manos Unidas will get involved in for potential investors. My previous academic and professional background is useful and the work is stimulating. I then write up the final reports to show the donors how their money has been spent.  It´s a fascinating role because it´s opened my eyes up to the needs of many different countries as well as the inner workings of an international organisation.

Aquaduct culture in Segovia

If you could wave a magic wand what would you do next in your life?

That’s a difficult one…  I would love to have several next lives… So that I could be a Oxford/Cambridge professor, or maybe a travel or science journalist or even a chef like José Andrés or Massimo Bottura, who, besides being good at what they do, use their skills and influence to help people in need.

Spotlight on Irlanda Gutiérrez

This month the Spotlight falls on new INC member, Texan-born tennis star who gave her life a volte-face when she left her corporate career to practise Swedish and sports massage, Irlanda Gutiérrez.

You climbed up the corporate ladder of a male-dominated business. What was it like to be one of very few women in Senior Management of Enterprise Rental Cars?

In those days men made up 90% of the workforce in that sector so it was certainly a challenge for me as a woman. I felt I had to prove myself more than a man in the corporate world in terms of knowledge, efficiency, capacity and putting in the long hours.  Having almost exclusively male colleagues was novel and on the whole pretty smooth. I´d say men are generally very rational and mathematical in the way they operate.

What tips would you give other women juggling careers and children?

Some days were 12-14 hours long so I´d have to race to day-care to breast feed during my lunch hour and run back to work in heels.  Those days were truly insane.  It’s tough to give advice because in hindsight I should have worked less to create a better balance.  However, as  women in the workplace we do have a tough time of it because if we request to work shorter hours it is seen as a sign of weakness. There is definitely no harder job than properly raising your children and upkeeping a home.

What was it in Guadalajara, México that prompted you to delve in massage therapy? 

When I was forced to leave my corporate career because of my husband’s move to Mexico I had to re-evaluate my life and think.. Do I ever want to do that again? The answer was no… it was too high of a price not to be able to give my children and home some of me.  Guadalajara was ahead of Texas in terms of yoga, organic food and meditation and I literally dove in.  When I returned to the States 2 years later, I went back to school in Laredo and Austin to qualify as a Licensed Massage Therapist. After that I did several specialization courses over the world such as India and Switzerland and my particular area of expertise is working with Athletes. I was lucky as with all my sports contacts my practice in Texas was booked solid year-round. I am now practising here in Madrid.

How did you develop an interest in food and what does it mean to you today?

I’m not sure I´m a great cook but I do love to eat, especially the organic fruit and vegetables that I discovered in Mexico.

What was it like working as the official massage therapist for rockstars and celebrities at a concert arena?

I was fortunate to land a fascinating job as the Laredo Arena Therapist as ZZ Top came into town and took my predecessor on tour with them.  So I would be in charge of the singers, dancers and VIP’s for event and concerts.  My kids thought it was so cool that I would attend a rap star or any number of famous people.  They would look larger than life on stage and yet off stage they are just as human, fragile with the same stress and laughter like the rest of us.

Ready for the Nationals!

Tell us about the role competitive tennis has played in your life.

I was very happy being an amateur tennis player and played competitive tennis with my Texas team. We would travel all over the place in competitions and had just the best time.  Team sports and competition give you life for sure, mentally and physically.

Irlanda holds steady

Why have you decided to specialise in sports massage therapy? 

I love being an amateur tennis player and yogi. I understand athletes and their needs. It took me a while to get here but I am now doing what I love the most.

 Has anything surprised you about Spain and its people?  

The way they honor and respect meals and mealtimes is something I am not used to yet rather admire.

What dish would you dream about if you were cast away to a desert island?  

Definitely Thai food and Tacos too!

If you could wave a magic wand what would you do next in life?  

I´d love to open my own health and wellness center.

Spotlight on Isotta Peira

Isotta´s social suppers

This month we dive into the life of Savonna-born, former travel operator, juvenile butcher extraordinaire, volleyball player and duelling fanatic, Isotta Peira who now runs her own food experience company in La Latina.

Having studied French and Spanish, you first came to Spain in 2013 to work in the travel industry. Tell us about what that period of your life. 

It was a highly frenetic, crazy few years. Italy was deep in recession so I moved to Madrid to take a telemarketing job selling cruises.  I ended up sharing a flat with two other Italian friends and we were all working hideously long hours, 6 days a week. Life was pretty intense as the job was highly competitive and we partied about as hard as we worked. Later on, I got to travel frequently to France, Morocco and India which was a definitely plus point.

Isotta´s legendary Nonna

You started helping out at your grandparents´ butchers´shop when you were 6, how did that prompt you to make a career out of food?

That was a truly memorable part of my life. I became transfixed by the magic of transforming ingredients from one state to another and also by the respect a butcher has for the animal. My passion for food and minimising waste definitely stems from those days.

What was it like working as a chef in an Indian restaurant in London in 2009?

At first it was quite hard as I discovered I had a minor intolerance to coriander which appeared in every single recipe! Fortunately I´ve got over that now.

Isotta teaches the art of homemade pasta

A lot of people think that the Spanish are very similar to the Italians, what similarities and differences have you noticed?

That’s true! We are like cousins ahah. Of course, depending on the region we come from, there can be more similarities or differences.  Both nationalities are fiercely proud of our cultures and talk very loudly! I see that Spaniards are better at switching off after work, something I´m trying to learn!

Isotta and her wife Andrea have some Ratatouille-themed fun

Tell us about the supper club dinners you organised before the pandemic.

Andrea, my Bolivian wife and I hosted our first social dinner in November 2018 with a view to offering authentic home-cooked food in a cosy environment where people from different cultures could comfortably socialise. It was a huge success so we created the brand Eatsperience Madrid, and it is now my fulltime job.  We have organised many a themed evenings such as gnocchi nights and unusual pairings such as artisanal gelato with savoury food.

Female team spirit

What part has sport played in your life?

When I arrived in Madrid I played for an amateur women´s volleyball team which was great fun and very social. Hopefully, I will have more time to join up again after Covid. As a child I took up fencing seriously and became a teacher myself until I went away to University.

Eatsperience goes online

What is your secret Madrid?

When I feel homesick, I go to Mangitalia: an Italian Shop in Calle Galileo. The Italian and Spanish owners have treated me like family from the moment I set foot in the place.

Tell us about your charity work with the elderly in Madrid

My close relationship with my grandmother instilled deep admiration for the elderly and I was introduced to the Fundación Alicia y Guillermo by one of my volleyball team-mates. I have been keeping a lady in her late 80s company for several years. She loves to recount the time when she, as RENFE (train) employee she met the former Queen Sofía of Spain.

Rocking and rolling

What ingredients would you take with you if you were confined on a desert island?

Mangos – I could eat mangos all day! Raw meat with parmesan, followed by carrots and fennel and heaps of pasta on the off-chance I could boil up some water!

Spotlight on Evelyn Nackman

This month the Spotlight falls on seasoned lawyer, amateur flamenco dancer and budding novelist, Evelyn Nackman who is also a Lieutenant Colonel with an artistic flair and a mother of 3.

Tell us what prompted you to pursue a legal career within the US Military

I grew up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., one of the most politically charged places in the USA. Where some people grew up with favorite sports teams, my world was divided by political parties. I’m a believer in being the change you want to see. After attending law school in Chicago, I joined the military, and became a lawyer.

The law and the military are two institutions that have traditionally been dominated by men. Women have a powerful stereotype-defying perspective to bring to all institutions. I have been a part of that institutional change within the US military and globally as the US forces interact with the forces of other nations for peacekeeping and coalition building missions. The military’s rigorous professional training helped launch my legal career in the civilian sector.  

Flying high

Are you still involved with the Armed Forces? 

Public service has been an important aspect of my life. I continue to serve my country.  

The strict lockdown in Madrid gave you an opportunity to complete your first book, what prompted you to write a novel? 

My family’s numerous postings meant that I needed to reinvent my career. As an English major in college and a lifelong reader, I’ve always wanted to write fiction. My time in Spain has given me that opportunity.  

Walking like an Egyptian

You have 3 daughters, including twins – how does your husband cope with so many females in the household and are any of the telepathic myths about twins true? 

My husband is one of those rare men who has the gift of charm and grace when it comes to dealing with personalities. At home, he’s treated like a celebrity, so it’s a win-win for him. 

The twins have whatever the opposite of telepathic connection is. They couldn’t be more different. They look nothing alike and act different. They have separate interests, etc. That said, my three girls are best friends and fiercely protective of each other.  

Do you have any stories about adapting to life here in Madrid?

Americans use imperial measurement for the most part and all of our produce, in the US, is weighed at the checkout till. So I have no idea how much a gram of anything is or how much a banana (or anything at all) weighs in either metric or imperial. During the pandemic, I used Hipercor’s online order service which proved just how little I knew.

The metric system drives Evelyn a bit bananas

How has painting been a creative outlet throughout your life? 

Art is just another language trapped inside you. Everyone has art in them of some sort whether your medium is words, paint, clay, or performance. Just like you can say some things better in Spanish or Greek to express yourself, the arts are another way of communicating that which can’t be spoken directly. As such, the best art makes you feel or remember or understand something better about life, as well as being a release for the artist.  

Alexander the Great

I use all types of mediums: pastels, water color, oil paint, etc. Painting is another way of capturing how I see the world, like writing. The creative process connects parts of my brain that were never connected before and expands my understanding of the world.  

I spend as much time as I am able in art museums absorbing the messages and language in the works there. I’ll photograph a painting that strikes me and go home to recreate it with my own colors. Going through another artist’s creative process helps me understand what they’re saying in a way that simply looking at a painting can’t. In this way, Goya and other infamous painters and I have spoken to one another. In the process, I create something new and improve my own expression.  

The Belle at the ball in Vienna

As someone who has been in Madrid for a year how has being a member of INC been beneficial to you? 

INC has been a great way to connect with other women, professionally and personally.  

What is your secret Madrid?

I love finding nooks, interesting views, one-of-a-kind artisanal products, and meeting people in their element. Not the easiest to do right now, but rewarding when I am able to do it. Some of my favorite place are: My art class held in a studio on Calle de Fucar, the view from the RUI Hotel rooftop, Ferreterría by EGO (a restaurant with yummy jamón) anything in Mercado de Paz, and my flamenco classes in Pozuelo. 

Fun times in Santa Barbara

If you could go anywhere, where would you like to live next? 

I’d love to live in France or Italy next. I studied French for years and love both countries. 

If you could wave a magic wand what would you do next in your life?  

I waved it! My wish was granted! I’m starting my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with NYU in Paris this January. I’ll be on my writing journey for a while, hopefully capitalizing on my experiences since I left full time legal practice.  

Brihuega – enveloped in the heady aromas of lavender, larger than life Hobbit caves and some Guinness record-holding miniatures

“And if you don´t come out by 1 pm I´ll be putting you through the mince grinder” quipped the seasoned butcher-cum-custodian of the Arab caves to my daughter who was dawdling in the labyrinthine tunnels under the main square.  Visitors to the sprawling caves have to negotiate the swinging carcasses in his shop next to the main entrance in order to request the key.

Hide and seek in the Arab caves

Images of 7-year old Claudia being ground into Anglo-Spanish meatballs prompted me to give her a prod as I checked my watch anxiously. The children had been spending a merry hour scampering through the 8 km maze of tunnels dating from the 10th Century.  Originally built to provide sanctuary from invaders and religious persecutors, the constant temperature of 12 degrees had also rendered the caves under the main square a convenient storage facility.

The Main Square

The medieval-walled town of Brihuega, at only 90 km from Madrid makes for an interesting daytrip. With only 3000 inhabitants, the population of this historic town in Guadalajara is swelled by visitors flocking to admire the local lavender fields that bloom in July. The rest of the time you can enjoy most of the venerable sights without the ubiquitous crowds more commonly found in Segovia or Toledo. Lavender features heavily in the local economy and its heady aroma is used in soaps and sweets in and around the town´s bustling market and shops.

Another unusual highlight on offer is the world-acclaimed Miniatures Museum* that houses over 65,000 tiny replicas of anything from hats to palaces; dogs; suitcases; cities; shops; furniture and even “The 7 Wonders of the World”, the latter of which are painted onto lentils. A feast for all ages of eyes and definitely a contender for “Most Unusual Museum” prize with its chewing gum sculptures and matchstick paintings. And there was me expecting an aeroplane-size bottle of Beefeater.

San Felipe Iglesia

Brihuega also boasts several notable examples of historic architecture such as the Romanesque Iglesia de San Felipe; the Castle of Piedra Bermeja whose origins date back to Arab times, a 17th Century convent and Textile Factory offering impressive views across the Tajuña Valley. It was at the castle cemetery that we stumbled across some charming Romanians. After a short exchange about our elusive bear tracking exploits there a few years ago and the underwhelming promotion of their country´s fascinating sights beyond Dracula and Transylvania we established that, coincidentally, they were huge fans of my brother´s TV documentary series on the bears and medieval communities in the Carpathian mountains which was took us all rather by surprise.  

Searching for burly bears in Romania

All this talk of Romanian sausages gave us an appetite and if you´re after some authentic Alacarreñan cuisine there are plenty of restaurants with wood-fired ovens serving roasted pork, lamb and fish dishes to choose from. However, if you´re looking for the full gourmet experience then head to Michelin-starred Doncel where you can dine out on Black pudding chips, 4 x 4 Pork scratchings (evenly crisped up on all four sides) and Venison carpaccio with Thyme ice cream. On my next visit I will just have to borrow a concoction from Alice in Wonderland to shrink the kids and donate them to the Miniatures Museum so as to indulge myself on Bambi and fries uninterrupted.

Queen of the Castle

A mere 10 minutes by car from the Brihuega centre takes you to the Tolkienesque abandoned village of Cívica. There is a charming outdoor café at the river´s edge opposite the ruins where you can recharge after exploring the tangled web limestone hidey-holes that may have hosted many a retiring monk or Sephardic Jew according to local legend.

Find Frodo

All in all, Brihuega and its environs make for an enchanting peak into Castillian history against an intriguing backdrop of fantasy and myths.

*Museum opening times may be affected by Covid-19

Spotlight on Isabel Vallejo

This month the Spotlight falls on Colombian Reiki master, IT engineer and now systemic coach with a penchant for aero yoga, mother of 4 and Area 1 Coordinator, Isabel Vallejo.

You were born in Cali in Colombia, is it true that the best salsa dancers come from there?

Definitively. If in doubt look at the Delirio show in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QQamlO1TOw

Was being female quite a novelty on your computer engineering course in Bogotá?

Interestingly enough, I think almost half of us were women.

Norwegian break

Did you find your 6-month period in Germany quite a contrast to your life back home in Colombia?

Adapting to a public transport system that worked like clockwork was a huge culture shock after Bogotá. In Germany there is a sense and expectation of order which doesn´t exist in a place like Colombia where you always have to be ready to improvise. We´re rather good at that.

Time out in Colombia

Why did you decide to do a dual MBA programme in Portuguese at Wharton?

The Lauder School of International Studies, part of Wharton, took a very avant-garde approach for the 1990s in that they championed a country´s culture as part of their courses so I entered the Portuguese program and loved it.

How did you find living in London after North and South America?

Having studied at a British School I always liked London as it´s so authentic, like history unfolding, despite the cold, grey weather at times. I became a mum and appreciated the playgroups and diversity of mothers I could meet there.

Tell us about your 10-year stint in Moscow.

When we arrived in Russia in 2002 we had three children under 4 so we took advantage of the special art and music on offer at Russian kindergartens as well as enabling the kids to learn Russian. The expat community was very tight-knit as it was difficult to communicate with the locals. I realised that some people will feign incomprehension despite any linguistic attempts, whereas others understood me quite well with sign language.

Leisure time in Moscow

Meditation is very important to you; how did you get into it?

I am the daughter and sister of 3 drs in my family. Yet I´ve always been curious about different faiths and other elements that defy logic. Having seen that a Bio-energetic practitioner solved my niece´s chronic sore throats I decided to investigate and subsequently did a Reiki course as well as other energy therapies.

When I lived in Moscow the Damas Latinas Club offered meditation courses. I saw meditation as a way to understand one´s self. You have to take care of yourself first, and then you can guide others take care of themselves.

Isabel with a Russian friend

You are now a coach, what area of coaching do you focus on?

We all operate as individuals yet we are also part of many systems. I am now a systemic coach which focuses on understanding the system as a whole so that you can analyse what areas can or need to be improved.  We help de-clutter all the relationships between those systems, getting to the root of our present-day situations to comprehend what we really want and need.

Flying high

In 2016 you came to Madrid and managed a wellness centre, how did you get into aero yoga?

Our centre´s speciality was aero yoga but it wasn´t easy to find teachers. Once, while on the hunt for a teacher I called up a training centre in Valencia who explained they were have offering an intensive training programme 2 days later. Having found a babysitter, I ended up on the course and despite feeling like the odd one out to begin with I ended up loving it.  Ironically, a week later our main teacher left so I ended up taking her place!

It was a wonderful experience but the timetable was incompatible with my children as most of the classes were after school. However, now that my evenings are freed up once more, I might consider teaching it again as it´s great exercise.

You have just moved to the Sierra Norte de Madrid, what attracted you to this area?

In one of my group sessions we reached the conclusion that it would be beneficial to leave our comfort zone. So, faced with a move in any case, I decided to widen my search area as I work mostly online and don´t have kids in school anymore. So here I am in Cotos, which I used to think was miles away!