Spotlight on Mariate Vidal
by Susannah Grant
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.