GIRL MEETS FOOD: A TRUE LOVE STORY
Food was destined to be the central focus of my life from early on. The daughter of an Israeli father and an American mother, I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela in a home that celebrated any event with a multi-cultural feast. Any event really meant any event: sister-got-braces-tightened (Moussaka (soft to the bite) and Herbed Mashed Potatoes (nutritional comfort), followed by the king of softness, Quesillo con Ron (rum-infused flan). There were plenty others: Alona-just-barely-made-a-B-in-math was always celebrated with a hearty Ajiaco Bogotano (Colombian chicken stew) with extra avocado and sour cream, or, the infallible favorite Herbed Roasted Leg of Lamb (au jus, just as Julia Child specifies). Of course, we celebrated all the traditional events too: birthday parties, anniversaries, guests from abroad, but, it was these small tributes to life that I remember and cherish most fondly.
I was drawn to the magic and delight of food at a young age, and, while my siblings where outside playing, I spent most of my free time in the kitchen watching, asking, and ingesting my mother’s every move.
When mom wasn’t at the helm of the kitchen, Yolanda was. Yolanda, our petite and feisty Colombian nanny, filled our kitchen with friends and wonderful aromas, leaving no room for anything but good stories and delectable food, always, of course, with me attached to her hip, learning, chopping, and laughing.
I carried my passion for cooking with me when I came to the U.S. to go to college. While at Barnard College in New York City, I worked as a bartender/caterer assistant, working side-by-side with private chefs, serving drinks and preparing extraordinary feasts in private receptions throughout Manhattan. Whatever money I made I spent exploring the city’s endless culinary scene. I began collecting cookbooks and sampling recipes from all over the world. Word soon got out with my college buddies, and my apartment became the meeting place for weekly culinary feasts.
A dabble at corporate life got me down to South Florida but it soon became clear to me that the creative expression of food, be it preparing it, eating it, and/or writing about it, was my true passion. I have been a resident of South Florida for over ten years. In that time I have explored the many culinary corners South Florida has to offer. I have published pieces in Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, The Sun-Sentinel, The Miami Herald, The Dallas Morning News and The Oregonian and was a finalist for the 2009 James Peterson Food Writing Passion Scholarship at The Greenbrier Symposium for Professional Food Writers. In addition to food writing, I develop recipes and photograph food. My recipes and images have appeared on James Beard Award-winning websites such as Nat Decants and Leite’s Culinaria.
I strongly believe life is best experienced through food: our ups, our downs, our moments of glory and moments of angst can be best savored or soothed in the company of a good meal. This is the voice and the message I strive to share.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT CULINARY COMPULSION:
“Alona Martinez truly embraces the passion of food lovers for all that the culinary world has to offer. Each entry in “Culinary Compulsion” provides stories from an individual, who is as literate, as she is curious. Her insights and reflections are so keenly tuned in to the significance of proper education of children as they in expression of pleasure to the taste of the perfect tomato. Her love of travel and appreciation, as well as sharing of food-oriented accounts from around the globe make her a true citizien of the planet. I continually look forward to each installment in my daily mail” Scott E. Givot, CCP, President to the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals)
“Alona’s stories of life and food are rich with imagery and flavor. Her words weave vivid pictures of sentimental stories like an old movie projector, and her reminiscent voice introduces readers to characters and places, and a generous helping of recipes with histories all their own. Despite her unique upbringing — the daughter of an American mother and an Israeli father in Venezuela — her life’s narrative and her culinary compulsions are all so very relatable.” Tara Mataraza Desmond, co-author, Almost Meatless & blogger, Crumbs on My Keyboard
“Alona’s website stands apart from the vast majority of them because of the writing. I love reading her “posts” which I put in quotes because they are so much better than standard blog posts. Her stories are a little oasis in the day, a literary refreshment that sparkles. I often laugh or well-up or find myself touched in an unexpected way.” Jacqueline Church, freelance writer and photographer
“Todavía estamos boquiabiertos con tu comentario en el blog! Desde que lo leímos nos lo hemos ido pasando entre el personal de Mugaritz para que todo el equipo pudiese disfrutarlo. Muchas gracias por escribir una palabras tan bonitas que animan para seguir trabajando día a día y estimula al equipo para sentir que todo lo que se esfuerza, tiene la recompensa de que los clientes puedan llegar a sentir lo que tan bien describes en tus líneas.” Andoni Luis Aduriz, Chef of renowned restauarant, Mugaritz
“For me it is not just hearing about Alona’s passion for food through her carefully chosen words as she describes her latest travels or shares her grandmother’s secret Venezuelan dessert, but reading her blog makes me feel like I’m sitting down with an old friend to share a cup of coffee at an outdoor café. Her writing has a tone that is informative while being familial. Her words seem to be strung together effortlessly, like a composer compiling notes for a symphony. With photos and recipes that round out the experience, Alona’s blog provides an escape from the stresses and pressures of every day responsibilities. When I visit her website, I’m reminded why I love to cook, why I love to eat and the nourishment my soul derives from both.
A talented writer and photographer, I look forward to one day tasting her recipes gathered from journeys around the globe as I’m sure her cooking will not disappoint a palate that rejoices vicariously when I take time out to read her award winning prose.” Amy Stern, Vice President, Bender Hammerling Group PR
“Alona’s site sizzles — and makes us compulsively hungry!” Lynn & Cele Seldon, veteran culinary travel journalists
“Reading Culinary Compulsion is like instantly gaining a friend. Alona’s warmth and her colorful life flows through her stories. Partaking of her posts satisfies anyone hungering to learn more about food, but also getting a good delicious dose of Alona’s relationships with her kids, her grandma, and even lizards in her home. Definitely an entertaining read.” Maida Pineda, www.maidastouch.com and www.sixdegreesofexpatriation, food/travel writer and book author
“Culinary Compulsion is fun and exciting and colorful and makes you want to turn on the music and get in the kitchen.” Perre Magness, The Runaway Spoon
“Culinary Compulsion makes the world a brighter, tastier place. Alona Martinez is a magical sprite who brings a smile to my day with her food stories and a skip in my heart with her delicious and beautiful food. Yum!” Margarita Gurri, Ph.D, http://www.YourParentCoach.org
“If it’s Thursday then it must be Culinary Compulsion day and as I eagerly await the week’s new link to land in my in-box, I wonder what culinary adventure Alona Martinez will be taking me on today. As a self-professed foodie who loves to cook and bake, this site offers up delectable recipes, but it is also a fantastic read. It always brings a smile to my face, but it has also elicited many chuckles and occasionally, a tear or two. Whether recounting a simple trip to the grocery store with the kids or exploring the wonder of a fish market in Spain, Alona’s voice comes through with all its warmth and humor, its sentiment never cloying. I look forward to our next culinary adventure…take me away!” Denise Horland, reader
“Alona’s post is wonderful! Not only is she funny, SHE CAN COOK! Each week her blogs are updated with a new recipe to enjoy, but, before you get to the tasty part, she opens up a little bit of her life to you and somehow, whether it be as a mom, a wife, an employee or a woman, you can relate to what she is talking about. She helps the every day parts of life that can stress you out seem more fun. You know that, somewhere, this woman is going through just a bit of what we feel everyday. She shares her life with you and you leave knowing you have a friend on your side out there, completing the entire experience with what we all want: good food!” Elizabeth Anderson, reader
“Cada vez que reviso la pagina de Alona Martinez me encanta! Su trabajo sobre la historia que tiene cada plato es como un libro de cuentos con hazañas y miles de aventuras que dejan al lector fascinado y profundamente saboreando sus recetas.” Marisol Martinez, reader
“Mi inspiracion, cada semana uno ya no sabe que hacer en la cocina es como que la mente se bloquea y decis que hago de comer? Pero los Jueves llega Alona en Culinary Compulsion, y ademas de encantarnos con una historia a veces dulce, tierna y a veces comica, nos da una idea de como podemos sorprender a nuestra familia o amigos. Ademas el detalle es que segun ella y a la hora de preparar los platos, todo es “sencillo” “papaya” y es verdad, no son las tipicas recetas complicadas que a veces encontramos en internet. Gracias Alona!” Cristina Alegre, reader