Natacha Sanz-CaballeroI was born and grew up in the southernmost end of the province of Valencia, Spain, close to where it meets the province of Alicante. Alicante, Valencia, and neighboring Castellón, make up the region of Levante (also known as Comunidad Valenciana). Blessed with being bathed by the warm waters of the Mediterranean, the riches of the sea extend not only to its fish and seafood bounty, but also to the marshlands where rice (the essential ingredient in Valencia’s most iconic dish, the paella) grows. With mountains to the West, Levante’s climate of mild winters and hot summers also foster the growth of fruit trees (peaches, pears, apples, almonds, figs, apricots, plums, olives), but most especially that of citrus trees, for which Levante is known in the rest of Spain and abroad.

IMG_5882 - Version 2 IMG_0923 - Version 2DSCN4942DSCN4939 Such is the landscape of the region where Onteniente, my hometown (also known as Ontinyent), sits. In the heart of the Vall d’Albaida (Valley of Albaida), and surrounded by rolling mountains where vineyards, citrus and almond orchards grow on the hillsides, Onteniente, the Mediterranean and the Valencian culture and traditions have molded me. The bounties of the region are many, but the entrepreneurial spirit of its people, who in the nineteenth century developed a rich textile industry that for decades has supplied national and international markets with blankets, continue to inspire me throughout the years, no matter where I might be.

And for the past 18 years, that place has been Midwest America.

I’ve been preparing the dishes of my homeland everywhere I’ve lived —from Switzerland to Madrid to Canada to the United States—, with the products found there, always trying to pick the perfect substitutions for the Spanish ingredients I couldn’t easily find. This food blog is as much a home where Spanish cooking finds a place in the American kitchen, as it is an homage to my homeland and its rich gastronomy. The so called “mediterranean diet,” so in vogue and talked about in recent years, has never been a diet to me, but the cuisine I grew up with.

Like for most chefs and home cooks, I learned most of my cooking from my mom. What I’ve always admired about my mom’s cooking, apart from the love she put into it, was the variety of dishes. Born of a Catalan mother (from Barcelona) and an Extremeño father (from Cáceres, a province bordering Portugal), her cooking included the dishes of those regions. Moreover, due to the nature of my grandfather’s job, the family moved frequently, and each of my mom’s five siblings were born in a different Spanish province, from Cádiz, to Barcelona, to Madrid. My mom was born and grew up in Seville.

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Torre del Oro Sevilla Naranjos en Sevilla - Version 2One of eight provinces that comprise the region of Andalusia, in the south of Spain, Seville, while sharing some characteristics with Valencia (orange trees are grown there too), has —like most provinces in Spain—, its own idiosyncrasies and peculiarities. My upbringing—and the dishes I prepare—are deeply influenced by it, as well as by the rich regional repertoire of my mom’s cooking.

If you’d like to know more about me, click here . But if you can’t wait to start cooking, browse Mama Ía and enjoy!

Natacha Sanz-Caballero


Note: If you’ve browsed through Mama Ía blog, you’ll see that each post and page is a labor of love. I’m passionate about what I do, which includes not only to cook the recipes I post, but also to photograph the step-by-step process of making them, editing, writing, and piecing everything together so you receive a beautiful page and a delicious recipe. I also manage and customize the site so you have the best possible experience when you visit. I invest many hours in making Mama Ía blog as beautiful and pleasing to the senses as I can. Therefore I would appreciate that, if you like it, you subscribe to it. And if you use any of my photos, you give me credit for it and link the photo back to my site. Also, I participate in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. This means that sometimes you might click on a link that will take you to that product on Amazon. The products I link to are products that I use and trust, and I will receive a small fee if you decide to purchase the product through the link. This allows me to keep doing what I do, with the same love and passion and level of quality you’re used to.

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