Wednesday, May 07, 2014
Passion for Mauritian Cuisine
When someone cooks with an incredible passion like an artist, to combine the meats, sea foods, vegetables, herbs, spices, oils and other ingredients, into a palette that delights the senses and transports your tastebuds into a culinary adventure, you have to appreciate the skills and love that contributed to your delight at the dining table.
I am one of the lucky ones to have not only met such persons, but also to have had such persons in my life. In my youth, I can still see my grandmother slave away in the outdoor kitchen over a charcoal fire. She made the most wonderful dishes from very simple ingredients and kept everybody happy and well fed. My father was also a good cook who prepared flavoursome dishes from very little. I can also remember my mother preparing prawn rougaille on rice for my breakfast before I left for work.
When I married the love of my life Madeleine Philippe, who unfortunately left us in February 2011, I had absolutely no idea of cooking. I could not even cook an egg. Mind you, I enjoyed good foods then and would gravitate towards good Mauritian cuisine. Madeleine’s cooking was out of this world. She had a passion for Mauritian cuisine and acquired much from the family love of cooking, friends who would share techniques and skills, chefs from such establishments like Rio Restaurant in Curepipe. Madeleine had no hesitation to walk into the restaurant’s kitchen and discuss techniques with the chef. Our dining table always had room for last minute guests and Madeleine would turn dinner for four into dinner for eight in no time at all.
In 1982, Madeleine and I were in Mildura and friends were always asking for copies of recipes from Madeleine’s cooking. The idea of writing a book on Mauritian Cuisine was born. We wrote together our first recipe. It was the recipe for the famous Mauritian “Rougaille Saucisses”. That is, sausages cooked in a spicy tomato sauce. However, the book was never published, we had just migrated to Australia and were starting life anew in our new country of adoption. Financial limitations stopped us from proceeding further.
Nevertheless, I took a close interest in Mauritian Cuisine and in 1994, Madeleine and I established the first web site promoting Mauritius, with recipes forming an integral component of the “Mauritius Australia Connection” web portal. Today, our web site receives in excess of 4000 page visits daily. The “Recipes from Mauritius” by Madeleine Philippe web site is now the most popular and Google No. 1 site on Mauritian cuisine.
The combination of Madeleine’s expertise on Mauritian cuisine and my engineering approach was the perfect arrangement. We together developed a very user friendly format that presented lovers of Mauritian cuisine with recipes that are easy to prepare with very good results. Unfortunately, Madeleine left us in February 2011 after battling breast and ovarian cancers for five years. I promised myself that a book promoting her passion for Mauritian cuisine will be written, to lodge into history her contribution towards this wonderful cuisine of ours.
An incredible thing happened to me after Madeleine’s passing. It was like her passion and love of Mauritian cuisine had been passed on to me. Our long term involvement in working out the best recipes for the various Mauritian dishes, led to both of us acting like one entity. Today, it’s like Madeleine is still alive in me and guiding me in the preparation of the many Mauritian dishes that we enjoyed eating and preparing together. The truth is that she is very much present in me. Part of me died when she left us, but much of her is still very much alive in me. She passed on to me the responsibility to carry on the promotion of Mauritian cuisine. The “Recipes from Mauritius” web site is still very much active with thousands of persons worldwide seeing Madeleine daily through her recipes. She is still very much present among us. New recipes are added regularly, with Madeleine’s special touch for flavour and nourishment. I used the word nourishment, as I am more than convinced that Madeleine’s healthy cooking contributed to her keeping cancer at bay until very much later in life. Madeleine’s mum, aunties and cousin were all victims of either breast or ovarian cancer in their mid 40’s or 50’s.