I’m Yvonne Maffei, Founder, Recipe Developer, Photographer, Food Stylist, Writer, and Publisher of My Halal Kitchen. My passion is researching and writing about healthy food, all-natural ways of living, growing food, and traveling to places where I love to explore these topics. That’s mostly what you’ll find here from me. I like to also keep up to date on Halal food industry topics so you may find information here that I feel is useful for you as a consumer and home or professional cook,
I received my formal education from Ohio University (Athens, Ohio) where I got my Bachelor’s degree (BA) in Latin American Studies & Spanish and my Master’s degree (MA) in International Development also from Ohio University. All of my culinary skills and techniques come from taking courses, reading books, watching videos, attending conferences and traveling the globe to talk to people about how they cook their traditional recipes. The last one is my personal favorite.
So how did this all start?
I’m from a small town in Ohio (Midwest of the United States). I had a wholesome upbringing in a place where the people were nice, the surrounding was safe and peaceful and the schools fantastic. It shaped everything about the person I am today because it was the launching pad I needed to go forward in life to set off satisfying all of my curiosities about the world.
I was raised visiting farms on the outskirts of my small-town. Every week my parents would visit the local flea market where we could directly interact with Amish farmers or other local producers about their farm stand produce and hand-crafted goods. School trips and family outings involved things like hay rides, visits to apple orchards, pumpkin patches and summer strawberry picking, all of which are memories I cherish deeply and one of the reasons why the Fall and Spring are my absolute favorite seasons of the year.
Because I’m also half Sicilian and half Puerto-Rican, I was super fortunate to have grown up eating some really amazing food. My Sicilian grandparents had Sunday suppers for the entire family: pasta with meatballs, lasagna, homemade sauce, homemade bread, homemade pizza and so much more with every meal ending with an espresso and some sort of biscotti. It was all a part of the culinary experience of my youth and something I deemed normal in the culinary sense; on my Puerto Rican side, the traditional meals consisted of arroz con pollo y gandules (rice with chicken and beans), pasteles (banana-leaf wrapped tamales), and all sorts of Caribbean-style sweets made with guava, mango, coconut and pineapple. I still have visions of my grandmothers cooking and nurturing our family with the things that were traditional to them.
A trip to Sicily when I graduated from high school changed everything about how I viewed food, cooking and living. I experienced how to shop, select, cook and savor the freshest ingredients one could possibly put on the table. My aunt showed me around the markets of my family’s seaside home town in a small village outside of Catania, Sicily. I tasted fruits, veggies, meats and fish that I had never imagined would taste so good; and family meals around the table took on a whole new meaning. I was never the same after returning. I also never returned to yo-yo dieting or eating processed foods; instead I began to learn to make things from scratch
It’s no wonder I grew a burning desire to hold on to the culinary tradition in which I grew up. As I got older and started to shop for food on my own, I saw so much more of the not-so-real stuff and much less time to do the same things our mothers, aunts and grandmothers did. It felt as though traditions were fading fast.
During and after university, I lived all over the U.S. and traveled the world for studies and leisure: Mexico, the Caribbean, France, England, Switzerland, Morocco, Spain, Greece and all of Italy. I couldn’t get enough of learning about how people around the world cooked and lived and enjoyed the freshest and most local ingredients on hand. I talked to everyone I could about how to prepare food from scratch and why they used certain cooking methods over others. I gathered recipe from home cooks around the globe and have incorporated much of that into my home cooking, and much of what I hope to teach through my work in My Halal Kitchen.
During a trip to Morocco in 1995, my interest in Islam was piqued when I had my first encounter with Muslims that included my first view of a mosque, and my first experience hearing the adhan (call to prayer), which I feel immediately penetrated my heart. I later met many Muslims from around the globe while studying at university, all of whom were integral to my understanding of the beauty of Islam and the true meaning of Halal, as well as the multitude of ways in which it is expressed in the culinary traditions of Muslims around the globe from Malaysia to Palestine to Turkey to Saudi Arabia. I had the best teachers guiding me to a path I never expected I would be so honored and blessed to be on, the one here…
It’s an honor and a blessing to be able to spend my life’s work as a Teacher of Culinary Arts in a Halal Context. I’m passionate about wholesome food, nutrition, gardening, homemaking and learning about fascinating culinary traditions of people all over the globe. I love real food and am concerned about the current state of our food industry and other factors that jeopardize our food freedom and fair and equal access to healthy food for everyone. It helps that I love to cook, I love to be in my kitchen or garden, and I love to travel and cook and garden anywhere else in the world, too. I could literally cook and discuss food and everything that surrounds the topic all day long.
To combine my academic background with my current work, I’m interested in culinary diplomacy as a way forward.
I’m always scoping out food and products that are natural, organic, pure, halal, raised humanely, sourced ethically and brought to market without poisonous toxins and chemicals. Unfortunately, that’s not always an easy thing to do, but it is getting easier as more great companies produce wonderful products for our global marketplace.
My hope is that on this website you’ll find something of interest, inspiration and, of course, good to eat. If you’d like to contact me directly, please go to this page.