With paternal grandparents from Sicily and maternal grandparents from Puerto Rico, Yvonne M. Maffei grew up with a deep appreciation for delicious food. She spent much of her early 20s traveling internationally, which ignited her passion for global cuisine and led her to explore a variety of cultures and religions. “I began to find myself gravitating toward an understanding of Islam, although I had no intention of becoming a Muslim,” recalls Maffei, now based in Chicago. “I was born and raised Catholic, and though I had not been incredibly religious, I was always intent on leading a God-conscious life.” Several years later, through reading the Quran and other Islamic texts, she began her life as an American Muslim—and commenced her halal journey. (Halal describes any object or action permissible to use or engage in, according to Islamic law.) Her blog, My Halal Kitchen, was launched in 2008. Maffei’s story has led to speaking engagements at churches and a variety of interfaith events, including a panel at the University of Chicago last year during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.
What inspired you to start a blog that blends faith with food?
I aim to live my life in the most authentic way possible. I felt that starting a food blog would be an amazing opportunity to educate everyone—both Muslims and non-Muslims—about the deeper meaning of halal and the beauty of its abundant options, and to create a virtual table where hospitality and love could always be felt. Creating delicious recipes and sharing many other wonderful stories about food and celebrations in which halal food is served has been the best visual representation of how faith and food blend together in the Muslim community.
How would you describe your blog in a nutshell?
It’s a platform full of resources, mostly recipes, where readers can learn more about the meaning of halal as a concept surrounding food, but also lifestyle choices. The aim is to demonstrate how any type of global cuisine can be made halal by using the appropriate substitutes when and where necessary, and to inspire everyone to choose wholesome foods as part of their diet.
What do you seek to be to your readers?
I try to inspire a global, multilingual, ethnically diverse readership to grow their own foods and support local farmers and local food producers, wherever they are. My idea of a wholesome lifestyle is to edit out what doesn’t work or feel good and to encourage the creation of a beautiful life by inviting quality products, natural foods and all good things into one’s kitchen.