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Malena Martinez

Crux of the Mater

Malena Martinez – sister of Virgilio and research director of Mater Iniciativa – shares her insights.

We created Mater Iniciativa to know more about ingredients – the story of the ingredients.  We gathered a multidisciplinary group of specialists – biologists, anthropologists, ethnobotanists – to  work together to give us the information we need to understand the full context (in which we should see each ingredient).

There is a whole ecosystem linked to every produce, and everything has a function in that system. This is something we consider when we are promoting the consumption of a product. We know that every time we take a picture of something new – be it in the Amazon or the Andes or in the North – we are exposing this ingredient and somebody is going to take interest and want it. That is a good thing, but we need to also know the impact of an increased demand of the product. We have a responsibility to that ecosystem, especially when we are promoting biodiversity.

A lot of my work is about listening to stories of people – we connect with people, most of all. My training as a general practitioner has given me the capacity to talk to people and empathise with them, it has also given me the ability to listen better and when they are sharing little valuable details – you see it in their eyes, in their posture.

We talk about preserving (and promoting different) traditions when we talk about promoting biodiversity. For example, when we talk about potatoes, we also showcase how people in the Andes have many ways to preserve potatoes that are harvested only once a year. There are so much of that to preserve and (to showcase). This is also the case in Asia - I was impressed with China (when I visited the country) because it has so much to offer in terms of ingredients, culture and tradition.

Mater is a model to be replicated in any part of the world. You can do research on ingredients anywhere. Sometimes places where you think might not have much to learn about can present a lot (of surprises). You just have to dig for it.

As individuals we can contribute a lot to promoting biodiversity. We just have to be aware of the issue, and be informed. As consumers we make decisions all the time, we just don’t realise the big impact of these little decisions. It is just about taking responsible decisions.

I wanted to be a physician curing people since I was a little kid. Food has a lot to do with health and your well-being – it cures, in its own way. So, I think I am doing my part.