"Mushrooms and black truffles are the

copyright

of my house."

María Luisa Banzo

(Navaleno, Soria, 1959) is clear about the hallmarks of La Cocina de María Luisa (Madrid's gastronomic temple of these two products).

Hers are the work, the passion, the honesty and the enthusiasm that she puts into all areas of her life.

Because, although her name is linked to the hotel industry, María Luisa,

a self-taught cook

, has had "another life":

councilor

in her town (1982-1986) and

deputy for Soria

of the Popular Coalition (1987-1989), the youngest of the Chamber in that legislature and the first to

breastfeed

her child in Congress, long before Carolina Bescansa did.

"I came to Madrid with my husband and my son, who was very small. While I was working, he walked with the child down the street and, if it rained, they took shelter in the corridors of Congress," recalls María Luisa.

"As there were no cell phones, the ushers called me.

'Mrs. Banzo, the boy!'

I went downstairs and nursed her. I used to do it in the spokesperson's office, there, with the secretary. Today, you hear so many things about women's liberation... normal," he adds.

Thus, among the 'Mrs. Banzo, the boy!'

and take and take, María Luisa turned to the

Education and Culture Commission

.

"The experience was very good. I was very excited and eager to do things to defend the people who had elected me. And I did what I always did: work. The spokeswoman for the Commission was

Isabel Tocino

, who, although she had the image of a diva and she was very mediatic, she was a great companion who gave me absolute freedom".

María Luisa with her son and her mother in Congress. PHOTO COURTESY OF MARÍA LUISA BANZO

How did that young woman, whose dream was to be a school teacher, get into politics?

"It all started with municipal elections in my town. The only candidacy that was presented was that of the PSOE and I had

other political convictions

, so I looked for the telephone number of the Alianza Popular headquarters in Soria and asked them why they were not going to put nobody. They told me to look for people to make a list".

And María Luisa found a plumber, a bricklayer, two carpenters, an electrician, an axeman who worked in the mountains cutting pine trees... "People who seemed to me to have

a lot of common sense

. I didn't want to be on the list, but They insisted so much that in the end I entered.

"And we win"

.

He became part of the provincial and regional executives of AP and New Generations... The general elections arrived, the seat in Congress and later the end of the legislature and of his political life.

As she had never considered living from politics, she found a new illusion: the

dining room

that she had just opened with her husband in

Navaleno

.

"It was a crazy time," she remembers.

Ambassador of mushrooms and black truffles

Little by little, she and the restaurant made a name for themselves in the town, in Soria, in Madrid, in Barcelona..., thanks to her good cuisine,

copyright

, you know, mushrooms and black truffles, and her commitment to promote

mycological and gastronomic tourism

in his province.

Until in 2003, the family packed their bags and moved to Madrid.

In 2004 she opened, on Jorge Juan street, La Cocina de María Luisa.

"

My cuisine is mother's

, traditional, with roots from Soria, and healthy because, if done well, it shouldn't be greasy or heavy."

"Today it is believed that a good cook has to be

almost an alchemist

, and this is not the case. Esthetically very beautiful dishes are made, but what about the flavors?", she asks.

The restaurant La Cocina de María Luisa, in Madrid.

For her, stews are made slowly, with care, lovingly, as if you were tucking in a baby.

And, this is how her game dishes are, spoon-fed, legumes, vegetables, mushrooms and black truffles from Soria, that delicatessen that she is now in season and whose role

she has always claimed

.

addictive food

"We ourselves are reviling one of the best and most glamorous products that we have in Spain. I am very irritated by the

deceit

that exists around it and that Chinese truffle is served -and charged- as if it were black. We are the main producer of truffle black and mycorrhized and we sell them abroad. Meanwhile, here we dedicate ourselves to making essences and oils," he complains.

The subject unnerves him as much as it excites him.

"People think it's a flavoring and, no, it

's all food

. Its flavor, so subtle, so different, is addictive."

If not, ask

Colette

, the French novelist, journalist and artist.

"She used to say that she couldn't spend a day in her life without eating truffles and drinking champagne. Foolish as she was...", she quips.

With his mother, his teacher in the kitchen.

María Luisa signs great dishes with the

Tuber melanosporum.

A soup that she makes with

"the humble bread and the glamorous truffle

or, the star of the house, the boneless pig's trotter stuffed with meat and truffle, my mother's recipe", her teacher.

"She was a

fantastic cook

, she taught me everything I know. At the age of 17 she went to Barcelona to work as a cook in a house. As soon as she arrived, they asked her if she knew how to make fritters. She said yes, but since she didn't have no idea, the next day he signed up for some classes given by

Josep Rondissoni

, a famous Italian chef," he explains.

Years later, she returned to Soria, "she got married and, together with my father, opened the

El Maño

bar ", which later became a restaurant.

The dishes that María Luisa prepares today recover the flavors of her gastronomic biography, those that take her to the kitchen where she did her homework (and internalized, without knowing it, her mother's recipes) while her mother prepared

roasted lamb legs

or cannelloni for weddings.

"One of the earliest memories I have of her is a

black skirt

, the bottom of her apron, and me around her legs."

Mushrooms are one of his fetish products.

tweezers and flowers

He has never taken to the

new kitchen

.

"When I came to Madrid in 2003, I was worried about what I was going to do, and my sister, who is a doctor, less crazy than me and with more common sense, told me: '

Do what you know

. Your partridges, your lentils, your boars , your mushrooms, your truffles...'. And I continue to be maximum".

"Today, there are things that don't make sense to me. Health tells you not to handle the dishes much and you find some that have passed through eight hands and in which the cook, with his face 10 centimeters from the plate, has placed

a flower

with tweezers

. I know that hospitality is something else now, I understand, but that's not my kitchen".

Hers, she insists, is the one from home, so much so that even the decoration of the restaurant has the warmth of home: her mother's

handwritten recipes

on the walls, an

apron

from her grandmother from 1921 or her

economical

wood-burning stove that she uses as a geridon and even stamps of saints

"I have become very high, very virgin, the Almudena, the Macarena, the Pilar, and I even have San Isidro".

Navarre artichokes with foie and PX.

-You have never looked askance at the Michelin stars.

-No, my

stars are my clients

.

I'm not going to do the great and the cool.

If I had one, well look how good, I would be happy with life, but the truth is that

not having it does not cause me any unease

, any pain, any anguish.

-You have also been a

pioneer

in gastronomy: the first

master chef

in Castilla y León, until then forbidden to women;

first woman to be part of the

jury

of the Spanish Chefs Championship;

most of your employees are women... Have you been clear about empowering women?

In my house it was always like that.

My parents were crazy for their daughters to study.

When I was 9 years old I was sent to study abroad.

At my school they repeated that you shouldn't settle for being a wife and mother, and we did all kinds of activities, if Barça even wanted to sign me as

a handball goalkeeper

... I've never felt inferior to anyone, I've fought, I've worked and no one has ever said no to me because I'm a woman.

And, yes, I have always hired women because we are

better workers

, we have less absenteeism despite pregnancies, we are more

compliant

and more meticulous.

Maresme peas with egg and black truffle.

-As a businesswoman, how do you see the current situation?

-Very complicated, and our profession is much reviled.

We have been the safety net that has sustained the country during the Zapatero crises;

I asked, like many, for loans to support my workers, but this has struck us down.

We have tightened our belts, we have lowered salaries, we have

had a hard time

, we have endured and here we are.

I'm not going to play the heroine, but I, like most hoteliers, go to bed and don't sleep...

Hospitality is fundamental

, vital, and they are not recognizing it.

-Would you return to politics in the future?

-Let's see, don't say never, nor is this priest my father.

I don't know, I'm not very involved because I don't have time, but I wouldn't mind... Now you see some things... I'm

tired of so much nonsense

, so much manipulation and so many lies.

His present is La Cocina de María Luisa;

the truffles that have arrived -"you don't know what truffles I have!"-;

the mushrooms that are like eating a mouthful of the forest and the spoon and game recipes, like that

wild boar sirloin

that Judge Manuel Ruiz de Lara cites in

Forgotten Homeland

, the thriller that he has just published.

Dishes of and for the memory.

Maria Luisa's Kitchen.

Jorge Juan, 42. Telephone: 91 781 01 80. Average price: 45 euros.

Open every noon and night on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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