Each week we profile a different Canadian Food Blogger who is part of the FBC community. This week we meet Puneeta, the Toronto blogger who combines her travels around the globe, her Canadian and Indian heritage and her passion for sustainability into her writing and cooking!
Name: Puneeta Chhitwal-Varma
Blog name: Maple and Marigold
Where were you born? Lucknow, India
Where are you living now? Toronto, Canada
Why did you start your blog?
My husband and I moved from India to Canada and have relocated countries and cities a number of times. On this long journey from India to Dubai, Toronto, then Calgary and now back again in Toronto, we have had two kids and lived in numerous homes. With transplanted roots and scattered family, you would think ours is a family like no other, right? But the world is on the move and uprooting and moving is just part of the story for many families. I started Maple and Marigold to give a voice to my experiences and also to others like mine.
How did you decide on your blog name?
Maple and Marigold started out as a love letter to my family’s life and travels. Maple represents Canada and our home here, and marigold, with its colour and significance in Indian traditions, represents my roots in India.
What do you blog about?
Lifestyle, food, wellness and ways to make life happy, healthy and delicious. We all need more of that, right? I believe the kitchen is the heart of every home. I believe that made-from-scratch food trumps all else. At the same time, I’m not one to spend hours in the kitchen. I love food that is delicious, wholesome, and EASY to make, that my family will enjoy. My experiences and cooking techniques are influenced by my parents, my childhood in India and our travels since then. So that’s what you will find on Maple and Marigold – real life in the real world, and good food with big flavours. I have also started a sustainability initiative (NourishbyNumbers) to help raise awareness of how our choices affect what we eat and how it’s connected to the planet.
Is your blog your business, your hobby or something in between?
My writing is my business. I collaborate with partners who, like me, are working to create a happier, healthier, more colourful world for generations to come.
What post on your blog most encapsulates you and why?
That would have to be this post, that I wrote YEARS ago. What started off as an easy salmon recipe (salmon with masala onions!) morphed during first draft into a story about Canadian food. Food has always been a big part of my life though I didn’t really know how to cook while I lived at home in India. Today what I feed my family and share on my blog is influenced by my journey in Canada and before. This post reflects that.
Which post do you wish received more love and why?
Broccoli stems are one of the most underrated parts of any vegetable. I wrote this post on How To Use Broccoli Stems many years ago about cooking a part of the vegetable that is normally discarded, and how I was raised in a time where food waste was a big No. Since then, making more sustainable choices has become a cornerstone of my content and I’m delighted when I see more and more people thinking this way. Wouldn’t it be great if we all used the broccoli stem as part of our normal cooking routine? This post tells you how.
Which post’s success surprised you and why?
The most successful post on my blog, more successful than all the Instant Pot articles, is this one. Here, I shared how my kids love to eat broccoli. The recipe itself is quite simple and as I say in the post, it is unmistakably the most delicious and healthy way to cook this humble vegetable. A couple of years ago, Google picked up this post and since then it has consistently featured in the top 1 or 2 links about broccoli. Last year, I was curious to learn more about the people who were reading this post, here’s what I found:
It’s mostly Moms, women, on their phones after 9 pm, searching for ways to get their kids to eat their veggies. I totally get that! After all, I was that person!
What’s your biggest challenge as a blogger?
Making this a financially viable enterprise while staying true to what my community needs.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a blogger?
Staying true and on track is harder than it looks. I love what I do and there’s always a lot going on, ALL THE TIME. The noise can get distracting. But the more I stay true to myself, my story and my community, the happier, more successful the journey.
What has been your biggest success as a blogger so far?
Building a platform that reaches exponentially more people. I started writing from a little corner in my house. WordPress, Facebook and Instagram slowly grew my community. Now with TV and other media appearances, I am sharing with more people than I could ever imagine, how to lead a good life. Spoiler Alert: it’s through good food.
Share a couple of your favourite food blogs to read. Why do you like them?
I was first attracted to At The Immigrant’s Table by it’s name, but it was the food that made me stay. Ksenia’s story initially resonated with me because of our similarities, we are both transplanted from one end of the world to another. But her food is very different from what I was familiar with, and I LOVE that. Her use of flavor and spices and her skills at tweaking a traditional cuisine to make dishes allergy-friendly – pretty amazing!
Editor's Note: You can read our profile of Ksenia here.
Loreto and Nicoletta behind Sugar Loves Spices. I met them at a Food Bloggers of Canada conference years ago and have followed their writing and their food since then. Love the way they make Italian food look so easy. My favourite though is when they travel to visit family in Italy – keep the pictures coming!
Editor's Note: You can read our profile of Loreto and Nicoletta here.
Favourite food - care to share a recipe or a restaurant destination?
I love variety in food so trying to point out one dish or even one cuisine is sheer torture. What always works for me, though, is my mom’s cooking. She has a wonderful sense of what flavours work and her knowledge of ingredients makes any dish come alive. This cucumber curry salad was inspired by what she often does – add texture to a dish in unexpected ways. This cucumber curry salad, topped with roasted, spicy peanuts is mind blowing
What are you working on next for your blog?
I am taking a little bit of a scenic route right now. I have started on a mission to redefine what good food means. I always looked at it from a perspective of flavor and nutrition. Good food should taste good and be good for us, right? But it is so much more than just how it impacts us. Good food is also about how it was grown and raised and the journey it took to end up on our plate and beyond. It is also about our community and the planet. This was the reason behind the launch of my new sustainability initiative, NourishbyNumbers.com.
What else should we know about you that may or not be in your “About Me” page?
There was a time I dreamed of being a whitewater rafting tour guide and have my very own adventure travel agency. I had a plan. I was going to finish my Masters in Tourism Management and bundle that with my fluency in the German language and my experience running the rapids on the Ganges river. As I said, there was a plan. I ended up getting a job at British Airways, travelled, married and uprooted and transplanted. A different and still wonderful dream.
What makes your blog unique?
We all have our own stories. Our experiences, culture and memories are just some of ways that influence what will be written. MapleandMarigold is a peek into my story.
How do you cultivate a sense of community around your blog?
By staying authentic and making sure that I keep top of mind my own values and those of my community. People live their own experiences and gain knowledge in different ways. I welcome that in my community.
What part of the FBC site do you find most useful?
I love the Featured Foodie section 😊 It gives me a peek into the lives of other Canadian bloggers.
Follow Puneeta and Maple and Marigold on social media:
If you’d like to follow Puneeta’s sustainability initiative, Nourish by Numbers: