This interview was published in the first issue of “Piccadilly” and was provided by them.
Maggie Maleeva, the famous former tennis player and one of the co-founders of Harmonica reveals the benefits of organic food. She gives her children only organic products and believes that food should be associated with joy, not with fear.
Mrs. Maleeva, what makes a professional tennis player decide to turn her efforts towards the green sector and the production of organic foods? How was the idea of Harmonica born?
When I played professional tennis, it was extremely important for me to stay in shape, so that I could perform my best at all times. Nutrition has always been an important element of me, being healthy and having the necessary energy. The contemporary food industry and today’s intensive agriculture offer a great variety of foods, but they are in fact merely imitations of the real nourishing food, which we need in order to stay healthy and be well. I started reading a lot and taking interest in the methods of food production. What I found was that there are a lot of farmers and growers who try to change things for the better. When I came back to live in Bulgaria this was one of the thing I really missed. At that time shops offered only imitations, good food had been replaced. This is how the idea of Harmonica was born, from the desire to provide for us clean and real food. Now things are completely different. There are plenty of people who do this, as well as a lot of shops who support them.
If you had to persuade someone to buy organic products, could you list five advantages they have over conventional food?
Organic farming protects the soil and biodiversity. Intensive farming, on the other hand, depletes the ability of the soil to produce food and destroys the ecosystems. Is this the legacy we want to leave to our children? Is this how we care for Bulgaria by destroying the fertility of its nature? When you buy food you make a choice which system to support. I choose the one that takes care of the soil, water, biodiversity, health, and fertility. Here are your five!
What do you think makes Harmonica supperior to the competition?
I don’t think that we can talk about competition at this point, but rather of people who share the same views. Our goal with Harmonica was to give an example that it is possible to make real, even organic food in Bulgaria. Everyone, who decides to follow this path, is our ally, with whom we share a common cause. This is why we are grateful to everyone, who supports and works for sustainable agriculture, the protection of the wealth of Bulgarian nature, and the nourishing, healthy food. I am happy that, thanks to Harmonica we are an example for this change.
Do you think that there is already a greater demand for organic products? Do Bulgarians pay enough attention to what they eat?
Yes. More and more people are starting to pay attention to their food. There are more shops, growers, farms who believe in it. There is plenty of information in Bulgarian, so that everyone who is interested, can learn more.
What is the profile of the organic products consumer in our country?
Mainly, people who consume organic products are educated, curious and interested in the world around them. Some people come to organic foods because of a health problem, or because of their children, while others come in the search of real taste. For many people the higher price of organic food still remains a serious obstacle.
What advise would you give to parents, to what should they pay attention when preparing food for their children?
Use more plants, less processed food, more seasonal and fresh products, and the most important one: give them example by eating healthy. Your example is the best lesson for them, it is what they will remember. And do not overdo talking about food. Let food be something associated with joy, and not fear.
What are your children eating and hоw do you keep them away from junk food?
I always try to have a great variety of foods, a lot of vegetables and fruits. Of course, everything in our home is organic. I try to create joy out of the food, and not fear, as it often happens nowadays. This is why I try not to forbid things when we go out. I think that the parents’ actions are a much stronger and more important example to children, than the things we say to them.
Which food reminds you of childhood?
I was a poor eater as a child, but I can vividly remember the cheese, coated in breadcrumbs, which my father used to make when we stayed home alone with him, while my mother and my sisters were traveling for tournaments.
What is your favorite dish and do you like cooking?
I enjoy well-prepared food, especially when I know where it comes from. One of the great pleasures when I used to travel a lot during my professional tennis career were the good restaurants in different cities around the world. At home both of us cook, my husband and I, but with the kids it’s not very easy to make something that everybody will like.
What do you deprive yourself of, something you like, but is not healthy?
There is nothing I deprive myself of. The best taste comes when the food is cultivated and prepared with care for every detail, from clean farming to processing. Taste is the first victim of intensive farming and industrial production of food, and that is another great advantage of organic foods.