What kind of work do you do/business do you run?
I am a food and eating designer. I develop recipes of healthy vegan food that is also sustainable from every point of view: socially, environmentally, economically.
All the production chain of the food I design, the one of the ingredients as well as that of the packaging are fully compliant with this philosophy.
My calling is pasta (I started studying ancient and gluten-free cereals 20 years ago) but I am also engaged in the creation of snacks, drinks and baby food.
What do you love about it?
Being able to help others in becoming more aware about what they eat is what I really love about my work. In addition to the design of healthy vegan foods I achieve it with public speaking, articles, podcasts and videos.
What’s your ‘why’ in life? What drives you?
A little over 20 years ago, just before a competent physician identified my illnesses as dependent on gut inflammation, a renowned allergist told me that for my pain to go away I needed to find a partner, because my body, in his opinion, was perfectly healthy.
Other doctors suggested medications that would reduce the symptoms but not address the causes and, unfortunately, gave me their nasty side effects.
What saved me was a complete change in how I ate, and that was the driver to start studying the cereals, their characteristics, and their effects on human health.
My experience prodded me to take action to spread the knowledge about the effects of processed and industrial food – pasta, bread, flours – and to help people learn how to read a food label with special focus on the nutrition facts and the ingredients.
Why are you a member of the Vegan Women’s Leadership Network?
We live in times of dramatic transformations and I believe that each one of us should contribute to the best of one’s abilities to achieve positive change.
On the other hand, there are so many events and opportunities that it’s easy disperse energies on too many uncoordinated fronts: I believe that the Vegan Women’s Leadership Network could help all of us to cooperate and therefore be more effective in proposing actions, and push, for positive change in different areas of life (food, societal, environmental…)
What’s been the biggest highlight or ‘wow’ moment of your career/business/professional life?
As of today, two events represent the pinnacle of my work: the first was being contacted by the Journal of Food and Nutritional Disorders to write an article, that they published and made available to the scientific community.
The other one was speaking about my sorghum-based products at the 2nd European Congress of Sorghum-ID in Paris in front of academics and agronomists.
How do you handle failures, fear and disappointment?
Fear, failure, and disappointments are all parts of the path we choose. They often depend upon our mistakes or incorrect evaluation of the circumstances.
I always handled them using the strength that I source from my inner motivation: I have a mission to fulfill, not a goal to achieve.
I sacrificed a lot to understand my path and I still do it to continue building the path on a daily basis.
Sometimes I wonder how I overcame the hurdles: in the most uncertain period of my life I started a company and moved to a new city to raise my two children as a single mother.
What would you tell your 16-year-old self?
To the 16-year old Monia I would say: “Don’t rush things and have more confidence in yourself”.
Which women inspire you and why?
Artemisia Gentileschi, the pivotal painter of the early part of ‘600, friend of Galileo Galilei, the first woman admitted to the Design Academy of Florence. She was acclaimed for her skills (Judith and Holofernes is one of her most famous paintings) but she fell into oblivion after her death.
After she was raped, she was a victim of the sexist culture so prominent at the time that defended the rapist and gave rise to sonnets gossips about her. Humiliation and insults didn’t stop her from painting but forced her to leave Rome, her city, to rebuild her life.
At that time, it was very tough to be an intelligent and determined woman if you didn’t have noble heritage or a well-known patron to protect you, and she had none. She still succeeded in influencing the painting school of her time, raised four children, and traveled alone between Italy and England, a notable feat at the time.
She is my inspiration for her will, her courage, and her resilience. Finally, in 1916 an art critic wrote an article that dispelled the two centuries of silence on her work, restored her fame and made it possible for her to take her well-deserved place in the books on art history.
What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced and how has it helped mould who you are now?
My health issues prevented me from having any social life for over a year, and it was devastating both physically and emotionally.
Once I found the cure and became healthy again I could look at the world with new eyes: I stopped taking from granted the generally available information on the food, I started educating myself and acquiring deep knowledge and I stopped eating without thinking to how what I ate affected my body and my brain.
This changed my approach to life and to the people I met along the way.
What’s your super-power? What are you amazing at?
I never see hurdles as show-stoppers but only as springboards that, once on top of them, enable me to see farther away and increase my vision.
What brings you joy?
Professionally I am happy when I receive feedback that my work helps someone regain their health and that the additional knowledgeable improves someone’s life. It happens often but every time it’s like a new gift that drives me to continue along the path even when the difficulties seem overwhelming.
In my private life I cherish small things, like laughter at a table when eating together and when I am with my family.
How do you define success, and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?
Complete success would be making the whole world ditch unhealthy food. As much as I believe in myself, time is not on my side considering the growth rate of the world population.
Achievable success is making every single person that gets in touch with me more conscious of the importance of nutrition and of its effects on the health of their loved ones.
The number of people that have access to the information I share increases daily, and the constant flow of positive feedback that I am receiving tells me that I’m on the right path.
What’s your vision for yourself and your business/career for the future?
Being on a mission and not on a specific course to achieve one or more “numerical” goals I don’t have a clear vision of where I will be in a few years’ time.
Life is constant motion and change: I know that I will always strive to adapt to the changing reality in order to continue my mission: to spread the culture of healthy eating and to design food that is sustainable for the environment, the people and the economy.
Monia Caramma is a food and eating designer as well as popularizer of food culture. She deals with food from the beginning to the end of its production. She knows how food is made, its nutrients and she evaluates its effects on health. She is a supporter of conscious consumption. Ethics and respect for people and the environment are fundamental to create quality food.