With leather bracelets from India adorning each ankle, Maria Broom sits at her kitchen table as she talks about her 64 years of gallivanting across the globe. “I’ve been to the continent of Africa at least eight times,” says the Windsor Mill resident. “I’ve been to India four times. I’ve been to Czechoslovakia and Poland four times, and I spent a year in Germany, a year in Hawaii, a year in Tennessee, and a year in L.A.” Her brief time as a flight attendant actually spurred her interest in cooking. But all roads have returned her to Baltimore. “I always come back here,” she says.
Broom’s peripatetic career path has had many incarnations—including roles on The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Street, a four-year stint as a WJZ consumer reporter (working alongside an ingénue named Oprah Winfrey), and as an accomplished storyteller who performs locally. But her primary passion is dance, which she currently teaches at the Baltimore School for the Arts.
A trip to see Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo at the Lyric at age six gave her direction. “I remember thinking, ‘Those are my people,’” she says. “‘That’s where I need to be.’”
Broom studied dance while at Morgan State University and won a Fulbright scholarship to Germany in the early ’70s. When her studies ended, she had a change of heart about dancing. World travel beckoned, especially after she watched a flight attendant give instructions in different languages while en route back home.
“I thought, ‘I can do that—I can do it in French, I can do it in German, and if I hear it enough, I can do it in Spanish,’” she says.
When she got home, she headed to New York and interviewed with Pan Am. They offered her a job based in Miami. But she got more than she bargained for.
“In those days, there were real meals being served, and you had to cook,” she says, laughing at the memory. “We actually had to preheat these ovens and ask the people in first class, ‘How would you like your steak? Rare or medium rare,’ and thenyou had to remember that the person in 3F wanted it well-done. It was the perfect job for a year.”
These days, Broom is happy to be back on terra firma in her own country kitchen, where she loves to put together a meal. “I am an intuitive cook,” says Broom, who enjoys making stir-fry. “When I became a vegetarian in 1976, so much of it was trial and error. I went through a lot of tofu in those early years.”
While her life has led her in many directions, Broom finds it’s a small world after all. “The older adults know me from my consumer-reporter days, the middle-aged adults know me from teaching their children, and now the younger adults know me as Miss Maria who comes to their classroom and performs,” she says. “I feel like the village’s favorite daughter!”