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The Island

Once, many years back now, my family on my mothers side squatted on the Island of Malta for a couple of generations. Which, really, was our sole reason for traveling there.

Since that time, possibly only in the last few years, Malta has been trying to reinvent itself. It wants to be the cool hangout for the super (or at least moderately) rich. You can buy yourself citizenship (for just over 600k plus extras), and will be rewarded not only with a passport to the EU, but also rather pleasingly low tax rates.

The magazine on the airlines (Malta Airways of course) was all about pimpin’ the Island. Which came across as slightly desperate, and just a little bit tacky. Not what they were looking for at all. We were looking for this:

As my people (kind of) come from Malta, certain things have leaked into our fantastically Mongrel Aussie-hybrid customs.

Example 1: Mushy Pea Pies

Firstly, let me say that it is amazing to be in a country that understands the concept of a savoury pie. Here goes a standard conversation with a German about Aussie Meat pies:

                                                    Aussie: ‘So you have Meat pies…’
                                                    German: ‘Wait, mint pies?’
                                                    A: ‘No- meat.’
                                                    G: ‘Like, meat-meat?’
                                                    A: ‘Yup, Fleish. Meat’
                                                    G: ‘Meat?’
                                                    A: ‘Ge-nau/Exactly’
                                                    G: ‘Oh… *pause* … But they’re sweet right’
                                                    A: ‘No. They’re meat.’
                              and so on.

Secondly, let me say that my Grandfather loves a good mushy pea pie. And my whole life my sister and I have dutifully pulled the ‘ugghhh’ faces that young girls tend to pull, as he recounted the joy one could have in eating such a thing.

Granddad, I hope it makes you proud to hear that my very first cultural experience on the Island was:

It was tasty! Although I would suggest that their peas could be a bit ‘mushier’- they were almost dry. But oh what flavouring! What flake of pastry! What delight of price (90c can you believe it!).

Mum and Andy weren’t brave enough to try the peapie, but they got in on the savoury action in their own ways.

On our first day in Malta, which was really a half-day, we had a little roam, and Andy and I gazed longingly, sniffed pleasingly and sighed regretfully at the sea. Hello old friend, it’s been a while.

We also sniffed- slightly less pleasantly- at a little ‘duck village’. Home to ducks, but also chickens, cats, pigeons, and hundreds of stuffed toys.  Later during the stay we saw another of these ‘villages’, this time I think just for cats- so apparently giving toys to pets is just what the Maltese do.

The next day- the-day-before-the-night-before-christmas, was business as usual as far as the beautiful blues go.

 Andy assured me that this is a toy cat, and not a real cat:

The two of us went for a walk, while mother headed straight for Valletta- the capital, which consists of a beautiful old city that you can see to the right in this photo:

We met up with Mother in Valletta, who had rather cleverly gotten her hands on some sort of Kahk-like thing.

For those of you playing at home, Kahk is a kind of traditional cookie my people make for special occasions. Usually only at Christmas and Easter because they are a pain in the bum to make.

The concept itself is simple- mashed dates (with butter and maybe some rum) inside a shortbread crust all shaped like a tiny donut (much smaller than the one shown below). The actual practice of getting the dates into the darn dough, is something very much more complicated indeed. Especially in Aussie weather.

Unfortunately, this version was not nearly as good as ours- it was very heavily spiced- tasting like old nutmeg and orange flower stems (barky and flowery), and was super dry inside.

One of the lovely things about Malta- or at least the parts we were in- is the presence of all decorative doorknobs and little icons that you see all around.

We spent a decent amount of time at the Barrakka gardens, which affords a magnificent view of the three cities and surroundings, which look particularly spectacular at sunset. Also, it has kitties!

We rode back to the city…

Here is a Maltese Christmas trees. A lack of tree and an excess of glass (made in Mdina)- all rather pretty with the lights and the swirly colours.

As a Christmas gift, my aunt and uncle treated us to a spot of fine dining. We started with a Maltese tasting plate, which featured some pretty fine Gozo goat cheese.

Afterwhich, mother indulged in an absolutely bulging-with-seafood risotto, and Andy and I both went with a freshly grilled catch of the day. After over a year in Porkland, this fish was the most delicious, succulent, tasty and juicy thing we had ever laid our hands on.

This, my friends, is Andy’s ‘Fish Satisfaction’ face.


  1. Pingback: Malta, briefly – Fish with Whiskey

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