NOTES ON MALTA and MALTESE FOOD
The country of Malta comprises an archipelago, with only the three largest islands (Malta, Ghawdex or Gozo, and Kemmuna or Comino) being inhabited. It lies in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Italy
and Sicily. Numerous bays provide good harbors. Malta has it's own language, and it is not simalar to Italian,
but has Semitic roots. Malta has been attractive to other nations over the centuries because of
its location. It has been occupied by the
Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines, Islamic Saracens and Norman
kings of Sicily. During the Crusades Christian troops passed through on
their way to the Holy Land. The Ottomans failed to conquer Malta in 1565 but
Napoleon succeeded in 1798. In 1800 Malta was under British control. In
1971, Malta became fully independent.
Thus the cuisine is distinctive, and yet has absorbed some of the flavors of
neighboring North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Maltese food is rustic and based on seasonal produce and the fisherman`s
catch. Until recently much of the cooking of Malta was done in community
ovens. The women of the villages would bring their food, ready to be baked,
and the flavors and aromas would mix. Pastry was often used to encase
vegetables, cheese, fish, meat, rice and pasta. Stuffed dishes, especially
stuffed vegetables are also an important feature of Maltese cuisine.
The practice of baking in a common cooking oven probably was an influence
on the development of this interesting style.
For most of us the fascinating and distinctive cuisine of Malta is a world yet to be explored!
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