Archive for the ‘Cultural Aspects’ Category

Halloween comes to Malta

October 29, 2011

So Halloween has come to Malta big time.

Up till a few years ago you would perhaps hear of a Halloween party here and there among university students or other groups where there were a few individuals visiting from the  USA. But nowadays the shop windows and shelves are full of Halloween paraphernalia. I have even seen specially designated crates in supermarkets and local corner shops with bagfuls of packaged trick-or-treat sweets.

So why am I writing about this?

As a Home Economist…

I feel this sharing of special holiday rituals is something which helps us appreciate each other’s cultures and also enriches our life experiences.

I also think this is a great opportunity for children and young people to be creative; perhaps designing their own original costumes and producing them by reusing materials available at hand; or carving out pumpkins and other fruit or vegetables to make their own special lanterns.

I am afraid that the commercialisation of this holiday event is really rampant and that perhaps it could lead to overspending on items of limited lasting value. How many children will want to wear the same costume the following year, or still be able to wear it size-wise? (Of course costume-swapping could be an idea to consider.)

As a Maltese Home Economist…

I think it’s good to see Maltese children and youth finding another opportunity to get together and do things as groups; also getting some physical exercise  by spending a few hours touring their neighbourhoods on foot, or dancing away at some organised party.

I am concerned however that this will become yet another occasion for children to overeat and store up on lots of sweets and high-sugar, high-fat foods as they go round trick-or-treating. (See this blog post and video from US Nutrition Educator Connie Evers on trying to offer a healthier trick-or-treat experience to children: http://truthonhealth.org/blog/2011/10/18/guest-blog-connie-evers-cast-a-healthy-spell-on-trick-or-treaters/;
http://www.katu.com/amnw/segments/132794868.html)

I am also concerned that Halloween is stealing away from the focus on our local traditions related to this time of the year.  Apart from the religious rituals attached to Jum il-Qaddisin Kollha (All Saints’ Day, November 1) and Jum l-Erwieħ (All Souls Day,  November 2), I am also thinking of the folklore and food associated with these feasts.

I commend the confectionery shops which have continued to produce the traditional All Souls Day sweet – a bone-shaped almond paste-filled pastry called Għadam tal-Erwieħ (Souls’ Bones). Symbolically, they were meant to encourage Christians to remember their deceased loved ones and friends and to pray for the souls of the dead who were not yet in paradise.

I also commend any organisation, company or catering outlet which is trying to revive awareness of the All Souls Day Minestra tal-Erwieħ (Souls’ Minestrone) and Ħanżira tal-Erwieħ (Souls’ Pig); two dishes which were meant to encourage generosity with the poor.

On All Souls Day, Franciscan priests used to set out huge pots or cauldrons in the town and village streets and the locals could add any vegetables they had available at home. Eventually, these pots were placed over a heat source and the Minestra tal-Erwieħ was cooked. This soup was then made available to the poorer residents of the
locality.

Il-Ħanżira tal-Erwieħ was another charitable tradition. A few weeks prior to All Souls Day, one of the wealthier village or town residents would buy a pig, tie a little bell around its neck and let it loose in the neighbourhood.  People could hear the pig approaching from inside their homes and would go out and feed it. On All Souls Day this fattened pig was captured and slaughtered. The pig was then cooked (often roasted) and also shared with the poor of the locality so that they would be able to have some meat.

IDEA! Maybe the Borża ta’ San Martin (St Martin’s Bag) tradition could become our day for Maltese children to go trick-or–treating. On the feast of St Martin, celebrated each year on November 11, Maltese children traditionally receive a bagful of nuts (e.g. walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts), dried fruit (e.g. figs), a special sweet
dough bun (Ħobża ta’ San Martin) and seasonal fruit (e.g. tangerines and pomegranates). Rather than find the bag hanging on their bedpost,  children could go round their neighbourhood collecting tasty, seasonal nutritious goodies for  their borża.

(Għadam tal-Erwieħ image courtesy of Jubilee Foods)

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‘Hobz biz-zejt’ Michigan-style

June 21, 2010

I was intrigued to come across this post about hobz biz-zejt written by somebody married to a Maltese emigrant and living in Michigan USA.

I have been given permission by Julie to link to her post. It makes interesting and fun reading. We call this cultural adaptation.

http://www.amichiganmom.com/2010/06/maltese-tuna-sandwiches.html

Yes – our hobz biz-zejt is truly delicious and can be very healthy too. See my comment in Julie’s post.

Roast Spiders and Chutney

May 31, 2010

I could not help posting this limerick by Edward Lear.

I have always been fascinated  by the ‘strange’ (to me of course) foods eaten in bygone times and in other cultures. 

Spiders are not uncommon in the diets of populations around the world. Here is a link  to a website for recipes with all kinds of insects. http://www.ent.iastate.edu/misc/insectsasfood.html

You can try your hand at making Banana Worm Bread or Chocolate-Covered Grasshoppers, but do read the disclaimer on the website before proceeding.

Meanwhile – What is the weirdest food you have ever eaten?

To date, I have not had anything that strange, except perhaps cheese with a layer of ashes such as Morbier cow’s cheese from France and cheese aged in ashes such as Sottocenere al Tartufo cheese  from Italy.  It seems the use of ashes in preserving cheese is an old Venetian custom.

 Tell us your ‘strange’ food experiences….

Chinese wisdom: Meals in Heaven and Hell

May 15, 2010

Eating meals together is one of  the recommendations frequently made by nutrition experts. This has various health and psychological benefits, especially for children.

Of course, how meals can be shared is another story.

Check out this tale from China about eating together in heaven and hell.

Meals in heaven and hell

Where’s the bread?

April 6, 2010

A global restaurant chain selling chicken snacks and meals will launch an unusual type of  sandwich in the US on April 12.

This special sandwich will feature two thick boneless white meat chicken fillets, two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of cheese, the restaurant chain’s signature sauce….and no bun!

If this menu item makes it to Malta, I wonder how bread-loving Maltese consumers will react to the ‘bunless’ sandwich…

And what about its nutrition profile? How does it differ from the ‘normal’ sandwich?

For more on the sandwich and its nutritional value go here:

http://www.kfc.com/about/newsroom/040610.asp

Happy Easter!

April 4, 2010

 

L-Ghid it-Tajjeb!  Happy Easter!

I received 2 Figolli 🙂 What about you?

If you are interested in reading more about traditional Easter food in Malta, you might want to see attached leaflet prepared by some of my ex-Home Economics student-teachers.

Leaflet – Traditional Easter fare

Easter – Food for Thought

April 3, 2010

Once a Rising Star, Chef Now Feeds Hungry

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/04/01/cnnheroes.krishnan.hunger/

On reading the above story I truly felt that as wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, sons,  daughters, brothers, sisters, educators or  Home Economists we should make every effort to make the best use of our food supply.

When there are festa days, such as Easter, we often prepare food in abundance…Admittedly,  it is in our culture to show happiness and affection through food (and why not?), but are we making sure that there is minimal waste possible?  

In our own family lives and when we are teaching in different settings, let’s seriously think and talk about the quantity of food prepared, how to store and make good use of leftovers, and even how to use the food peelings and scraps for composting.

L-Ghid it-Tajjeb!

(Happy Easter!)

Camel meat at my wedding please!

March 7, 2010

In some Middle Eastern towns, traditionally butchers dressed up a camel with a long string of jasmine flowers and paraded it around the town ringing bells to announce that it would be slaughtered in the morning.  Anyone who wanted camel meat knew to go very early in the morning to get it. 

Camel pie was often made for Ramadan, but camel was also typically served at major feasts, such as a large wedding feast. There is a recipe that involves stuffing chickens with hard boiled eggs, stuffing the chickens into one or more sheep, and stuffing the sheep into a camel, and roasting the whole thing, supposedly a Bedouin wedding dish….but this may not be true.

Nowadays, camel is still often served at the men’s party for a wedding feast. In many parts of Middle Eastern countries the men and the women have separate feasts for a wedding until the end of the festivities when the groom’s family brings him to the women’s party.