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February 2015

Food Finds

Food Finds: Mġarr


7 roundabouts away from the busy touristy town of Sliema lies the quiet town of Mġarr.

Mġarr is, to be honest, a rather nondescript Maltese town. A limestone church towers over the village houses, around it are local bars and clubs — the band club, always practicing for their village’s Festa,  the football club and the two political party clubs (kazin) who sit glaring at each from across the square. These are the pillars of every Maltese square. But this town is different.

Walk into one of the lively crowded and poorly lit restaurants of Mġarr, with sounds of satisfaction, as the warm summer wind carries the sounds of laughter and contentment from its open windows onto the quite and inviting village street, and you will know why. If Qormi is the birthplace of Maltese bread, and the best Ħobż biż-żejt is found in la Mosta, then Mġarr is where the best Fenkata (Rabbit), Żiemel (Horse), and Snails can be found.

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ca. 1970-1995, Malta --- A street vendor sells vegetables from a cart on a street in Malta. --- Image by © Adam Woolfitt/Corbis



The Maltese peasants lived under many masters. There were the Arabs, the poor ostracized Maltese nobles — deemed by most European nobles to be little better than peasants themselves, then the knights of the order of St. John who fleeing Jerusalem and then Rhodes barely escaped the advances of the Ottoman Empire’s Sulleiman the magnificent until, with great reluctance, they finally arrived in Malta. As the knights and nobles feasted and dined on meat, the peasants eked out a living eating fish and bread, bread and fish, day in and day out.

Malta is hot. Hot and dry. Hot, dry and small. It is not a country that can sustain large herds of cattle which ravish even the most fertile lands. If there was meat to be had, it would go to the nobles.

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