My Maltese Christmas Table

The word “turkey” probably brings to mind classic pictures of Native Americans and Pilgrims sharing a meal of corn, turkey and potatoes <;. Just for the record, the tribe was that of the Wampanoag (People of the First Light), a tribe that lived for thousands of years in what is today coastal Massachusetts.

Not too many people celebrate Thanksgiving in Malta. To us, turkey is something we cook – or avoid like the plague – come Christmas – and disguise in pies and soups and patties for as long as we dare risk it without getting salmonella.

Why bother? Isn’t it a bit naff to boast about how the turkey was so big you had to remove the upper shelf from the oven, in the same breath as wondering how to finish off the leftovers? The answer “because it’s traditional” does not cut ice; capons or roosters were the poultry of choice for our forbears before this foreign fowl invaded our kitchens when British soldiers and sailors were stationed in Malta during he First and Second World Wars.

If you could actually see the point of eating tofu masquerading as meat (some supermarket do chains sell it), be my guest… No, not really, because I won’t be counterfeit chops or bogus beef or fake fish or replica rabbit for Christmas. However, bigilla, tofu’s delicious local cousin, is something that makes perfect sense at a Maltese meal, as are my world-famous stuffed olives… and roasted peanuts

Considering that most people could take or leave Brussels sprouts (and usually leave them), I don’t cook those either. I much prefer the soft onion and garlic mixture at the bottom of the baking dish in which I bake shredded cabbage mixed with Bacon and ġbejniet.

Christmas dinner at my house is always typically Maltese. Because this means that everyone will find something they like; and if it means having two helpings of one dish and none of another, well, so be it.

So this year, yet again, it’s brodu tal-ħasi (capon broth), timpana, and baked potatoes, Maltese style. Fruit juice will be the freshly-squeezed type, and the water and wines will be local.

That having been said – I wish more restaurants would include more local, wholesome, traditional dishes in their menus, rather than virtually boasting about the carbon footprints of their kangaroos, moose, wild boar, and ostriches.


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