Thank God for the Maltese loaf

Every day, my letter box is stuffed with promotional material and, much as I hate to admit it, I cannot help myself from flicking through it before chucking it all in the bin.

Maybe it is the urge to find that irresistible bargain or succumb to the promise I am getting a product of quality for a cheaper price. Whatever it is, I give in and off I trot to the discount supermarket.

The heavenly scent of freshly baked bread and pastries quickens my pace and I am practically salivating by the time I get to the bread display.

The choice is brilliant: rye bread because it is healthier than wheat (or so the health gurus tell us), little brown panini with pumpkin seeds on top (so good for us, say the nutritionists), ciabattas, rolls, buns, cheesy flavours, you name it.

I stick to the good old ciabatta because I am right in the mood for dunking it into a plateful of ‘organic’ olive oil.

I manage to grasp the new-fangled system of choosing my bread, putting it into a paper bag, pressing the right code for the kind of bread I choose, entering the amount, confirming my purchase, retrieving the sticker to seal my bag and I am one happy mama.

Short-lived happiness, I would say. Being conscious of what I put into my forever-accommodating stomach, I took a few minutes to check the ingredients of the ciabattas.

The first line read, as would be expected, wheat flour, water, salt and natural yeast. Second paragraph read: “May contain traces of: milk, nuts, sesame seeds, egg, soybeans, sulphites, peanuts, fish, celery, mustard.”

How is that for a very unique recipe for the humble ciabatta?

Now, many would argue that the manufacturers mentioned those ingredients just in case the product got contaminated.

My question would be: which business concern would mention a list of ingredients that would potentially cut the consumption of their product by at least 20 per cent if one were to take into consideration lactose intolerance, nut allergies and people like me who, frankly, cannot understand why our scaly underwater friends should have anything to do with bread?

The answer would be that the ‘extra’ ingredients really do exist in the bread (even if only in small doses) and that, in one way or another, the producers have succeeded into bastardising one of the greatest foods ever invented.

This concoction is produced in Italy, shipped over to Malta, baked in the store and consumed by my gullible, bread-loving compatriots. And this scenario is not unique to imported bread.

Many local producers include fats, additives, preservatives and molasses to colour the bread.

I wonder why because, as far as I know bread, is made with flour, water, salt and yeast...

Where, may I ask, are the promoters of good health in this country? Are they still stuck somewhere repeating the same mantra that we should eat more fibre, choose brown over white bread, veggies and fruit five-a-day, lean meat, no alcohol and no cigarettes, no refined white sugar etc etc ad nauseam.

Has anyone out there ever heard these exponents of healthy lifestyles question the source of the foods we eat and what goes into their preparation, hence creating some kind of awareness? Hardly, if ever.

So, until some regulatory body takes charge of the situation, I am off to Sliema in search of the good old furnar (baker) to get myself a good, honest Maltese ħobża (loaf) that does not pretend to be something it is not.

Mmm... absolute heaven.

I suggest you do likewise!


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