… get out of the kitchen - Martin Bugelli

It is very sad to see our traditional kitchen, and the delights it has to offer, slowly disappearing. The past 20 years have seen an influx of culinary delights from all over the world land on our shores and slowly take over our taste buds.

One does not need to look far and wide to find Italian, South American, and a variety of Oriental food outlets to name but a few. Even in our homes, traditional fare has fast been replaced by these ‘foreign’ dishes, with weddings being the cherry on the cake for such alien offerings.

Maltese food is becoming a rarity indeed, so I must commend our body of politicians who, in all their wisdom, having become aware of this problem, decided to do something about it, and to promote Maltese delicacies in the highest institution of the land.

A veritable verbal food-fight ensued in our Parliament recently, with few of us realising that it was, in fact, a deliberate campaign to keep our food showcased in such a place of high standing and repute. The ġbejna and froġa ‘pilot’ campaign is probably just the forerunner of even more promotion of what Maltese (and Gozitan, lest I be accused of racism by omission) kitchens have offered over the centuries, just a foretaste of what lies ahead.

May I also commend our honorary representatives on the timing. The promotion of our food culture, in what is often described as the highest institution in the land,  did not just happen to coincide with the Valletta 2018 demi-capital of culture. It was perfectly timed to bring out the best in one aspect of our culture that is, alas, so often ignored.

Our dishes are not only nutritious and delicious, but they also offer a versatility of use, spilling over into linguistic solutions where other words would not suffice.

It is important however to not get carried away and widen the scope of the campaign. While our food making and partaking traditions are unique, our crops and livestock are not. The campaign should be limited to secondary food production, and although terminology such as kaboċċa, ġidra, basla, ħassa, ħawħa, etc could fit in the style of the ongoing campaign very well, they are items of primary agricultural activity, and their production and consumption is not limited to our shores.

A veritable verbal food-fight ensued in our Parliament recently, with few of us realising that it was a deliberate campaign to keep our food showcased

Our livestock should also not feature at this stage as mogħża, ħmar, bhima, bagħal, tiġieġa or barri would also be promotion of food-production related animals not exclusively Maltese (or Gozitan). The campaign should remain focused on traditional fare, with possibly the second phase of the promotion being items such as pastizz (cleverly used as an insult to elicit the highest indignation for maximum effect) or qassata, to describe certain decisions and actions taken by the House, which are maybe too profound for us commoners to fathom.

The strategy of this promotional campaign for Maltese food is also extremely clever, with a tit-for-tat approach that guarantees maximum interest among the domestic audience. We are already seeing a surge in consumption of the Gozitan ġbejna (although Maltese production is not to be ignored).

I am convinced that we shall soon see the birth of ġbejna fan clubs in a healthy and mature rivalry with the froġa camp. Having commended the initiative, I do suggest that there is room for improvement and development for maximum effect, even beyond our shores.  A twinning agreement between the Parliamentary Channel and the Food Network could be an option. This could be enriched by the Speaker establishing clear rules of engagement, whereby he would sanction the use of any food term by imposing the obligation to supply that particular item to all the members of that august House.

Parliament is the House of Representatives, so it comes as no real surprise that our food has wormed its way into the discussion, and itself become our representative. We are after all, little gluttons in our own right, and have always managed to score among the best of the best (girths) when it comes to the natural result of our food culture.

Overweight issues aside, however, there is no disputing the fact that our food is tasty and wholesome. In fact, with advance apologies for any spoiler effect, I anticipate that this promotional campaign in our Parliament should culminate in a final climax where all divisions are temporarily set aside to collectively celebrate that most wholesome and universally representative of dishes – the kawlata.

A final note regarding the title of this piece. The omission of the phrase usually preceding it was deliberate. It now reads as the imperative tense addressed to all our representatives, hoping that they will find the means to satisfy their appetite for attention elsewhere and otherwise.

Martin Bugelli loves Maltese food and has occasionally been called a torta.

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