The Pastizzi of Kyrgyzstan

kyrgyzstan

Michael McFeat is a Scot gold miner in Kyrgyzstan. A couple of days ago, during the holiday celebrations, he posted a photo on Facebook showing his mates at the mine queuing up to eat a Kyrgyz delicacy called chuchuk that is apparently a sausage made up of parts of horse. In his caption to the photo McFeat described the national dish as resembling a horse’s penis. Which is when all hell broke lose. His fellow miners threatened to strike and began a petition for his arrest. Indeed, his arrest followed promptly and he is now accused under Kyrgyz law of inciting racial hatred and risks five years in prison. All this for comparing a national dish to a horse’s penis.

It’s one of those comic bits of news that tend to lighten up the New Years’ roll-call – comic that is, unless you are Michael McFeat. He’s unlucky this Michael. If luck had its way he would have been in Malta instead and snapped a photo of a queue outside one of our many pastizzeriji. He would then have been quite free to post it on facebook with a caption stating that Maltese tend to form queues in order to get their hands on a dish that resembles a womans’ private parts. It’s no secret either. There are parts of the country where pastizz is slang for vagina – and these tend to be parts of the country that tend to have a more real “feel” of the language.

McFeat would never have ended up in prison. Well. We cannot say that with absolute certainty can we? Not with the amount of crazy that goes into applying the law on the island of developers and salesmen. You can see it kicking off with a petition while the online barrage of attacks of “Go back to your country” and “Don’t touch my pastizzi” kick off.

The President of the Republic might deem it decorous to step in and defend the plate of the poor people launching a Pastizzi Telethon featuring all the VIP’s of the land in defence of the pastizz. Meanwhile the Prime Minister will immediately negotiate 25 pastizzi kiosk concessions along the islands shore (on ODZ land of course) dubbing it the Wignacourt Circle of Pastizzi. In a speech on National Television Muscat will stand on a custom made pastizz-shaped lectern and grind his teeth menacingly at anyone who threatens to instil the fear of the pastizz among the population. Anyone who criticises the pastizz is negative, and anyone who is negative has no point in living.

Is this too fantastical? Is it too far-fetched? Are you sure? As 2016 stepped in with an Alice in Wonderland message by Joseph Muscat framed in lie upon lie upon lie we would do well to ask more questions of whatever is fed into our heads – particularly whatever is fed into our heads about what it means to be Maltese. The danger is that the few values that are left that distinguish us as a nation risk making pastizzi out of all us.

Happy 2016. May it bring a heavy dose of critical-mindedness, may it whisk away any traces of gullibility and may it signify a return to the discovery of a set of values that define us properly as a nation within Europe.

It’s either that or pastizzi.

 

Il-Vapur ghal Betlehem

Qbadna il-kju mill-Ghadira. Il-Hadd imqaddes. Kju karozzi Maltin ta’ Malta li ghogobhom jghaddu l-ahhar Hadd tas-sena f’Ghawdex. Allajbierek. “Ghawdxi tajjeb aharqu” jghidu. Ma’ l-ewwel cans li jkollhom imaqdru ‘l Ghawdex u lill-Ghawdxin. Imma min imaqdar irid jixtri jghidu u f’dan il-kaz ix-xewqa tax-xerrej tigi ikkargata ghira.

Kju jibda mill-Ghadira. Min jipprova jaqbez, min jirnexxilu b’komplicità ta’ pulizija nofs kedda u min jitwaqqaf. Ihirsa tal-passat fis ifeggu meta tinduna li l-karozza li thalliet tghaddi u taqbez kellha it-Torca fuq display god-dashboard. Allajbierek.

Manjieri xejn u tinhass tensjoni generali li titkebbes go qalb il-Malti meta jara kju. “Kif se naghmel biex nasal qabel haddiehor?” Il-kuncett ta’ stennija ordinata thawwad il-boxxla tal-parti l-kbira tal-vjaggaturi. L-istennija tikxef il-verita maghrufa. Il-Malti pampalun li tghidx kemm ihalli ewri Ghawdex f’ikel u xorb (u souvenirs?) jiftah il-boot tal-karozza u wiehed malajr jilmah il-picnic cooler, it-thermos, u l-kaxxa pastini. Ihalli zobb mhux ewro.

Igri jitla’ fuq il-vapur halli imbaghad iserrep lejn ir-Rabat, jipparkja fejn irid u jhossu komdu u wara erhilu jilmenta dwar it-tickets li jaghtu “l-Ghawdxin”. Dan l-ahhar sid ta’ flat go Ghawdex qalli wahda gdida. Kera flat lil xi Malti u x’hin mar jara kid sejrin isib li kienu gabu seba’ heaters tal-elettriku magghom. Genji. Ghax il-kont tad-dawl ma jhallsuhx huma.

Konversazzjoni ghaddejja barra karozzti.

“Kif int?”
“Heqq. Nipprova nirkeb” (N.Dr. – ghax fih talent toqghod fil-kju)
“U jien ma ridtx ninzel ta… Imma t-tfal…”
“Anki jien ta… Darba f’sena ninzel”
“Xtaqt hallejt il-karozza c-Cirkewwa u naqbad tal-linja imma ma riedux”

Ma komplejtx insegwi ghax f’daqqa il-kju mexa. Shuttle service. Filfatt tkun stennejt inqas milli tahseb u hafna mill-infern ikun ikkawzat mit-tensjoni u nervi. Nissuspetta li dan gara ukoll sa certu punt lill-Arriva. Appuntu l-Arriva. Kull min kellimt Ghawdex jahlef bis-sistema taghhom gewwa Ghawdex. Hasra.

Tlaqna. Jien ghal dari u l-familja u c-corma Maltin ghal Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem.

Awguri lil huti l-Maltin kollha.
U bilhaq… Tiskrux bil-Fanta
Go Betlehem.

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Pastizzi United

easy-cheesecake-recipes

Ikla tajba ġewwa Paceville intemmet b’mixja qasira – għad-diġestjoni – madwar it-toroq imxarrbin tal-Belt Internazzjonali ta’ Pace. L-għażla kulinarja kienet waqgħet fuq ikel Ġenoviż, korteżija ta’ Profuma Di… ristorant mill-iprem ġewwa l-ħallata ballata ta’ gosti u kċejjen li bħalu joffru biss bliet wisq iktar kożmopoliti bħal New York, Brussel u Londra.

Ħin minnhom bqajt immeraviljat li ġo firxa ta’ mhux iktar minn ħamsin metru l-voti kellhom jitqassmu bejn ikel Għarbi, dak Indjan, dak Ċiniż jew Ġappuniż jew xi sure bet nostran bħal ma jaf ikun l-istituzzjoni imsemmi The Avenue. Morna Ġenoviż u xejn ma għalejna. Mill-focaccie sal-ħanżir jgħum fil-ħalib u jċafċaf fil-ġobna prelibati sas-sorbet mill-ifjen li jqarrasslek wiċċek ma kull kuċċarina imma, kif jgħid Mark, imexxi ħriġna minn hemm kuntenti. Quelli come noi…

U imxejna sa ħdejn il-bandli… ħadna “id-dawra” ta’ familja Għawdxija-Paċevilljana li aħna: detour ta’ xi mitt metru, xejn iktar, kemm biex nieħdu ġelat (taljanissimu) mingħand Rivareno. Bnin kien, imma żejjed – tant li ma flaħtx nieklu kollu. L-ewwel ftit lagħqiet għażilt li neħodhom fit-triq barra wieħed tal-pastizzi li hemm biswit tal-Agenda u hemm assistjet għal xena gustuża.

Qabelxejn irrid ngħid li xi jumejn ilu, waqt diskursata filosofika ġewwa Michael’s il-Belt, konna qed niddiskutu il-preġji tal-pastizz. Tkunux psataz. Kien mument tal-għola ħsieb gourmand xieraq tal-Gault Millau u Michelin. Kemm ngħidilkom li l-gilljottina inqatgħet favur formation ta’ “tnejn u tnejn”. X’jiġifieri? Jiġifieri li qbilna li meta tkun xrobtlu naqa jew jiġik dak l-aptit tard bil-lejl l-aħjar ordni għand tal-pastiżżi hija dik li twasslek biex tiekol tnejn tal-irkotta u tnejn tal-piżelli. Imbagħad tajjeb ukoll li tkun mogħni bir-Rennie, Maalox jew Gavison tal-mument.

U lura għax-xena. Mela qiegħed niggosta l-ġelat bil-kwiet u nosserva frustier (raġel mhux Malti u li għadu la xtara passaport Malti u lanqas ma kiseb wieħed b’xi mod iktar konvenzjonali) jistaqsi lil tal-ħanut dwar in-natura tal-ikel kollu li għandu fid-display…

“And this? What’s inside this? What is it made of”

U l-ieħor bil-paċenzja kollha tal-Virġilju Dantesk jagħtih tour tas-sorsi kollha tal-infern ta’ kolesterol illi taf toffri kull vetrina tat-Tejkewej Malti. Rajtu imħasseb lix-xerrej. Kellu għażla tqila quddiemu. Bejn qassatat jobżqu l-ful, bejn ross il-forn ileqq it-tjubija, bejn timpana ssejjaħlu għas-sess orali immedjat, bejn il-karnefiċina ta’ pizzez varji kont naħlef li ma jħarisx darb’oħra lejn pastizz. Wara kollox dan ma’ kellux il-black belt tal-ikel Malti li kollha kemm aħna inrabbu tul snin sħaħ ta- inizzjazzjoni…

Tistgħu timmaġinaw għalfejn – kieku ma kellix il-ġelat f’idi – tħajjart nagħmel ovazzjoni spontanja lil das-sinjur frustier u għalfejn ħassejt fawra ta’ Brotherhood of Man denja ta’ l-iqwa lirika ta’ Imagine meta smajtu ilissen dawn il-kliem:

“I’ll have two of the cheese and two of the peas”..

Għall-pastizzi kien qed jgħid. U mingħajr ma jaf ikkonferma l-algoritmu mistur illi x-Xirka ta’ Wikkiela Avukati kienu ikkonkludew li teżisti fid-DNA Tagħna Lkoll. In pastizzi united…

Nizza

Trid tkun vaganza kulltant biex troddlok lura il-perspettiva li tkun tlift mat-triq tar-rutina u l-ħajja ta’ kuljum. Minkejja li għoddni għaddejt ġimagħtejn sew Malta dawk ma servewnix għal dan l-iskop. Dal-weekend morna Nizza. Jumejn kollox. Tlaqna il-ġimgħa u lura l-Ħadd tard filgħaxija. Sabiħa wisq Nizza. Mhux sabiħa fis-sens turistiku imma fis-sens storiku u ċiviku. Hija stampa ċara ta’ belt (metropoli? il-ħames l-ikbar belt Franċiza) Mediterranja miftuħa u konxja tal-wirt storiku u mħallat tagħha. Iva għandha l-monumenti u toroq imsemmija għal dawk li fi zmien ieħor issieltu mat-Torok (Catherine Segurane) imma mill-ewwel jinħass li din hi kollox barra Belt magħluqa fl-isterjotipi.

L-ilsien dejjem jgħin u dak in-Nicois ftit Taljan, ftit Franċiz u ftit Katalan huwa bieb miftuħ beraħ għal infuzjoni ta’ ħsibijiet. Ma tistax ma taħsibx fl-iSqalli ta’ Camilleri jew fl-inkwadri imsawra fil-kitba ta’ Naghouib Mahfouz. It-toroq tal-Vielle Ville iserrpu u jsaħħru filwaqt li l-ħwienet ibiegħu l-aqwa pjetanzi u prodotti tal-baħar f’qalb id-dinja. Għalhekk tiekolx socca (magħmula miċ-ċiċri) jew pan bagnat kull ma trid tagħmel hu li tagħlaq għajnejk u timmaġinak f’Nizza rumana bi prodotti Feniċi u spezji ta’ Lvant Nofsani qed jitwasslu fuq il-ġifen li x’iktarx mess ma gzira ftit il-bogħod.

Qishom aħna, jiġik tgħid, tarahom fil-kju tal-ferry għal Sardinja u Korsika. Seta’ kien l-iMġarr. Qishom aħna, tistħajjel tgħid bl-imħabba tagħħom għaż-żejt taż-żebbuġa, it-tadam imqadded u l-ħut. Qishom aħna bil-bajjiet iperpru bnadar ta’ kull ġens (ir-russi moda hemm ukoll). Qishom aħna idawru sold fuq storja u kultura u xemx u baħar hux. Qishom aħna bil-bajjiet iperpru l-bnadar qawsalla simbolu ta’ ftuħ li kull ma jmur isir ovvju. Qishom aħna bin-nisa jgħumu kif iridu – l-forom kollha tara fuq il-bajja : 50 shapes of human – mingħajr pulizija jarrestawk għax kxift xi żejża żejda.

U insomma. Forsi ma qishomx aħna sa’ l-aħħar. Forsi tmur Nizza u tinduna x’għandna aħjar minnhom u x’jonqosna biex inkunu bħalhom. Imma fuq kollox tinduna kif hemm timbru ta’ stil ta’ ħajja, ta’ filosofija mondana, li huwa deċiżament Mediterran. Dak l-ispirtu li tagħlaq għajnejk int u tigdem Orżata u jiġik dritt f’moħħok / intix l-Exiles jew il-Cote d-Azur. F’dawk in-naħat ta’ Nizza u Marsilja qatt ma tilfu il-Mediterraneita tagħhom. Kien passaport miftuħ li jwasslek min Aleppo u Beirut sa Ġibilta u Lixandra sa Genoa u Venezja. Passaport li jiżboq it-Tuneżin, l-iSpanjol, it-Taljan jew il-Malti. Fi żmien l-imperu kont tgħid Cives Romanus Sum u tgħidha bi kburija.

Illum. Forsi hemm bżonn niskopru l-għana u r-rikkezzi ta’ xi tfisser li tkun Iben-il Mediterran.

Nizza. It’s nice.

New Livery, New Purpose

The new makeover at Air Malta has hit the headlines. Inevitably the discussion has centred on the cost (€2m) and not on the content. The press chose to highlight the fury of the pilot’s union when it complained that such an expense was not justified given the sacrifices that workers are being made to bear . You do have to wonder how these people expect the airline to become more competitive by retaining a tired livery and marketing plan. Attempting to transform the airline’s competitiveness will inevitably cost money – it’s either that or compete with an outdated marketing plan.

The rebranding exercise looks great. I especially love the idea of combining the marketing of the airline with the marketing of the destination. Selling Air Malta and Malta at the same time is an excellent idea – and the colourful livery that is a call to the exotic, sunny nature of the island is a brilliant move all round. Coming as it does in the middle of this August rush that has been reported up north – with British and other clients rushing for last minute escapades to the sun that never came – the marketing exercise might just be the start for a strong selling point: come to the land of Sun, Culture and friendly people.

The airline might need to target more regions that are currently orphaned of its reach and full of potential sun-seeking tourists – and I obviously have in mind the Grand Region of Lorraine, Luxembourg and Rheinland-Pfalz. The Luxembourg airport might be too prohibitive thanks to the  Luxair monopoly but Nancy-Lorraine and Frankfurt Hahn airports are cherries that are ripe for the picking. The same probably applies to other unconventional destinations that have developed a regular customer thanks to the new hubs promoted by low-cost airlines.

In the meantime a good two thumbs up to air malta for a job well done.

 

I.M. Jack – The Easter Bunny Edition

I found myself wondering recently where, when and how the Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs got into the traditional celebrations of Easter.

Easter

Well, believe it or not we’re entering pagan territory here – long before the Catholic monopoly on all things paschal.  The word Easter or Ēostre is derived from the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess who was celebrated through the month of April. Pasqua or paschalis is the Latin name for the passover – a Jewish feast harking back to the times of the Hebrew enslavement in Egypt and their liberation by Charlton Heston. The actual dates for Easter were set in the Catholic religion in AD 325. In Nicea they established that the feast should fall on the Sunday following the paschal full moon, which is the full moon that falls on or after the vernal (spring) equinox.

It’s the rites of spring in full swing. Whether it’s Eostre or the paschal full moon, there is no doubt that the religious rituals are guaranteed to be celebrated as they have been from the dawn of time – a celebration of the beginning of the season of Spring – a season associated with life, birth and the renewal of the circle of life. In the Christian religion the main potent symbol is that of Christ defeating death through resurrection with the concurrent ideas of redemption. Easter Sunday is the time for the triumph over death as the Christ Resurrected is carried aloft running through the streets in a frenzy of happiness.

It was curious to see the initiative to replay the passion of Christ out in the open within the temples at Mnajdra. I don’t know whether it was intentional or whether the irony was lost on the participants (markbiwwa did not miss that one) but Mnajdra would in all probability have een used in religious rituals celebrating the arrival of spring many many thousand moons before the birth and death of the Christian saviour. Back in Luxembourg the ancient ritual of burning pyres of wood to celebrate the end of winter is still performed (it was on about a month ago) only that they have taken to burning a crucifix on top of the pyre, what with Luxembourg being a deeply religious country. Another instance of religious stepping in to eclipse the profane?

What about the Easter Bunny and Egg then? Where do they come in? Well it turns out it is rather simple after all. Bunnies and Eggs both represent the same thing – fertility. We all know what the rabbit is and though it itself is not oviparous it is evident why it would be chosen as a symbol of copious reproduction. As for the egg – what can I say – it is the epitome of symbols for potential of birth.

Birth

Yes. No matter what culture and where in the world, humanity has always celebrated spring and life. It is within our nature and instinct as a sentient being to not only celebrate our existence but also the preservation of our species via its reproduction. The Catholic Churhc – as from 325 AD – could not ignore this urge to celebrate life and  had no choice but to place the feast of its saviour’s resurrection bang in the middle of what had always been the period of such celebration in other cultures.

Which is why the Bishop of Gozo’s attack on IVF and the hope it brings to hundreds of thousands  of couples worldwide is either a purposely ill-timed approach or an extraordinary demonstration of crass insensitivity. There is no other way to react to this kind of statement y even the most conservative among the Good Shepherd’s flock than with sincere disbelief. In a time when we are supposed to celebrate the victory of life over death of the productive over the barren and of providence instead of the bare we are wrongly directed at killing the supposed wolves among the flock whose sin is that of bringing the same hope as that shared by Sara and Abraham until the arrival of Isaac. You get the feeling that even in the reading of texts that are sacred to them there is an intentional misogyny that underlies the basic thinking – going against all natural instincts and inspirations.

Fields

Malta is beautiful at this time. I spend Good Friday in what us ignorant people call “the south”. Ghar Lapsi was idyllic and Rita’s retro service was legendary (I’d have stuck to the pyrex plates though). Driving through the back roads leading to Zejtun and detouring through Birzebbuga and Marsacala you get to appreciate the natural beauties that this island has to offer while also getting to sadly see how mistaken many a man can be when he tries to interpret what could look good and be added on to the landscape.

Life. It’s a long stretch of time (hopefully) on this world that is pregnant with choices. It’s good to remember every now and then that we are not a small and beautiful snowflake.