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Family Dinner and Customs in Different Countries – PART 1 OF 3: Malta, Italy

In this three part series, we will be exploring different countries and their dinner customs. To start off, we will look at the Republic of Malta, a small isolated island in Southern Europe. It is known for its stunning landscapes, historical structures and traditional cuisine. Due to its long history and various conquerings, Malta has traces of Rome, Britain, France etc. that help to shape the culture that lies within the island.

Customs at the Dinner Table

Malta’s main religion is Roman Catholicism. This has an impact on their everyday lives. For family dinners, it is routine to start off with a prayer. Dinners are an important part of Maltese culture. It is standard for immediate family to sit around the table and enjoy their meal slowly. According to local Gianluca Azzopardi Spiteri, it is important for everyone to be home between 7 and 8 p.m. and attendance is for the most part required. Family is very meaningful for the Maltese as they tend to keep in touch with both immediate and extended family. Breakfast and lunch are often smaller meals compared to dinner which contains multiple courses. Table etiquette includes keeping hands above the table and to place your fork and knife on the plate when finished.

Traditional Maltese Food

Traditional Maltese food has roots in Malta mixed with Sicilian and North African influence because of its geographical adjacency. This Mediterranean blend makes Maltese meals an interesting must to try.

Rabbit and fish are popular dishes in Malta. Rabbit is typically served either fried or in stew (fenek). Fenek is the island’s national dish. Rabbit is common in Malta because of its low price. The history behind using rabbits in meals starts with the Roman belief that consuming rabbit meat would enhance a woman’s beauty. Thanks to its beautiful coasts, fish are an easy and abundant source of food. The fish markets are the place to be on Sunday mornings to see all the options. In autumn, tuna and swordfish are plentiful. During Winter you’ll find lampuka (dolphin fish). In the Spring and Summer spnotta (bass) and dott (stone fish) are frequent. Dishes made with fish include fish soup, spaghetti with octopus sauce, torta tal-Lampuki and stuffed calamari.

Pranzu (Dinner)

Dinner in Malta is comprised of various courses ranging from soup to lamb. Many restaurants offer food inspired by Italy, yet the majority of families have dinner in their homes. Common dishes are zalzett (coriander flavored sausage), pastizzi (ricotta filled pastries), accompanying Maltese bread and main dishes of fish for example. For holidays, extended family will get together and share a meal.

Easter and Christmas usually consists of lasagna, turkey and stuffing.

Gianluca Azzopardi Spiteri in an interview

In my next article, I will explore the customs surrounding the dinner table and traditional meals in Germany, stay tuned!

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