The Mellieħa Heritage

 By Doris Fenech

The Maltese islands are situated in the middle of the Mediterranean sea. Our language is Maltese "Malti", every town and village have their own dialect ("djalett"). In the old days many proverbs ("qwiel"), were used to express humanity, truth and wisdom which they were carried on from one generation to another.

For many centuries Malta has been under the rule of various foreigners. The Maltese language, culture and cuisine were influences with some of their customs, but with great ability our ancestors succeeded to combine Maltese traditions with foreign customs.

I was born (1947), and raised in Mellieħa town located in the North west of the Maltese islands, surrounded by picturesque fertile valleys and the clear blue sea. In my early childhood ("tfuliti"), peasants ("bdiewa - gabillotti"), worked very hard in the fields, tilling at the right season, to get a good harvest and bounded the scattered patches of soil with rubber walls ("ħitan tas-sejjieħ"), to protect the crops from bad weather.

The local shepherds ("raħħala"), watched their flock ("merħla"), of sheep and goats in the good pasture of id-Delli, il-Meżieb or l-Aħrax. Householders made tradition cheeslets ("ġbejniet"), with the fresh goat or sheep milk.
The fishermen ("sajjieda"), used a colourful Maltese boat called ("luzzu"), which were rowed with heavy oars (" imqadef"). All the family helped in the preparing of the fishing season and with the repairs of the nets on shore.

With great ability, householder prepared good tasty food, with fresh seasonal crops - vegetables ("ħaxix"), meat ("laħam"), fowls ("tjur"), and fish ("ħut"), mostly provided by their family.

Due the lack of fire-wood, a slow cooking method was developed by using of a lime stone cooker "Kenur", made of Maltese stone. The low heath directed to the earthenware cooking pan ("pagna"), made the slow cooking food tasted better. Ovens ("fran"), were rarely found in homes. Sundays' roast and baked meals were  cooked at communal ovens, were a particular sourdough crust loaves ("ħobż Malt"), were baked.

Many festivities ("festi"), were celebrated accompanied by folklore music and singing ("l-għana"). Holidays were related with the Saints' Calender. Children looked foreword for feast days because they were given special sweets, -  Easter a famous Maltese figurative shape of pastry ("figola"), on St Martin's day a cloth bag full of fruit and nuts ("borża ta' San Martin"), and during the Christmas season honey rings ("qgħaq ta' għasel"), were donated.

I am married to George Fenech (1926), a native of Mellieħa. George recall very well the great difficulties and sacrifices the families had passed through his upbringing. George is a impressive contemporary Maltese artist. George's paintings presents a continuous recall of the roots, tradition and the peaceful fertile Mellieħa valleys.

Although Mellieħa become a popular tourist resort with modern shops, restuarants and hotels, we brought up our two sons Conrad and Gilbert to appreciate the picturesque, friendly atmosphere of the Mellieħa village. It is our task to cultivate and preserve the Maltese heritage to show our origin to the new generation ("ġenerazzjoni").

Doris Fenech