With the global gift-shopping fever in full swing, it’s easy to forget how breathtakingly diverse Christmas traditions are in Europe and around the world. Most cultures have a specific dish or product that people grow up with and miss at Christmas time if they are away. From mince pies to gratin with anchovies, from herring to oven-baked ham, these dishes have the power to teleport one home when they celebrate Christmas abroad. Eve asked foreigners living in Malta about the products they are striving to obtain to make sure that their Christmas in Malta feels just like home.
“I’m from St. Martin, French/Dutch Caribbean. We have a local brandy called Guavaberry that we drink at Christmas time. I can only get it if I go across the pond and bring it back in my luggage, and only in very limited amounts,” Melisa Vlaun-Miteva (Guadeloupe) regrets.
Mince pies seem to be an all-time favourite among the British residents in Malta. “I am hoping these will be available in the local shops this week when I go shopping, if not, my Mum is coming over for Xmas, so I may get her to smuggle some in her suitcase,” says David M. Kelly. “Mince pies and pigs in blankets. I make them with varying success because I’m just setting up here with my wife and don’t have much throw away cash. I want to make it reasonably special because she’s Turkish and hasn’t really celebrated Xmas before,” Chris Scott adds.
Photo credits: Jeremy Keith / Flickr
For Amy Swift, also British, procuring Christmas products also involves her and her partner’s relatives: “My partner, who is Norwegian, had his mum visit a few weeks ago and her suitcase was mostly food,” she remembers, in preparation for an intercontinental Christmas dinner with friends.
“I once made the chefs of Seabank in Mellieha to do a full Swedish Christmas “smorgos board” with meatballs, Swedish sausages, gravad salmon, and a lot of other Swedish special Christmas food and also drinks,” tells Cami Appelgren from Sweden. “They did it amazingly well by following recipes I gave them, and I also advised them on the day how to prepare it. It was a company dinner and the whole Swedish team was happy with it!”
Photo credits: Cami Appelgren
Frankie Furetto Nanni shared a glimpse of the richness of the Italian Christmas cuisine: “[For] starters: tortellini in chicken broth, lasagna (alternatively, pasta al forno), tagliatelle al ragù. Mains: Bollito (the meat used for the broth), oven-baked mixed poultry and pork.”
Pierre Bigot from France was happy to have company to prepare a typical French Christmas meal with foie gras and wine, with products collected through travels and friends: “A[s for a]ll the food I can’t find here, I get it when I go to France or I ask it when my friends visit me.”
With increasing numbers of regional shops and cheap travel options (blessed be the generous relatives and their suitcases!), following international Christmas traditions in Malta is easier than ever. In fact, even the call to name products and dishes from home for this article became a lively discussion and an opportunity to share tips for purchasing those precious products from home. In the words of Pierre Bigot, “It’s actually nice not to have [food from home] here, the taste is even better when you wait so long to get it!”
Would you like to add something to the list? Is there anything you miss from Malta when spending Christmas abroad?
Let us know in the comments section below!