The Maltese love to eat almost as much as they hate to exercise. This unfortunate combination makes Malta a European record-breaker for both obesity and diabetes. Yet their love of food has a positive effect – Malta has a substantial number of very good restaurants, almost all serving locals and visitors alike.
Maltese food is heavily influenced by Italy. Pasta – usually fresh – is omnipresent, usually as a starter or ‘light’ lunch. Mains are mostly meat or fish. Few people in Malta are vegetarian, although understanding of the idea of vegetarianism and veganism has spread rapidly in the last few years and restaurants are beginning to get it.
Homemade cakes and puddings are very popular, often delicious and rarely sickly sweet. There is excellent local ice cream (try fig or passion fruit), which is widely available. Meals are generally accompanied by fresh Maltese bread (ħobż Malti), a crusty loaf rather like a French pain de campagne or an Italian ciabatta.
Many Maltese cannot get through the morning without a pastizza (confusingly translated as ‘cheesecake’), traditional mini pasties filled with local cheese (or ricotta) or mushy peas. These are sold in almost all cafés and tiny shopfronts known as pastizzeria.
The drinking age in Malta has recently been raised from 16 to 17, but nobody takes much notice of it, particularly in Paceville.
Malta produces its own wine and beer – most popularly Cisk lager (pronounced chisk). There is also a national soft drink, Kinnie (pronounced Keeny), which is a little like Coke but less sickly sweet (more like the traditional English dandelion and burdock). Kinnie is drunk by kids and adults alike and is sometimes used as a mixer with spirits. Malta’s favourite local liqueurs are limoncello – lemon zest, alcohol, water and sugar – and Bajtra, a very sweet liqueur made from prickly pears.