To be Maltese or not to be.


I do not know if it happens to you, but whenever start getting interested by a subject, I become obsessive and suddenly all around me seems connected to that particular issue.

Being in Malta, and discovering this beautiful island, I suddenly realised that what is supposed to be Maltese is not necessary Maltese. And actually is almost never Maltese.

Lets start with a sweet memory, of the memory of a sweet. Maltesers are for me what is the famous Madeleine de Proust : whenever the grat French writer eats a « madeleine » ( a delicious shell shaped cookie) it reminds him of things past.

I experience the same feeling whenever I eat a Malteser. Depending on my state of mind, some time I let it melt into my mouth and go for the crunchy honey taste part later and some time I just bite into it mixing al flavours and sensation (alright that is a bit far fetched!). Whatever the circumstances, it always takes me back to when I was 23 and had decided to improve my English. At the time I was not very good at translation.

Leaning English and having spent little time in England, I thought I could do with an English immersion in Shakespeare country. I ended up working in a T-Bone steak place near Enfield (North London) and before getting into the smelly restaurant - where I mainly learnt meat vocabulary – I walked accross the parc, listening to Eurythmics' « Sweet dreams » while relishing the treat of eating Maltesers.

You can certainly imagine how disapointed I was when in Malta, I learnt that Maltesers have no connexion to this island. You may be surprised as I was, to learn in Wikipedia that the Maltesers were indeed « created by the American citizen, Forrest Mars, Sr. the father of the famous mars bars and the M&Ms in 1936, and first sold in 1937. They were originally described as "energy balls" and aimed at slimming women (sic).[1]...The earlier slogans have included "The chocolates with the less fattening centre" (sic), "No ordinary chocolate" and "Nothing pleases like Maltesers". (that is almost true!)

After this absolute desillusion, I investigated the case of the Malta blood orange and discovered that what we call « orange maltaise » in French are a fraud too : they actually come from Tunisia and I am very sory to disclose that there is no real proof that this halfblood orange oiginates from Malta. According to the 1If there is a possibility that the blood orange (Beladi blod) found in Egypt could have been imported from Malta in 1830, there is no scientific certainty. This specific member of the citrus family is a very close cousin to the sanguinella moscata from Sicily, which is only 100 km from the island. In Algeria, the Blood orange is even called the « Portugaise » ( Portuguese in French)

My worst dispointement was and will be for you to realise that the Malteser dogs are not particularly Maltese. Here are a few example of hair style available if you are still not ready for the footballer hair cut of this summer.

The fluffy white dog that the French call the « bichon Maltais » ( in French the verb « bichonner «  means to pamper) was actually the dog of very wealthy Romans, a mark of social status in the antique Rome. In spite of its fragile and pretentious aspect, it is a very robust pet apart from the fact that his majesty is subject to conjonctivites.

The Maltese dog may come from the island of Mijet on the Adriatic or from a defunct Sicilian city of Melita. The original name of the Maltese dog is « canis Melitaeus »

To put an end to the list of these vocabulary betrayals there is also a Maltese tiger, an endangered species that, of course does not come from Malta but from South-China. Maltese in this case refers to the blue-gray colour, of the domestic blue cats colour as blue Russian blues or British short hairs are numerous in Malta Island.

The only real « Maltese » refering directly to Malta is pure fiction. The name is Corto Maltese. If you haven't read the adventure of the British Captain born in Malta in 1887, sharing his life between Antigua and Hongkong, you need to rush to your local bookshop ( Amazone) and order these wonderful comics by script writer Hugo Pratt . Corto Maltese is a delightful anti-hero, I could fall in love with.

In the meantime you may have noticed that I fell in love with Malta and you now deserve to know what Maltese really means. The name actually comes from « malat » and means safe place.

And that is exactly what Malta means and feels like...



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