Milk in 17th and 18th Century Malta

Next Thursday, 25th April, Heritage Malta is inviting the public for the sixth historic cook-along session Milk in 17th and 18th Century Malta, at the Inquisitor’s Palace in Birgu.

The Criminal Proceedings of the Inquisition throw interesting light on the consumption of milk and other dairy products by the inhabitants of the Maltese Islands.

Cheese, butter and other dairy products formed part of the common fare of several people. However, these milk products were also prepared in different shapes and sizes to meet the palates of the more sophisticated consumers. The Inquisitor’s kitchen was equipped with the necessary equipment to prepare cheese as a condiment.

The overwhelming influence of religion existing at the time generated rigid food patterns. Days were divided between giorni di magro and giorni di grasso.  Milk, cheese and butter, together with eggs, meat and any animal produce, could only be consumed during the giorni di grasso namely Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays and Catholic festivities. Unless having a special medical concession, or if finding oneself in an emergency, the consumption of dairies were not allowed on Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, on the eve of major Catholic festivities, and throughout Lent and Advent.

In 1637, things turned sour for Gioanne Cassar, Antonio Calayro, and Vincenzo Bezzula, who whilst carrying out a spiritual sentence for eating cheese, salami and ham fried in butter and grated over with cheese during Lent, were once again found guilty of consuming dairies in a matter of days. Their repeat offence, peppered with lies that implied a special inquisitorial permission to consume such food during Lent, cost them the bitter sanction of public flogging and two years rowing on galleys!

Milk related culture underwent significant change in the 20th century when the authorities invested a lot of energy in educating the Maltese to consume pasteurized milk. However, such developments were met with significant resistance.

Food historian, Dr Noel Buttigieg, will help participants to explore this fascinating theme, while chef Josef Baldacchino will be conducting an exclusive historic cook-along session of latte alla portughesa, a crème caramel from 1748.

Tickets at €12 per person (€10 for Heritage Malta members), are available from all Heritage Malta museums and sites, and also ONLINE.

Time: 19.30hrs