Today the sun rose behind a soft blanket of clouds. It could have been any ordinary day in England however I was in Malta and an adventure was promptly due to take place. This adventure intended to reveal the location of a good source of freshly ground flour in Malta. Why, you might ask, would anyone consider this an adventure? If you are to say to me that it is not exactly the most challenging task to find flour, I would tell you that you are wrong, and if you tell me that this is not hazardous enough to be considered adventurous, I would say that on the contrary this is an adventure because the exploration into the unknown and the unknown can only be hazardous in that it is not definitively hazard-less. At any rate, during the early hours of morning on the 4th of April I burst out of the house in Valletta to begin an expedition documented by the retrograde camera on my mobile phone.
Valletta was in its usually faux-busy pre-business preparations for a day of selling pasta, jewellery, tea and ice cream to tourists. I passed the “Master” outlet situated on the marginal stretch of land between Valletta and the bus terminal. “Master”, for those who do not know, sells freshly made ricotta cheese. This might seem strange to those who would normally relegate such a small kiosk to the limited sale of cigarettes and soft drinks. I am afraid that people who do this are sadly misinformed.
According to my map I needed to catch a bus towards Saint Paul’s bay that would swing around Mosta. On the outskirts of Mosta their would be a small church in the middle of the road that divides it into two parts. I would disembark here and I would discover a granary, a mill, and freshly ground flour of the white and brown variety. Rumour has it that this granary is also a bakery and as bakeries are an integral part of social life it should be easy to locate with the help of the local people. I felt optimistic as I climbed onto the number 31 bus and sat right at the back so I could take a quick photograph.
The bus set off and I thought the woman’s hair in front of me should be documented. Note that she has dyed short hair, this is something of a vogue hairstyle for aging women here.
The roads are quite long and not very interesting but this has to be documented in some way shape or form. We also went past Mater Dei, this is a central hospital that is situated next to the university building.
After this I daydreamed a bit and looked for a majestic church that would sweep into view with a bakery clearly standing in close proximity to it. This never materialised and after passing a stumpy and squat little building with San Lawrence written at the bottom of it I began to realise that I had not only completely missed my stop but the bakery was not easy to spot.
I dismounted from the bus outside of the Mosta dome and set about walking back in the direction that I had came. My plan was to find the small church and then find the bakery. I felt as though good brown flour was not far away and this would be a turning point in my relationship with Maltese culture. When the brown flour runs through my fingers I will be not only deeper in my relationship with the raw foods in Malta but I will have found a place that is preserving and producing for the Maltese people and I will have reached a new level in my own understanding of the mechanics of the social food system.
Then the building veered into view as I turned the corner.
I verified it against my map.
My map seemed to be upside down and back to front but at least I was in the right place.
So I walked up and down and bit and I couldn’t see a bakery or a building that could double up as this bakery. I passed a mill but the mill has converted and not used as a bakery anymore. I began to wonder whether I had to get off the bus further down the road and walked along a little more. I found a confectioner who told me that the bakery where I could buy flour was across the road opposite a pink building. I went across the road, excited, this was the end, this was where the flour was, the bakery and it was very cool.
A set of 4 shops set opposite the pink building, two mini-markets, a butchers and one of those shops that sells plastic things like mop heads and buckets. There was no baker but on one grocer there was written the words confectioner. So I went inside. There was bread, there was brown bread, brown maltese loaves with oats and other loaves too. I looked for some evidence of baking but there was none. I asked the shopkeeper about bread, bakeries, mills and flour. He had never heard of any such thing in this area or even in Malta. But he sold flour brown and white.
I went to the shelf. I think I have found my Maltese treasure. I am not sure it is what I expected.
Disappointed I decided I had better by some flour because I hadn’t found it in Lidl and otherwise I would not be able to make flat bread, perogi, gnocci, ravioli, pancakes or any such thing. To console my shattered soul I brought a pack of dates and a pack of dried figs and left the shop. The figs were ok but I found a dried maggot in my second fig. Then I read the packaging and to my conclude to my dismay I realised the figs were 4 months out of date.