Archive for fishing
It’s a weird feeling. Flying out of Catalina to Malta. As I mix with Italians and Sicilians and Maltese I feel like a native going overseas. It is a very early morning flight and I have arisen at 0500 for a quick walk down to the airport bus, which at yhis time of the morning negotiates deathly quiet streets. I am stopped at border security over a weapon of mass destruction i.e a corkscrew with much mia dispaice from the official and he seems to mean it.
Sicily from the air looks beautiful as the sun comes up and the west coast and interior look to be under intense cultivation. We fly through soft cloud, double rainbows and excited Italians taking pictures as if this wasn’t a country only 80 km away. I am suddenly aware that all announcements are in three languages. The first I take to be German though its not as guttural and hard. The second is Italian, and the third English. Oh yeah! Official language of Malta, English and Maltese. (More later).
From the air Malta looks small but I am surprised by the number of super container ships and suchlike lying at anchor, waiting to enter the rather large port.
Our host Mario is awaiting at the airport to take us to our apartment in his battered Peugeot, which typical of an electrical engineer (now retired), computer technician, academic, has electrical wiring running amok and switches dangling from doors , instrument panel gutted. He seems hesitant, wary perhaps, slightly distracted. Last weeks guests have left but the apartment hasn’t been cleaned and he seems at a nit of a loss as to what to do with us. We get a tour of Valetta and then up the hill to the apartment in the middle of Birju . (Trig Il Taramuntana As we wind up impossibly steep streets and increasingly narrow streets we meet cars and trucks coming the other way which necessitates much backing, wing mirror scraping, wheel skidding and I suddenly realise that Mario is speaking in that first airline voice but this a peculiar lilt. Its Malteze, an ancient language partly arabic, partly dialectic Sicilian partly Italian, partly English. I will try and write more about it later but all the streets are in the language and everyone is talk8 g it.
The apartment, like the Peugeot, is a work in progress but tidy, clean and quirky. Its in the suburb of Birgu and all the houses are in a soft cream stone, (they have white and yellow limestone which are the traditional building materials ) and after the black larval rock of Catania is quite a juxtaposition. Mario has to fix up bedding etc so we debunk to the central piazza Misrah ir- Republica and my god, freshly squeezed orange juice and horror of horrors a proper sausage roll. While I am sliding around the table chasing flaky pastry I enquire about the local Maltese wines which I have heard about but never tasted. I have developed a taste for Sicilian reds which I had never sampled before but they are readily available in the south of Italy and they are seriously good. Eyes watering price aside the glass I have at our local Café duBrazilia is beautiful. Warm, tasting of oranges and lemons and very easy on the palate (thought I would never live to here myself talking about wine like that). We discover that this place is where the knights templar resided and it has a history which I will try to find more about. Time for sustenance. Now I know nothing pf Maltese cuisine aside from rabbit, and pork.(pork cooked long and slow on a bed of potato and fennel with white wine) They are famous for seafood but I am not a big fan. We head for one of the five cafes in the piazza and settle on D-something which has a sumptuous interior but also a steep alleyway with outside tables that probably features in numerous tourist magazines judging by the number of photos taken as we dine. The waiter is a funny guy who is like that fox in the George Clooney film and he has a knack for taking your order then reappearing three times to make sure he has it right, Alison goes for the full Swordfish steak fillet and I opt for rabbit. They do either stew or fried and after three attempts Reynaud manages to bring me a plate of traditional Maltese fried rabbit, WITH CHIPS. God !
Who knows why someone would wreck a beau5uful dish of rabbit cooked in red wine, onions and balsamic with troppo garlic with, CHIPS. Its supposed to be served with bread to soak up the pea and reduction gravy or even with a mash. But CHIPS. Alison informs me it’s a thriw back to the English and it seems as though most dishes come with chips. I even had a ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast the next day with potato chips. Still the rabbit was AWESOME. This one had probably curry powder added but it could have been turmeric and cumin. I am later told by Mario that one of the restaurants on the square actually serves cat as a substitute for rabbit but I am pretty sure I identified all the bones as bunny.
I wake up feeling totally relaxed. Maybe it’s the good nights sleep, maybe it’s the clean white of everything, maybe its just being on a hilltop village removed from modem life, maybe it’s the life restoring properties of cat, WHEN the morning is rudely interrupted by first a motorbike then a car then a human being passing by my head about a metre away, then a furious argument in Maltese, then a horse and cart. The streets are seriously narrow and I could almost reach out the front door and shake hands with my neighbor across the alley.
Awake and out and at them. Today is ‘getting to know your environment so its two or three ferry rides a 4 hour bus trek around Malta so that we know what we want to see in 5he next three days. For me, after the day its, 1/ a small fishing village with a daily market -heaps of cool stalls and cafes (WITH CHIPS), 2/ the falconry centre with daily flights of birds, and all things falcon like (H IS FOR HAWK – HELEN MACDONALD) which I have been fascinated about after reading this excellent book and 3/ a harbour cruise to get a better look at Malta from the sea (still has a dry dock, still has shipbuilding , still has decent fishing fleet, still has a naval prescience). I am much impressed by the accomplishments of this small island with its distinctive language, distinctive culture despite CHIPS WITH EVERYTHING.
Just been for my third,(fourth or fifth) swim in the sea. Checked out the water temp (another Internet must)
Its 25C-air temp 29C, so not as hot as St Clair salt water pool but it FEELS so warm.The complex seems to be mostly German tourists though they could be Swiss. Anyway they are louder and more brash than australians, paler than English and very unfriendly
Drove to Barcenello (I kid you not) a small village about 5km up the coast to buy supplies. Some accommodations have basics like soap, salt,.oil,pasta, t towels; some not. This is one that does NOT.. Lovely little village and three supermarkets and although everyone .raves about Sicily’s lemons and oranges , not one to be seen.
Not sure what.the etiquette here is re mealtimes but.I have a pasta sauce brewing with a bag of dried.oregaano flavourimg and it seems to be turning a few heads as the Swiss/Germans trudge back from the pool (we favour the sea,.they the freezing cold pool).We are hanging out to eat out but haven’t found anywhere local yet. There.is the.local yacht club ,50 down the road where ,I can flash my OYC &’ wollacott association card and hope for a reduced fee meal but I.think.it will turn out to be a crock of shit dreamed up by yachting nz.
We are cooking from local stalls and supermarkets and although the veg and fruit is good the mysterymeat is a challenge. The names I had learnt bear no relation to what is displayed and what looks to be great to flash fry, we have found to our consternation, to be inedible. Mostly chicken, pork and veal and thinly sliced. Beef is rare and way expensive. Lamb, nonexistant. I havent seen any goat or rabbit since Florence. A dont like fish much but was determined to expand my tastes. Already talked about sweet and sour sardines, octopus, swordfish but the fish markets only intensify my thing about fish. There is a strong fish smell, makes me want to gag, and there are flies everywhere and fish juice dripping onto the ground that you smell as you take your shoes off ay night. I will persevere but I find it a challenge.
Its an hour later and the bolphanese sauce alla Naomi (‘with milk and red wine) is nearly ready. I have orrienchetti to go with this and a radicchio salad.
Maybe invite those Germans from next door who at least swum in the sea and made an attempt to talk.
The orrienchetti was horrible and I see that Martha Stewart recommends cooking it in a broth and for longer than the instructions on the packet
Todays Sicily breaking news. The Mafia, long thought to be largely gone from Italian life or at least playing a diminished role, have been implicated in the rash of forest fires breaking out in Sicilys national parks and forests this week. They are tying petrol soaked rags to cats tails and releasing them into the forests. It has caused widespread water shortages and disrupted other amenities. Cant quite see the bottom line here but there is a mangy cat screeching around the resort who could come to the Mafia attention.
It is raining here which, personally, comes as a surprise but on reading the Sicily news travel column the writer, while explain8ng the exotic Sicily says that every visit he has had it rains, there is thunder, it blows, and it hails.
Funny but I have started to seek out NZ news a month into the trip. Suddenly I am nostalgic for some home news and catch up with friends. I found this Dunedin photographer Michelle Chalkin—Sinclair who has a blog but has also teamed up with Judith Cullen to produce a Dunedin Fon book?. Her pictures of Dunedin and Port Chalmers are stunning and I ask myself “why dont I see it like that”.
Polynesian men line the early morning wharf. A perfect photo opportunity. Intense winters sun highlighting the silver sheen of their lines. A school of kahawai has entered the harbour and are being pulled out for their stupidity. A few wise old souls have bled them, to remove the toughness.
I wander further along the waterfront and find the left over trail of blood from an early morning stabbing. To add toughness.
He sits at the rear of the public toilets. Tall, thin and bearded he is probably three-quarters Maori. His clothes and grooming alerts you that he is a man of the street. He sucks on his can of Lion Red, at 10.45 am. He carries out a three way conversation which sometimes spills over into four or five-way as new hallucination manifest themselves. They, the hallucinations, must be vivid as each character has distinct mannerisms. Overt sweeping hands suddenly jerk into the clasped hands of the introvert. Next he is an effeminate man, then the Maori elder. His visions push and pull each other; one strikes him on the head. His finger goes to his lip in an elaborate shush.
In another time or place he might be seen as a gifted artisan. Here, he is a harmless madman.