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Food History

Maltese national anthem

The Republic of Malta consists of the main island plus two small ones, Gozo and Comino. Land area is about 200 square miles, but those two hundred square miles have had a huge impact on world history. Malta is often called &

the island of sunshine and history.&

The island is tiny by world standards, just 17 miles long and 9 at its widest point. How can such a small island have a major role in world history — The answer is two words: strategic location. Malta is 58 miles south of Sicily and 163 miles north of Africa. It was the crossroads of the Mediterranean. Whoever controlled Malta and her deepwater ports dominated shipping in this vast and turbulent sea. Archeological evidence suggests that the island has been inhabited for at least 7,000 years.

Empires which flourished on the shores of the Mediterranean recognized the strategic value of Malta. The Phoenicians (now Lebanese) arrived in the ninth century B.C. Three hundred years later, they were replaced by the Carthaginians from North Africa. After Rome destroyed Carthage in the Punic Wars (218-264 B.C.), the island became part of the Roman Empire. They were followed by Byzantines, Arabs and Castilians. This led to independence under a pious, courageous religious order, The Knights of St. John, sometimes called the Knights of Malta or simply &

Soldiers of Christ.&

The order was founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century to care for sick and wounded Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Forced out by the Muslims, the Knights finally settled on Malta in 1530. For about 250 years the Knights protected Southern Europe and Christiandom from invasion by Islanic powers. They earned the title &

Soldiers of Christ.&

Next came a brief period of French rule, followed by 150 years as a British Crown Colony. World War II again highlighted Malta&

s srategic importance and the courage of her people. Under constant attack by Italian and German bombers, living on half rations, the islanders held out. Malta was an essential base for the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943.

On Sept. 21, 1964, Malta became a free nation, choosing a republican form of government. Both Maltese and English were designated as their official national languages. They already had a national anthem, adopted in 1923. The music was composed by Dr. Robert Samut; the lyrics by Dun Karm Psaila, a well known priest and poet. Dun Karm was later named Malta&

s national poet. He wrote words that he hoped would bridge the gap between political factions and appeal to both religious and patriotic sentiment.

&

Guard her, O Lord, as ever thou hast guarded,

This Motherland so dear whose name we bear,

Keep her in mind, whom thou hast made so fair,

My he who rules, for wisdom be regarded,

In master mercy, strength in man increase,

Confirm us all, in unity and peace.&

Religion has been an important part of Maltese daily life since St. Paul was shipwrecked here in 60 AD as recorded in Chapters 27 and 28 of Acts. Obeying dietary resprictions during Lent is very important. This potato and egg omelet is a common Maltese dinner during the Lenten Season.

Potato and egg omelet

— cups potatoes, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup chopped onion

6 eggs, well beaten

1/2 cup milk

6 tablespooons olive oil, divided

Fry onions and potatoes in skillet in 4 tablespoons olive oil until tender. Season to taste and set aside. Combine eggs and milk, add potatoes, mix well. Put remaining oil in skillet, pour in mix and cook, covered, over low heat until omelet is almost set, about 10 minutes. Invert omelet by placing a plate over skillet and decanting. Slide back into skillet, cook top two minutes and slide out onto serving platter. Serve warm.