Pastizzi and ġbejniet might be Maltese culinary celebrities, but you just can’t forget about the OG ftira. The beloved bread has been part of the island’s heritage for centuries… and now, people are pushing for it to be officially recognised amongst the world’s most unique and important aspects of humanity.
“The Maltese ftira is a living part of Maltese culture,” the petition reads. As it stands, the petition has 53 signatures, but with events such as this Saturday’s gathering at Qormi’s Casal Fornaro, the Cultural Directorate is hoping to reach much larger numbers very soon.
The ftira is a ring-shaped, leavened, bread which has been part of Maltese diets for eons now. Usually eaten with fillings like tuna, sardines, potatoes, onions, capers, olives and tomatoes, the ftira has through the centuries seen a couple of variations. In Gozo, for example, the ftira looks more like a pizza than a sandwich… and is always a favourite among Maltese people who go up to the sister island for a couple of days.
The traditional bakery is to this day an important landmark for many Maltese villages, with certain towns like Qormi still being predominantly known for the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the streets every morning.
Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) has been defined as “a practice, representation, expression, knowledge, or skill, as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts, and cultural spaces that are considered by UNESCO to be part of a place’s cultural heritage.”
Ever since the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage was drafted back in 2003, countries all over the world have followed Japan (the country that took the first step) in introducing legislation to protect and promote this heritage.
Among categories like oral history, dance heritage, and digital heritage, the world’s ICH food heritage includes a number of entries, from traditional Mexican cuisine and the Japanese dietary culture of washoku, to the very Mediterranean diet that the Maltese islands belong to.