The sale of pastizzi before sunrise

According to recent studies, the sudden urge for a pastizz before sunrise is one of the top signs of a midlife crisis, together with going to Glastonbury, listening to rock music, buying an expensive, flashy car and writing bitchy blogs.

The Security Service that jealously guards our beloved homeland for 24 hours every day (Sundays included and summer half-days banned) is on full alert.

What provoked this alert was not the interception of communications between members of some terrorist organisation. Our Security Service knows that as far as Malta is concerned, Al Qaeda is unemployed... or as the coded Maltese memo goes, Al Qaeda qeghda qeghda.

Nor was it the silly trick played on an innocent Israeli policeman holidaying in this Mediterranean paradise, when some unknown prankster placed ammunition in his baggage before he checked in for a flight to Tel Aviv. In a matter of minutes, the SS checked on the fellow and found out that he was a nice guy - even though this was strictly unnecessary... because as every Palestinian toddler knows, Israeli policemen are all nice guys.

The full alert was declared after a grievous incident that happened in the early hours of the day, when the law-abiding peaceful citizens of our homeland were fast asleep and dreaming that Malta belongs to us all - Malta taghna lkoll. Were it not for Malta's very alert journalists, aided and abetted by diverse bloggers and amateur mobile phone photographers, the incident would have gone unnoticed. Luckily this did not happen, and our media circus has had an extra item added to their silly season schedule - fuori programma, as the Italians might say.

The issue has raised grave concerns about the unregulated sale of pastizzi before sunrise - a problem that every administration since Independence has been afraid to face and tackle seriously. This is not somebody taking a piece of public land and building on it a boathouse that cannot be used for a boat. The people who do that sort of thing are all nice guys, just like Israeli policemen.

The sad truth that no one was prepared to face up to is that the sale of pastizzi in the early hours of the morning, before sunrise to be precise, has led to several minor incidents over the years. As a result of every successive administration neglecting to do anything about this problem, a serious incident meriting a full inquiry arose the other weekend.

The inquiry has led to several conclusions and recommendations that have all been kept as a very confidential state secret, which is why it is only now that they are being revealed to the unsuspecting public. The shocking thing about all this is that too many regulators, state agencies and quangos have refused to bother to do their duty, to the detriment of the citizen that they are purportedly protecting.

The first bête noir is obviously MEPA. How could it be otherwise? In 25 years of existence, it has not managed to draw up a sustainable policy on pastizzi retail outlets. As a result of this crass negligence, dolce far niente, and irresponsible laissez-faire, the supply of pastizzi to pastizzi outlets has never been regulated. Some prepare the pastizzi on site, while others prepare them in safe houses far away from the retail outlet to which they are transported and then cooked in electric ovens. This calls for two different classes of pastizzeria - one that envisages both the preparation and cooking of pastizzi on site and another one that limits the activity to the cooking of pre-prepared pastizzi.

Moreover no attention has been given to the number of pastizzi that can be produced, cooked and sold in one outlet, as MEPA has no policy on the ratio of the maximum number of pastizzi to the size of the retail area of the outlet and to the obligatory parking facilities that should be available for customers. The number of pastizzi allowed per square metre of a retail outlet remains undetermined. This lack of elementary planning has led to overcrowding in pastizzi retail outlets: overcrowding that can be dangerous, especially if citizens - whether sober or drunken - facing a midlife crisis suddenly feel the urge for a pastizz at four in the morning. In fact, according to recent studies, the sudden urge for a pastizz before sunrise is one of the top signs of a midlife crisis, together with going to Glastonbury, listening to rock music, buying an expensive, flashy car and writing bitchy blogs. Similar serious consequences also apply in the case of younger people facing a bout of examination blues.

MEPA has failed to consult the Malta Psychology Association on these problems, and its lack of planning policy and subsequent enforcement has led to the current deplorable state of affairs.

The mandarins at the health department have also neglected their duties. They should ensure that the ingredients of pastizzi are monitored and controlled. Ingredients such as flour, water, lard, as well as ricotta or peas (as the pastry case may be) are being thrown into the mix without anyone being obliged to give details of the provenance of these constituents. Water has been known (or rumoured, which is the same thing anyway) to have been obtained from illegal boreholes, and most flour is obtained surreptitiously from bakeries, which is why the size of the Maltese hobza has been illegally decreasing over the years. And the lard? I dare not say where that stuff, so expedient in Maltese society, comes from; suffice it to say that lard is essential for the floating of so many ventures. As the Maltese saying goes, 'minghajr xaham ma tvarax' ('you have to grease a few palms to get by'). While idiots talk of brown envelopes - yet another Maltese red herring - it is the lard that slides sleazily from one citizen to another.

The control of the cleanliness of the premises is nowhere to be seen, with the medical gurus being content with the bacteria-killing effects of the overheating of the pastizz. This overheating is dangerous, as it leads to the frustration of anyone dying for a pastizz when he (or she, of course!) finds that the pastizz in the hand is too hot to handle. And this frustration could lead to dangerous situations, with people shouting inanities that imply that some nondescript political party has a particular gender - as if political parties can claim protection from sexual harassment or LGBT rights.

The above, in a few words, are the root causes of the incidents provoked by the sale of pastizzi before sunrise, as concluded by the inquiry set up after the incident.

The next move is the setting up of a select committee to propose changes in the law and in official policies. These are necessary to ensure that the sale of pastizzi before sunrise, although tolerated, will not endanger the peaceful bliss prevalent in this dear motherland whose name we bear, in spite of all the tempests raging all around us in the rest of the universe.

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Luke Camilleri
Ma tantx baqa' min hu "pastizz" la bix-xaham , la minghajr xaham u lanqas fuq zewg saqajn! l'importanti li jkunu JQARMCU u jghamlu xi ftit tal-hoss meta tigdimhom !