Friday, April 27, 2012

Malta vs. Canada: The Kitchen

Truly, kitchens are the heart of every home no matter where you live. I've been to Cape Breton kitchen parties in Canada (kind of like this), and parties in Malta where everyone ends up in, you guessed it, the kitchen (or kċina). And the general sense of warmth and congregation in these kitchens is basically the same in both countries. But there's a lot going on in the kitchen that is also very different from Canada.

You say appliances, the Brits and Maltese say whitegoods. As in machines that are white. Makes sense.

Stoves are smaller in Malta than in Canada, and can be electric or (more commonly) gas. Ovens generally have hoods on them, and stovetops can be electric (ceramic or metal) or gas. Microwaves aren't a standard feature of a Maltese kitchen, and unlike in Canada where you can pop over to Walmart and grab one for $20, the cheapest we could find a (tiny!) microwave for here was €100!

our new flat came has a fully equipped kitchen with microwave
- but if you're renting in malta, note that this isn't standard!

Fridges also tend to be smaller in Malta than Canada. I also haven't seen a chest or deep freezer in any flats I've been in, but I can't say I've seen many in Canadian apartments either. In our last flat we had a mini freezer, the size of a mini fridge, but in this flat we just have a teeny freezer built into the fridge. The upshot? We're eating a lot more fresh food, and I can't stash four tubs of ice cream away in there. Small appliances are forcing us to eat healthier, and we like it.

stacks of plates in our maltese kitchen

Moving on to the good stuff, the food. Food in Malta is generally much cheaper than in Canada, and availability is much more dependent on seasons. Buying a cantaloupe in the winter? Dream on. But that's not all bad. Eating seasonally is a growing trend around the world. And unlike Canada, where we can't grow anything from October until May, in Malta produce grows all year long and we are spoilt for choices with fresh, local goods. Oranges and lemons in the dead of winter? Gardens bursting with strawberries by April? I'll take it. And, like I've said before, for some reason parsley is free at the grocery stores here. Taboule anyone?

Other foods that are more common in Malta than Canada are marrows (like round zucchini), prickly pears, capers, and figs. Plus you'll find food here that is practically exclusive to the islands - Ħobż, ġbejniet, Maltese honey (great article about it here), and olive oil (great article about it and other Maltese foods from a traveller's perspective here).

Any Italian food is significantly cheaper to buy here than in Canada. Makes sense - you can practically see Sicily from here. And somehow it tastes better. I can't tell you why flying or shipping a can of tomatoes across the Atlantic somehow ruins their taste, but I think it just might.

Then there's the booze. Anything with alcohol content is significantly, significantly, cheaper to purchase in Malta than in Canada, where alcohol is highly taxed and sold at government controlled stores known as liquor commissions. In Malta we can wander over to our grocery store, a local confectionary, or a kiosk on the side of the road and get affordable drinks practically any hour of the day (not that we do). A decent bottle of wine should set you back €5 a bottle, with the cheapest cooking wines priced at just €1. Spirits and beer are also cheaper here: less than €0.50 a can for beer, and around €10 for a large bottle of vodka or rum.

So now that we have the ingredients, let's get cooking. Following European recipes is an adventure when you are used to cooking with cups, teaspoons and tablespoons. In Malta (and Europe) everything is done by weight, which was a great excuse to buy a snazzy new kitchen scale. And this also makes sense - since when is a teaspoon a logical unit of measurement?

Now it's your turn. What is something unique to your kitchen that I wouldn't see in Canada, or Malta? What's the strangest kitchen difference you've ever noticed while traveling or living abroad?

- Jess

p.s. we're trying to keep the photos of each room in our Malta vs. Canada room by room tour fairly nondescript, so we don't spoil any surprises! Our episode of House Hunters International airs on May 3rd, 10:30 pm and 1:30 am EST on HGTV in the United States.


  1. I love this series of posts that you're doing. Such a great idea! Can't wait to see the episode of HHI too!

    1. Thanks Angela! If you have any differences to add to the list do let us know :)

  2. I've surfed the net more than three hours today, and your blog was the coolest of all. Thanks a lot, it is really useful to me

  3. Hi! I just stumbled across your blog! I love this post! I just moved from California to Germany and can definitely relate to several of these- smaller fridges, no microwaves, and cheaper booze! Can't wait to read more of your blog!


    1. Thanks for stopping by Bailey. Looking forward to following your adventures in Germany - we've only been to Frankfurt and are itching to explore more of what it has to offer! Any recommendations? Favourite cities? Things to do?


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