Heritage Malta on Thursday will hold its sixth historic cook-along session discussing Milk in 17th and 18th Century Malta, at the Inquisitor’s Palace in Vittoriosa.

Documents of the Inquisition throw interesting light on the consumption of milk and other dairy products by the inhabitants of the Maltese Islands at the time.

Cheese, butter and other dairy products formed part of the common fare of most people.  

But the overwhelming influence of religion laid down rigid food consumption patterns. Days were divided between giorni di magro and giorni di grasso. Milk, cheese and butter, together with eggs, meat and any animal produce, could only be consumed during the giorni di grasso namely Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays and Catholic festivities.

Unless having a special medical concession the consumption of dairies was not allowed on Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, on the eve of major Catholic festivities, and throughout Lent and Advent. 

In 1637, things turned sour for Gioanne Cassar, Antonio Calayro, and Vincenzo Bezzula, who while under a 'spiritual sentence' for eating cheese, salami and ham fried in butter and grated over with cheese during Lent, were once again found guilty of consuming dairies.

Their repeat offence, peppered with lies that implied a special inquisitorial permission to consume such food during Lent, cost them the bitter sanction of public flogging and two years rowing on galleys!

Milk-related culture underwent significant change in the 20th century when the authorities invested a lot of energy in encouraging the Maltese to consume pasteurized milk. Such developments were met with significant resistance.

Food historian, Dr Noel Buttigieg, will help participants to explore this fascinating theme, while chef Josef Baldacchino will be conducting an exclusive historic cook-along session of latte alla portughesa, a crème caramel from 1748.

The activity starts at 7.30pm. Tickets at €12 per person (€10 for Heritage Malta members), are available from all Heritage Malta museums and sites, and also online. www.heritagemalta.org