By Warren Bugeja, Principal Officer Heritage Malta

On Saturday, September 1, 1565, a curious exchange of food items between enemies took place outside Fort St Michael in Senglea.

The curtain was slowly falling on the Great Siege of Malta. Both the beleaguered defenders and the blockading Ottomans were bone-weary and had suffered heavy losses under an entire summer’s unforgiving, scorching sun. Food supplies were also running precariously low in both camps. So, the Ottomans decided to resort to psychological tactics to demoralise the remaining knights and the Maltese holed up behind Fort St Michael and Fort St Angelo’s battered walls.

Photo by Massimo Denaro, Heritage Malta. Artwork by Josian Bonello, Heritage Malta

The siege diarist Balbi di Correggio records that when Ottoman soldiers offered soldier Martelli some melons and oranges as a sign of abundance in the Ottoman camp, Martelli returned the favour with bread and cheese. If the dumbfounded Ottomans were hoping to starve the besieged into surrender quickly, Martelli’s gesture tricked them into thinking that the situation was not as dire as they would have wished to believe.

Within two weeks, the siege was over. Don Garcia’s arrival at the helm of the Gran Soccorso (relief force) from Sicily resulted in the massacre of the retreating Turks and the provision of much-needed victuals and wine for the victorious islanders. Moreover, with the blockade of the three cities lifted, the Governor of Gozo was now also able to send over basic foodstuffs to replenish depleted reserves.

To celebrate this momentous triumph for all of Christendom, Grandmaster de Valette ordered a sumptuous supper attended by Don Garcia, Prince Doria and other Soccorso dignitaries, and the survivors from the ranks of his decimated brethren.

Heritage Malta’s ‘Taste History’ has recreated select items presumably on the tables of this 1565 supper in a refined, gourmet hamper for you to gift this Christmas. Now, everybody can taste the bittersweet palate of victory with these quality, artisanal products commissioned exclusively by Taste History. The hamper contains a bottle of Chablis Burgundy wine, ordered by de Valette on September 8, the official date for the end of the Ottoman invasion, and includes a pecorino cheese round wrapped in nocciolo leaves and salted pork salami handmade in Italy exclusively for Taste History. Water or ‘Ship’s Biscuits’, a 16th version of galleti made from water, semolina and flour, baked in wood-fired ovens in Gozo, specially for Taste History, feature in the hamper too, which is packaged in a bespoke presentation box. The food items are accompanied by a limited-edition print copy of Mathias Zündt’s detailed overview of the Great Siege, a map he etched and engraved in Nuremberg in 1565 and a brief historical account of the celebratory meal and its context.

To gift this unique and discerning Christmas present, order here:

Watch the promo here:

As first published on Portal:

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