What does an American of Jewish lineage do on Christmas day while in Malta? When you put together all the pieces, it is an easy answer. She eats.
I invited Catherine over for dinner. Catherine is James' daughter. James is my friend-I-haven't-met-yet (in person) from our online meditation group. James and his family live in Cape Town, South Africa. His daughter Catherine recently moved to Malta to study psychology and sociology at University. James and I thought it would be cool for me to meet Catherine while I was in Malta. James gave me Catherine's email. Catherine and I connected via email before I got to Malta. Catherine told me her time would open up after school break began. This would be our first time meeting in person and Catherine's first Christmas without her family.
Catherine had morning plans so arrived at my place late in the afternoon. That gave me time to prep our meal. I planned to serve just about everything I had purchased at the Sunday market (the day before).
The menu was based on some of my favorite foods. Lucky, Catherine sounded happy with the proposed menu.
I made pesto from fresh basil and coriander, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and salt. I made a pretty tasty cheese sauce, sans flour. These two dishes were to pour over whatever else would be served.
I made a salad dressed with freshly squeezed lemon, a little olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, and salt. The salad included chopped cucumber and tomatoes, fresh coriander and an arugula base. The salad may have included mint.
I have been making salad with mint since eating at the Monastery Cave Hotel and Cafe in Cappadocia. I had never had mint in salad before. It is freaking awesome. If I had purchased mint at the Sunday market (and I do not remember now if I had or not) it would have been in our salad. I topped the salad with fresh peynir, kalamata olives, and pignolias.
I had marinated the salmon in a mix of the most delicious stone ground mustard I had every tasted (that was in Giulia and Eugene's fridge), thinly cut slices of fresh ginger, freshly squeezed lemon, the mildest, most delicious (local) honey I have ever had (also already in the kitchen), and a sprinkle of cumin seeds. The salmon was pan fried in herb butter until the skin was crispy, turned over, and covered. The heat was immediately turned off and the salmon left to steam.
When Katherine arrived, she and I snapped the ends off fresh green beans. It was a great opportunity to talk and start getting to know each other. The green beans were boiled in filtered water with a little bit of lemon squeezed in, fresh rosemary, and salt. I stir-fried a mix of broccoli, red peppers, and red onions.
There was exactly one-glass worth of Bob's white wine left. Since I do not often drink wine, and when I do, I prefer a room temp red, I offered the rest of the wine to Katherine. She accepted. I am grateful to Bob that I was able to offer that lovely accompaniment to dinner.
Catherine plugged in her phone to charge.
The sentence above may seem random and unnecessary. It is not. The detail above will show up later. Trust me. More shall be revealed. We sat down to feast.
We had just finished eating when my phone alarm chimed that it was time to get ready to join the online meditation group that I am part of. We put away the food, turned on my laptop, and sat side-by-side facing the screen.
We faced a small group. I imagine that being Christmas day, many in our regular group had other plans. James (Catherine's dad) had made other plans.
Even though James was not able to join, Catherine told the group that she felt like she was with family. Hearing her say that made my whole day deeply meaningful. I felt very happy. The two of us were very smiley.
Since it was 21:00 (9 pm) when the meditation group ended, and Katherine needed to catch the last available bus home, we immediately cleaned up and got ready to go.
Actually, Katherine did most of the cleaning. While I tended to Pina, Catherine washed all the dishes. I did not even realize she was washing dishes until she was just finishing with the last dish. She is quick.
I did not mention that Katherine and Pina got along famously. Pina cuddled right up to Catherine, and Catherine cuddled Pina right back. It was one more thread of sweetness in the tapestry that was Catherine's visit.
Catherine and I walked briskly to the bus station. Walking briskly was yet another joyful thread.
After we parted, I went for a longer stroll, to Buġibba and back through St. Paul's Bay. I walked as far north as I could walk along the waterfront, which was not too far, and then home to Pina.
When I got home, Catherine texted that she had left her phone charger. She asked if I could bring it with me when we met the next day. I felt fairly ecstatic. We had loosely made plans to meet, so I was thrilled to solidify another play date with this absolutely lovely young woman.
See, that little detail was big.
On Tuesday afternoon, I met Catherine. First, I gave her her phone charger. Number one is not forgetting again the thing you forgot in the first place. Second, we made plans. We decided to spend the day in Valetta, the capitol of Malta.
The Christmas Market amusement park was full of people. As day turned to night, the lights came on. The rides were running. It was AWESOME.
First, while the sky was light, we took a horse and buggy ride.
The driver and his horse (Rocky) toured us around Valetta. They let us off near the old hospital, where the "Malta Experience" was showing. This was something I wanted to see, but we were too late to see it today. Our driver (and Rocky) said they would wait for us while we went off to explore.
We were also near the Siege Bell Memorial. I had been to this area with Serra, but we did not have time to explore. I did take a video (below) of an informational picture, naming what we were seeing, and where I had hoped to come back to.
There was something about this area that pulled me in. Something here that wanted to be seen. Catherine was so willing to follow my lead, I was able to take the time to explore further.
The plaque on the picture (above) reads:
"At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
we will remember them."
There was a plaque on the Siege Bell Memorial that read:
"This memorial for the
siege of Malta was designed
by Michael Sandle R. A.
who also sculpted the
recumbent figure which
represents all who died
in this conflict."
I read further that "all who died in this conflict" were the over 7,000 service personnel and civilians of the area.
The massive size of both sculptures match the massive loss experienced by the Maltese at that time.
Even though this happened long before I was born, and I do not share blood or history with these people, my heart felt an enormous swelling, standing there. I feel deep compassion just writing about it now.
As the sun started to sink in the sky, we walked back up to where our rider and Rocky were waiting.
We were delivered back at the Christmas Market. Catherine and I decided to purchase and then eat Indian food on the Ferris Wheel. We purchased tickets for the "Big Wheel" (aka: "Ferris Wheel" in the USA).
I ordered Mr. Vindaloo's onion bhaji and we each ordered a boxed dinner. Mr. Vindaloo remembered me. That was cool.
I ate most of the onion bhaji and Catherine ate half her boxed dinner while we stood in the very long Big Wheel line. When we got onto the Ferris Wheel we ate the rest of our meals while going three (or was it four) times round and round and round (and round).
Catherine said that she had never been on a Ferris Wheel... and liked it.. a lot.
She also had not been on a merry-go-round. It was feeling mighty cool in the night air. We decided to order up hot spiced wine (for Catherine) and cappuccino (for me) and take that onto the merry-go-round.
Honestly, it could not have been a more enjoyable day. The tapestry that was Catherine was warm and comfortable. I am grateful for our time together.
The next day, Wednesday, would be a whole new adventure. My friend-I-hadn't-met-yet Liza would arrive from Sofia, Bulgaria.
Next post: Much t-ado in Malta: Part Four (the finale)