My uncle and aunt ran a bakery in Żabbar. Their day started early before sunrise and aunt Berna drove around town in a white van delivering their freshly baked bread. I very much recall as a child being sent to our local bakery in Tarxien to buy bread. Wicked rascals such as my young self would dig out a hole in the soft core of the bread, annoying our mothers no end. It was also common for households that lacked an oven in the home to make use of the services of the bakery to cook their Sunday roast or their għaġin il-forn (oven baked pasta). This is from a short story by Carmen Debono in a book printed by Midsea Books - Top Ten Tales of Malta 1977.
The bakery was cosy and warm. There were long low trestle tables where people placed their dishes and were given metal tickets for receipts. Long muslin-like sheets covered the tables to keep the food clean until it was time to be put in the oven. There were about six women gossiping when I went in. One of them detached herself from the group and came forward to meet me. She wore a white overall and looked both brisk and efficient. So this one was the one in charge of this bakery, I thought. I was relieved as I had expected a man to be in charge. I was soon to change my mind, however, about her. She lifted the sheet on one of the tables and showed me where to place my dish. She then stopped an stared.
'You's better change that dish,' she said, 'as it will break in the oven.'
Very sure of myself, I said that it was oven-proof and there was no question of it breaking. The lady pursed her lips and looked at the other women, who had stopped talking in order to listen. I thought she was going to insist on my changing the dish but, instead, she took another look at the contents. I squirmed, thinking that I might have left an eye or two while peeling the potatoes. But no.
'You'd better add some liquid to the dish,' she added. 'This oven is hotter than the ones in home cookers, and things dry up quickly.'
Bakery in Valletta:
Old Theatre Street (the stretch between Merchants' Street and St Pauls' Street)