The Deli Shop

I like the way some young kids love to play shop; and it is funny how they hardly ever say 'Let's play supermarkets!

Some kids have never been inside a small old-fashioned grocer, and yet their imaginations tell them to set up a counter, sell goods on one side, and buy them on the other side. It's so deep within us that science might discover a gene for it.Supermarket owners insist that they only give us what we want - though nobody I have ever met actually enjoys shopping in a supermarket. I suppose that we want, or think we want, is cheap food. As someone who tries to avoid going and shop from a supermarket, I think differently.

I look for the little grocery shops and vegetable vendors and it is a different story to when it comes to meat because I am lucky enough that I know some butcher and most of them breed and raise their own cows, chickens and pigs. I realized I look for places where I would like to do my own shopping. Places that are little island in the sea of corporate retailing.

One of as the Italians say ‘a sognio nel cassetto’ (a lifetime dream), that I have is to open a Continental deli preferably on the ground floor of some old property, close to some open markets, the old markets which rumble into life every morning at 4am. Even my close friends said 'Why do you keep thinking of a such place?' The answer to the question is love. I love the neglected buildings and the way people use to buy their daily needs. I want a place where I would like to do my own shopping. A place selling fabulous food in a beautiful building. A place that is a little island in the sea of corporate retailing. I keep thinking about how great it would be to buy fresh cheese and homemade tomato sauce and organic vegetables and fresh meat all from one place on your way home to make the perfect supper.I’m passionate about flavor and quality; I wish I was able to sell products from small co-operatives or family-run firms. I will definitely also leave a shelf for the Pierre Marcollini chocolates, which I believe they are the finest in the world. One chocolate will cost you about the same as a king size Mars Bar, but it doesn't contain 600 calories, transfats and glucose syrup. I believe that we are eating too much and we are paying too much for our food which looks and taste like plastic.

My philosophy is to eat modestly and buy the best you can afford. In our crazy world a chicken costs less than a cinema ticket. Our obsession with cheap food has destabilized farming throughout the world, polluted our soils, driven small producers and small shops into the ground, allowed the supermarkets to monopolise our lives and made us fat. Look at any shopping trolley; it is stacked with convenience foods, processed foods, crisps, biscuits, bloated bread, cheese that tastes like soap and meat that has been reared in conditions that would make you be sick. Factory farming and factory food is disgusting. No wonder it has to be plastic-wrapped and disguised with every kind of flavouring and E-number

Real food has taste, and it is good for you and good for the planet. Of course, it means cooking, but how much better to sit down to a proper meal with family and friends, than to microwave a tray of rubber pasta in fake tomato sauce. Life is too short to eat badly. A bit of planning ahead makes it possible to eat well even when we are at work all day. A slow cooker will casserole your chicken for you or simmer your hearty vegetable stew. I make stacks of my own fishcakes and freeze them. Sauces for pasta can be stored in the fridge for up to five days. Nothing is faster than an omelette and salad, or Eggs Benedict on toast. Fillet steak, fresh spinach and grilled tomatoes can be on the plate in fifteen minutes. Sunday beef can become Monday beef curry, with fresh ginger, garlic, chilli, onions and spices, in the time it takes to cook the brown basmati - yes, twenty minutes. The rice cooks while you prepare the rest, enjoying a drink, listening to the radio, and winding down at the end of the day Convenience food is a rip-off. Fast food is a lie. We need pleasure in our lives, and one of life's true pleasures is real food. What's the big hurry to slump in front of the TV with a plate of factory gloop? Set the table, take the time, and enjoy your food. Such a shop (if it will ever happen) is not going to worry Sisa or Conad, and it won't change the eating habits of the Maltese, though I'd like to try. What I wish to do is to use the opportunities available to me to make a difference, however small, and to put my money where my mouth is.

Anyway, when I walk down my street at night and I keep imagining people talking about home-made pumpkin pasta and hand-made Parmesan, I know I am not crazy; There is more to life than living it as quickly and as cheaply as possible. To me, that's not living life at all

We can either spend our time thinking about what we don't have, feeling empty and bitter over some imagined contentment lost... or we can become quietly aware of what we already and find there, within our Self, what is overflowing, full of Light, and beyond the reach of any dark thought

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