Street Vendors (“bejjiegħa tat-toroq”), earned their living by going from one village to another in good or bad weather. They had regular days for each village and housewives eagerly waited to buy or order what they required, as it was a great hassle for them to go on foot or on mules to other villages to purchase.
Village morning silences used to be broken by the peddler’s own particulate cry out announcing his wide range for sale, earthen-ware cooking pots (“borom ta’ Franza”), or enamel (“enemel”), goods for the kitchen, decoration for the house (“fajjenza”), food products and many other household needs.
They had a saying “calling out is half the sales“, (“l-għajta hija nofs il-bejgħ”).
Certain vendors even sold the products at reduced prices (“biegħ taħt il-prezz”), or on credit (“biegħ bil-krittu”), to help their costumers obtain their goods.
Men vendors carred their ware in many different ways – on their heads, shoulders, in cotton bays (“ħorġa tan-newl”), or in cane buckets. Pitchman pushed a small cart with collapsible legs to allow him to remove quickly.
Women vendors used a round turban (“kawwafa”), on their head to balance the heavy keg or hold their goods in bundles and women used old pushchairs to carry their goods.
Heavy loads where transported on big carts (“karrettuni”), pulled by donkeys or mules (“ħmir jew bgħula”). They tied the donkey or mule with a rope to the door clapper (“ħabbata”), or door- knob (“pum”), so that the animal will not move while dealing with the customer.
Gradually carts and donkeys where put at rest. The calling out of the pioneers vendor got mixed with the noise of the toting of vans and trucks in the busy streets.
Some regular Street Vendors in a village
A lady used to carry a heavy keg of capers (“kappar”), on her head with a round turban (“kawwara”), under to help here hold the balance.
She stood on the pavement crying out “Kejla capers, kejla capers, Żabbarija capers”, (“kejla kappar, kejla kappar, Żabbarija l-kappar”). She used to heap the Maltese measuring wooden cups “kejla” and half cup “nofs kejla”, with capers and set it on the buyer’s plate.
Another lady usually from Żabbar used to roam around, carrying a big keg full of back mulberry (“tut”), on her head and calling out “black mulberry, Żabbarija mulberry”, (“iswed it-tut, Żabbarija it-tut”). She filled the customer’s dip plates with fresh mulberries for few pennies “soldi”.
Another vendor sold household goods. This vendor came either with a cart or carrying heavy bundles (“sorriet”), and putting them on the pavement. He used to call out the householder who had small children or young ladies (“tfajliet”), to be married.
With great satisfaction the vendor showed the customers his goods; towels, sheets, baby diapers and other products. They knew that not all the families could pay for the goods, so she use to tell them “pay me when you can”, (“ħallesni meta tista”).
Some food vendors walked through the calling out “fritters, fritters”, (“sfineg, sfineg”), or “cheese cakes, warm and good”, (“pastizzi sħan u tajbin”), packed in a heavy cane baskets (“qfief”), held on their hip.
During the village feast days, sweet nougats vendors use to put up wooden decorated tables (“mwejjed tal-qubbajt”), in the square with a large display of various kinds and sizes of sweet nougat (“lanża qubajd”), raped in colourful silver paper (“karta tal-fidda”), together with the popular heart shape pastry decorated with icing (“ġelu”).
Each vendor had his own particular call out, “honey nougats”, (“qubbajt tal-għasel”), “very hard nougats” (“qubbajt tal-karamelli”), or “nougats, the man from Żebbuġ is here”, (“qubbajt, iż-Żebbuġi hawn”).
To encourage the people to buy from their stall, a young boy used to hold a saucer with some samples of the delicacy nougat and give to the people to taste.
Nougat vendors used to sleep near their stalls, to give an early start for the feast day, They tried to sell some nougats to the people after the morning mass and an elderly man used to roam around the streets with a large basket full of nougats calling loudly “sweet and good, Cikku’s noughts”, (“ħelu u tajjeb, ta’ Cikku il-qubbajt”).
Another vendor used to carry toiletry products on a small cart pulled by a donkey and called “soap for the bride”, (“sapun għall-għarajjes”). Young girls used to go out and buy perfume soap to keep between the cloths to get perfumed.
Particular vendors from Tunes, use to carry a big long knapsack made with weave cotton (“ħorġa”), on their shoulders with rose water (“ilma żahar”), Turk’s sweet (“ħelwa tat-Tork”), and Turkish delight (“lakumja”). Some of them sold colouful designed carpets which they carried on their shoulder or head.
Vegetable vendors (“tal-ħaxix”), had an early start to pack their carts (“karettuni”), with baskets (“mezzez”), full of fresh seasonal crops (“bejgħa”), potatoes, peas, onions, pumpkins, oranges, melons, figs, and many other seasonal products.
It was the parade of each vendor to have the crops well displayed. They got very angry if any customer (“xerrejja”), touched the fruit or other crops without asking.
Many vegetables came from their own fields and when the harvest was good they gave a piece of pumpkin or a small melon to their frequent buyers. Vendors were also generous with the poor or large families, they used to give them extra vegetables to make a good vegetable soup (“minestra”).
Fishermen from fishing villages like Marsaxlokk, Zurrieq, M’Scala or St Julian’s also came to sell their night fish catch in a flat cane basket (“kannestru”), full of fresh silver vogue “vopi”, covered with the smelling sea- weed “alka – Posidonia Oceanica”,
They carried the heavy cane basket on their head with a small turban (“kawwara”), under to hold the cane basket steady and carried a small two dish scale (“kfief”), putting the fish on one scale and Maltese weights on the other, one fourth of a rotolo “kwart”, half a rotolo “nofs sartal”, or rotolo (800gr), “ratal”.
As soon the fishmonger arrived in the village he started calling out “live vogue, fresh vogue”, (“ħajja il-vopi, vopi friska”). He always threw some small fish to the gathered announcing cats before the housewives rushed out with a plate to have the first choice of the big silvery fish. The vendor always put a fish or two more than the exact weight (“kalat”).
Even bakers (“tal-ħobż”), used to go around with big carts (“karrettuni”), with a mule pulling the huge lidded wooden box full of different kind of loaves. –
Bread made from a mixture of corn (“qamħ tal-maħlut”),
Brown bread, (“ħobż tal-oħxon”),
Marked on top with a knife (“tas-sikkina”),
Marked with a cross on top of the loaf (“tas-salib”),
Flat round bread (“ftira”),
Of the drawer (“tal-kexxun”), or beer bread (“ħobż tal-birra”).
Big loaf (“ħobża kbira”),
Small loaf (“ħobża zgħira”),
Next to the scale the bread the seller used to keep a big loaf, from which he cut small portions to get the right weight for the customers – rotolo “ratal”, half a rotolo “nofs sartal”, or one fourth of a rotolo “kwart”.
Bakers had the habit to give a small piece of bread (“loqma ħobż”), to the children who accompanied the adults while buying. The smell of the fresh bread was so good that children did not always resist not to bite or nibble the loaf, making a big hole in the centre until they arrived home.
The Paraffin Seller
Paraffin was carried in a big tank on cart (“karrettun”), puled by a donkey or a mule. When housewives heard the calling of “paraffin, paraffin”, (“trolju, trolju”), they made sure to take out the empty cans near their doors not to be missed.
The paraffin man fastened the rope steady to a door clapper (“ħabbata”), so that the mule will not move while pouring the kerosene with a funnel (“lembud”), into the empty gallon (“gallun”), cans.
Brood hen boxes
In spring time one could hear a particular vendor calling, “box for brood hen”, (“kaxxa għal-qroqqa”). People used to buy boxes and put some hay (“tiben”), with a clutch of eggs (“tagħqida bajd”), on which a hen sits for 21 days to hatch the eggs.
Housewives took great care of the brooding hen, the box was kept in a warm place, in the kitchen or under their bed until all the eggs were hatched.
The prickly urchins
The prickly urchins were carried on the hawker’s back in a large elongated cane basket (“qoffa”), calling “urchins, urchins” (“rizzi, rizzi”), and waited for the buyer (“xerrej”), to come out with a big dish.
The urchin seller (“bejjieħ tar-rizzi”), used to cut the urchin in half with a big knife on a block of wood to show the buyer that the urchin was full. They used to call the empty urchin monk (“patri”). Boys also used to sell limpet (“imħar”), for few cents.
The milkman (tal-halib) did not deliver his milk in bottles stored in a motor-driven van. Milk was sold by grazers who
took their stock in the streets to milk their sheep and goats in front of their customers.
The ice-cream man (“tal-ġelat”), roamed around the village with a cart of ice-cream or a colorful granitic containers (“bżieżen”), calling loudly “ice-cream, the ice-cream man is here”, (“ġelati, tal-ġelat hawn”).
Children ran out after the ice-cream man to get a scoop or two of his delicious flavours, strawberries, chocolate or vanilla ice-cream. Some children preferred coloured grated ice (“granita”), in a large paper cup.