Sicilian cuisine

In Sicily, Italy, there is a famous snack called “Arancini”, which is a local delicacy. Green peas, cheese, mushrooms and meat and other fillings are wrapped in rice balls. It is fried, so it is also called fried rice balls.

Sicily’s deep-fried rice balls are famous for not only their unique texture – crunchy on the outside, soft and delicious on the inside – but also for a surprising reason: the gender issue of the delicacy’s name has long been a problem among locals debate.

“Arancini” is sold in Sicilian street eateries, bars and sidewalk food stands, wrapped in napkins and ready to go. The gender of its name has plagued Sicilian people for decades. Residents living in eastern Sicily, when talking about this food, generally think that it should be called arancino by the masculine name, and the plural form is arancini; while living in western Sicily The inhabitants of the city advocated using the feminine name to call it arancina, with the plural arancine. The incident sparked a heated debate. Even important Italians like fashion designer Chiara Farragoni are inevitably blamed for preferring one gender.

Gaetano Basile, an expert on Sicilian gastronomy, said: “This debate is a competition between the two main cities of Sicily – Catania in the east and Palermo in the west. The gourmet name debate serves as a battleground for cultural supremacy on the island.”

After frying, the rice balls are golden and round, and look like a lime (a citrus imported to Sicily by the Arabs between the 9th and 11th centuries), Basil said. In the Sicilian dialect, the name of this snack is aranciu (since in Sicilian dialect masculine nouns usually end in “u”), hence the name “arancinu” (meaning little lime). After the Italians conquered Sicily, the name of the snack was also Italianized to “arancino” (Arancino).

Basil explains: “In 1486, Portuguese traders came to the port of Palermo with sweet oranges called laranja. Because the locals thought this delicious new orange was a feminine name ending in a (usually ending in a) The noun is feminine), so the inhabitants of Palermo and surrounding areas in western Sicily changed the name of fried rice balls from arancinu to feminine arancina (Arancina). However, fried rice balls in eastern Sicily did not happen This language change.”

Since then, there has been a divergence between fried rice balls in eastern and western Sicily, which look similar but are fundamentally different. “The fried rice balls in Palermo in the west kept the original round shape, and saffron was added to the rice to preserve the Arabian flavor; the fried rice balls in Catania in the east evolved into a conical shape to represent the Mount Etna in the east.”

In the 15th century, Spanish rulers introduced tomatoes to Sicily. According to Basile, it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that people in eastern and western Sicily began to add tomato puree to the original recipes that emerged under the medieval Arabs. In this way, the fried rice balls in the east and west are more similar again. In 1861, Italy became a nation-state, incorporating the Mediterranean island of Sicily. At this time, fried rice balls “Arancino” and “Arancina” officially became the representative food of southern Italy, while maintaining the gender difference in language, Basile explained.

At the time, that didn’t seem like a problem. However, as the Italian magazine Inter reports, with the birth of social media, coupled with Italians’ growing concern with noun gender theory and language clarity, and the difference between masculine and feminine, this has become the “Sicilian” The reason people argue”. The divide has become so severe that it even requires the intervention of Italy’s top language governing body, the Florentine Society of Chimpanzees.

In January 2016, the Arancino Society published a special report on the Arancino-Alancina dispute, choosing a politically correct solution. The report claims that both names are correct, but the feminine name is slightly more correct, as fruit is usually feminine in Italian.

Ms. Stefania Iannizzoto, the language consultant responsible for researching and publishing the report, said the Society had received, and has been receiving, many letters and emails seeking solutions to Arancino and Aranci. Argument between Na. “As the only Sicilian working in the Sicilian Institute, I was assigned to deal with this issue. I was concerned that my position was not neutral enough, and it was a very responsible task,” she explained.

Ianizotto is from the town of Ragusa in southeastern Sicily, the only place in the southeastern region that uses the feminine name for fried rice balls. After high school, she moved to Catania in the east. So no matter which side she was on, it meant either being reprimanded by her family or ridiculed by Catania’s friends.

“It started as an internal joke, but social networks turned it into a fight. This battle of name gender will never end,” Iannizzoto said wearily.

The involvement of the Chakra Society did not quell the debate. On the contrary, it even intensified the debate. “As soon as the report was published, it received a lot of media attention,” Ianizotto said. “Every time I see an interview posted on the social networking site Facebook, I always find some hateful comments saying I shouldn’t try to settle the argument. ”

In May 2018, Iannizzoto was invited to speak at the Catania Street Food Festival. The food festival has many cooking classes and free appetizers, and she thinks the language workshop on the yin and yang issues of fried rice balls is probably the most boring part of the food festival event. “It was raining that day, and at first I thought there wouldn’t be a lot of people coming, but there were dozens of participants, and it made me realize there’s a lot of interest in learning to use the correct terminology,” she said.

The current debate over the yin and yang of the name of fried rice balls has also affected the catering industry in Sicily that offers the snack. In Catania’s historic city center, there is a restaurant called Savia, where customers usually say “Arancino” when they order fried rice balls, but the negative word “Alancina” is used here. name. Those who say the name of fried rice balls as “Arancino” are mainly local residents who agree and affirm this statement. Established in 1897, this well-known Savian restaurant began serving these fried rice balls in the 1970s. Claudio Lombardo, the fourth-generation owner of the restaurant, whose grandfather shared Palermo’s views, believed that Arancina was shaped like a sweet orange and therefore had to be called by a feminine name.

“As far as I know, our restaurant is the only trattoria in Catania that calls this snack ‘Alancina’,” Lombardo said. “It was never noticed because when customers ordered the snack under the name ‘Arancino’, we never corrected it. Then people started blogging about it on social media… …The problem started from there.”

Lombardo recalled that after local residents learned on the social networking site Facebook that the name of the “inappropriate” fried rice balls was being used in Savia’s restaurant, he began to receive all kinds of abuse, curses and even boycotts and death threats.

Lombardo said: “To avoid controversy, in the summer of 2019, we decided to change the name of the fried rice balls used in our shop to ‘arancinu’ (original name in Sicilian). It didn’t close, and the employees continued to work here.” However, Lombardo explained that despite the name change, he would never change his mind about the true gender of the fried rice balls. “There is no doubt that, like all beautiful things, it is feminine.”

Locals made other attempts to quell the debate, such as using gender-neutral terms, including “arancin*” (arancin*) or “arancin@” (arancin@), and avoiding any masculine or feminine names. to promote inclusivity and acceptance in food culture to help resolve this no longer needed struggle.

Andrea Graziano, founder of Fud Bottega Sicula, a restaurant dedicated to spreading Sicily’s new culinary culture, used an eclectic approach at his restaurants in Palermo and Catania: if customers ordered For the snack of fried rice balls, the restaurant will serve two round arancina and two conical arancino on one plate. “I don’t care about this debate, and I’ve never taken it seriously,” Graziano said. “But I hope my compromise solution will put an end to this ridiculous debate.”

Since the gender battle over the names of Sicily’s most popular tapas seems to only bother local customers, Lombardo’s approach is to focus on foreign tourists who are only interested in enjoying the food, not the food is the name correct.

Lombardo advises: “As long as the fried rice ball tastes good, don’t be distracted by useless arguments and just enjoy the taste.”

Argued or not, one thing is for sure: fried rice balls are a snack that will continue to convey enthusiasm for locals and a welcome message for tourists.