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BITS ‘N’ PIECES

US
By SG
Fri, 04, 19

According to traditions, Arancino is a local snack offered to hungry guests in Sicily.......

A gender fight over an Italian dish

According to traditions, Arancino is a local snack offered to hungry guests in Sicily. Praised for its unique texture - crunchy on the outside and soft and savoury on the inside - and its message of solidarity, this iconic Sicilian dish has been a surprising source of conflict within the island.

One of the biggest reasons behind the fame of this street food - normally served at bars or sidewalk food stalls, simply wrapped in a napkin to take away - is the huge gender dilemma it’s been posing on Sicilians for decades. While those living on the eastern side of the island use the masculine name of arancino (arancini when plural), residents of the western side advocate for the feminine form, arancina (arancine when plural), when referring to the fried delicacy.

The fried shell, golden and round, makes it look like a sour orange - a citrus imported by the Arabs between the 9th and 11th Centuries - which in the Sicilian dialect takes the name of arˆnciu (as masculine nouns typically end in ‘u’ in the Sicilian dialect), hence the name arancinu (small, sour orange). The name was later ‘Italianised’ to ‘arancino’ after Italy conquered Sicily. When Portuguese merchants arrived to the port of Palermo in 1486, they brought sweet oranges, called laranja. Because they wanted the arancinu to remind of the nicer flavour of this new kind of orange, citizens of Palermo and the surrounding areas changed the name from arancinu to the feminine arancina. That linguistic change, however, never occurred on the eastern side of the island.

This didn’t seem to bother anyone at the time. However, with the birth of social media and Italy’s increasing concerns over gender theory and linguistic clarity and the differences between masculine and feminine, the divide became so critical that it even required an intervention by Accademia della Crusca, Italy’s highest institution for the regulation of language.

The current uproar has also affected Sicilian businesses serving the dish to locals and tourists alike.

Facebook’s greatest weapon

Facebook makes us miserable by inducing us to constantly engage in me-versus-you interactions. Facebook is really just the digital version of a facebook, a printed book with everyone’s headshot and a brief bio - where they came from, went to school and what their hobbies are - given to students at prestigious colleges and universities.

What we really do is perform social comparisons. After doing this, we placed everyone on a pecking order based on prejudicial judgments made according to the few superficial attributes that were in the facebook - a face, a smile, a name. And so, induced to perform them, we were projecting our fears, shortcomings and inadequacies.

And that lets us answer the question: why do people compulsively use a thing like Facebook which makes them miserable? They use it because they’ve become addicted to social comparison. But the fix that once produced a glorious high, now only produces a sense of dull relief that barely lasts a few seconds - after which there is deflation and despair.

The problem is when it becomes something that’s always a click away, not just with a class of dozens, but with pretty much the whole world.

Just as junk food puts our taste buds into overdrive, so too Facebook puts our social needs into overdrive, making us compulsive, obsessive and self-destructive.

Compiled by SG