Arancina is female! About a war for the gender of the most famous rice ball of the world.

Sicilian language arancini arancina

Se vuoi leggerlo in ITALIANO ecco qui.

Sicily is not a quiet island. There are volcanos, earthquakes and…sicilians who argue. In particular the sicilians of western side and the sicilians of eastern one. Palermo is in the vanguard of West and Catania and Messina “command” the East. The disputes are about soccer (clearly), culture and food, even the food’s names. Sicilians are able to fight for a vowel, litterally. Above all they fight about the gender of the most famous rice ball in the world, the arancinA (female name)/arancinO (male name)…from centuries.

In Italy the male names often end with O in the singular and with I in the plural, whereas the female names end with A (singular) and E (plural) in most cases.

Some years ago, to increase my books collection without tears, I printed the tales written by the most famous living sicilian writer Andrea Camilleri “Gli arancini di Montalbano“, free downloaded, printed and stapled decently to not lose three or four diopters and because I don’t like these fake books made by bites and one of these tales is “Gli arancini di Montalbano” indeed.

The story is set during the days near the end of year and the police commissioner Salvo Montalbano reject the invite of his girlfriend Livia to celebrate the last day of the year in France. Salvo is a food lover and a fine expert of sicilian cooking and he wants to stay at home and eat the “arancini” made by his “cammaréra“, maid, Adelina, the mother of two previous offenders, two petty criminals, arrested once no and twice yes by Salvo. One of them is arrested exactly during those days and Salvo tries to help him not for altruism but to eat the arancini.

But the matter about which I wanted to talk wasn’t this. The matter is that every time I thought the title those arancinI drove me mad, with that “I” strident like a nail on the board. How can that happen? This writer is very famous in Italy and his peculiarities are the acuity and writing in sicilian dialect! He writes “vruoccoli” (broccoli) and “vastasi” (rude), so why does he write “arancini”?, arancini is an italian word! it’s a typical sicilian recipe and the correct name is arancinE, female, and not arancinI, male. In that time I thought that and saw that title like a treason, because even I didn’t know about the “ Great War of Arancine“.

But some time after I ‘knew’ Fabbro. I put it between quotes because I talk with Fabbro from 5 years and I never shook his hand. We talk talk talk and talk on Facebook, I from Trapani and he from Messina, I tell him my whimperings and he tells me his bad lucks and we have never meet yet, we don’t want to run the risk of realizing finally that we are two nuisances and decide to not talk anymore. With Fabbro, at least once a year, on the day of Saint Lucia (in western Sicily, Trapani and Palermo, we use to eat fried rice balls and cuccìa, made with wheat, because we cannot eat pasta and bread on that day but, in reality, it’s just the perfect excuse to stuff ourself of prohibited fried food full of millions of calories), I argue because of these blessed arancine. That he calls arancinI. But I call arancinE. But he insists on calling them with the I / O (such as donkeys I would say 😀 ).

In this way I discovered that arancinI isn’t only an italian word but also a sicilian word!

On this question, the gender of rice balls, there is a real war in the island, because Palermo, Trapani and western area of Agrigento call them arancine, with the female name, because they are like small oranges, and in italian orange is “arancia/arance” (female names with A/E in italian language, do you remember?), the eastern part of the island calls these balls arancinI, because in Sicilian dialect orange is (also) ‘aranciu’, arancio, male. This would be wrong in italian language because the male names indicate the tree and not the fruit but in sicilian dialect there isn’t this difference and also the fruit would be male. So, why in italian are these balls called arancini, isn’t it wrong? No, because it’s the directly adaptation from the dialect, but losting the starting concept, it’s like a little orange! Recapitulating : Western Sicily arancine, Italy and Eastern Sicily arancini… only that they make a pyramid, not a ball, in honor of the volcano Etna (and because you can eat them while they open in a more manageable and decent way). Right here the first controversy by Occidentals could be: assuming that the correct name should be masculine because orange is aranciu in dialect, when you make it like a cone, the orange goes to hell, no? Call it Vulcanello (little volcano)! I’m confusing too, imagine the confusion there is in Sicily!

On this subject you find blogs, articles, comments and thousands of “sciarre“, quarrels, because if you decline it in the masculine in Palermo, palermitans are offended (and I attack with a feminist conference that never ends on the matter of the female orange and the shape and golden breading and blabla too) and the historic rivalry between the sicilian capital and the eastern Sicily takes off and continues beyond the scoop of rice.

Unfortunately, the authorship of antediluvian recipe of this milestone of sicilian cooking is unknown, we can’t solve the issue of copyright and hence there is the problem that the inventor is not one but many. The recipe was begun by the Arabs before A.D. 1000 or better once upon a time the emir of Syracuse Ibn at Timnah for which they created the rice timbale seasoned with saffron and enriched with herbs and meat to carry it around during the hunting and then Federico II, another glutton sovereign, came and his court ordered to prepare the timbale with the brilliant fried breading that prevents the breaking of the ball (the right size is that of tennis ball, unless you go to the bar Touring in Palermo where they make arancine “bomb”) and allowed a better preservation during trips around the island. When in the second half of 19th century there was the spread of tomato in the cooking, the sicilian gluttons were definitively ruined and the monsù (from french “Monsieur”), the French chefs serving the Sicilian nobles, to rice and saffron added the sauce with the meat, exactly in the middle, and made the rice ball with surprise, the arancina.

In Sicily there are the classic ones with meat sauce or with butter and ham, typical at Trapani and Palermo, at Messina with pistachios and then also in thousand thousands variants, at Trapani I found that one with seafood and, wandering from town to town, with the boar, with broccoli and salmon. There are also those stuffed of Nutella and covered with sugar and some people think that once the original version of them for Saint Lucia was sweet, but today they are considered a heresy and simply inedible.

Perhaps it would be more correct to call them with I because the name is in dialect, but I have trained all my friends of the continent to use the female version because it is a small orange and who cares if the orange in dialect is an aranciu. Because eating an arancina is a voluptuous experience, it’s warm and round, squeaks when you bite it, that feeling that gives you is a little shock to the senses, with the sense of smell, with tongue and thought you get to that fragrant rice with saffron, pasted with starch but with distinct grains, and then arrive to filling, in an almost orgasmic satisfaction that continues in subsequent bites, where stuffing, rice and breading remain separate but in the same mouthful and there aren’t many dishes that give you an alike satisfaction. Do you want to call this magnificence with a male name? It’s hard.

At the end I like the female arancina, maybe, probably, is the habit but I like that fuller and langer sound that ends with A, that we italians pronounce with the open mouth, as we had to show the throat to the doctor, arancina reminds me of the fullness and the softness of woman, her body, her breasts, I can’t called it in another way, the “womanliness” becomes it more.

I don’t know how you should call it for not being lynched on the public way, certainly if you take the field to discuss it you become old and won’t solve the centenary question but in the end the most important thing is eating and enjoying it, maybe if you have time you can do it, in the variations that you prefer, as the famous Adelina did, who uses a different recipe here, perhaps because she’s from Agrigento, I tried to translate it from sicilian dialect:

“Adelina spent two days to prepare them. She knew, from memory, the recipe. The day before you make an “aggrassato”, a stew, of beef and pork in equal parts, that must cook in a slow fire for hours and hours with onion, tomatoes, celery, parsley and basil. The next day you prepare a risotto, what they call “alla milanese” (without saffron, for Heaven’s sake!), it is poured on top of a table, knead with the eggs and let cool. Meanwhile you cook peas, make a sauce, reduce in small pieces some slices of salami and make a whole, grinded by mezzaluna knife (no blender, please). The sauce with meat is blended with risotto. At this point you take some risotto, set it in the palm of a hand made like a bowl and put in spoonful of compost and cover it with other rice to form a nice ball. Each ball rolls in flour, then it’s passed into the albumen and bread crumb. After, all arancini are fried in a pot full of hot oil until they change color, like old gold. They let drain on paper. And in the end, thanking God, you eat.” AMEN.

If you want to correct my English (please, be kind because I’m a sensitive person and I’m learning) or suggest something, you can write to fioredinespula@gmail.com
If you want to sleep in Belveliero you can write here bebilveliero@gmail.com (write FIORE in the email 😉 )
If you prefer to sleep in Granveliero and partecipate to cooking workshops write to granveliero@gmail.com

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