If you happen to be staying in one of the many beautiful villas on the stunning island of Sicily and sit two locals down at a table – especially one from Palermo, and another from Catania – the talk of course will turn to food. You can also bet they will argue about the authenticity and the ingredients of the signature dishes of their respective regions.
Traditionally, Sicilians won’t compromise on food. In the kitchen it is either right or wrong. They will often only eat what they are used to, passionately devoted to their favourite dishes as cooked by their relatives and related to their home town – Sicilians are proud of their heritage, loyal to their regions and attached to their mothers.
Take a snack like rice balls for example. Not only will Sicilians disagree about their essential ingredients and their proper shape – depending on their region – they will even dispute their gender, which determines how their name is spelt and pronounced. Are they male or female? In Palermo these deceptively simple balls of saffron-flavoured rice moulded around tasty morsels of meat, peas and tomato ragù are considered to be feminine, so they are called arancina and two or more are arancine. But in Catania they are thought to be masculine, and so they are called arancino, and a pair or more are arancini.
What is the provocation? The cause could lie in Sicily’s ancient history of colonisation stretching back to the times when Carthaginians, Arabs and Normans conquered the western and northern coasts, making Palermo the capital; while Greeks colonised the east coast concentrating their city states on Catania and Syracuse in the south east. Only to be supplanted by the Romans who turned Toarmina into a party town – which it still is today.