Friday, April 17, 2009

Bandora's box

Annia, who's writing a memoir about food and war, sent me this (I quote with her permission):

"It's from Clifford Wright's "Mediterranean Feast." The legend is that in 1282, when the French ruled Sicily, a group of French soldiers disrupted a Sicilian Easter celebration, harassing the Sicilian women and "molesting" one of them. (The background is that the French were commandeering food from Sicilian peasants for their impending attack on Constantinople, while the Aragonians and the Byzantines were both trying to stir up popular revolts against them.) Within minutes, writes Wright, all the French soldiers were dead. Soon the uprising spread to monasteries and convents, and "foreign friars" were required to say the word ciciri, Sicilian for chickpea, a word that French people supposedly could not pronounce. Those who could not say the word were killed.
--paraphrased from p. 495, Mediterranean Feast, cites Steven Runciman's The Sicilian Vespers: A History of the Mediterranean World in the Later 13th Century."

This came about because during a recent discussion we remembered that, in the early years of the Lebanese Civil War in the 1970's, there was a joke (in poor taste) circulating in Lebanon about how the Kataeb (and their allies) used to stop cars on their check points looking for Palestinians and that they would recognize them by showing them a tomato and asking them to name the fruit. The Lebanese say "Banadoura" while the Palestinians say "Bandora". Those who pronounced wrong were pureed.


Daniel said...

This still lives on in my ma7al al khudra....I was told last week that the Israelis at checkpoints in Palestine do the same thing, though it struck me a bit strange in terms of what non-Palestinians would be doing in occupied Palestine, or why the Israelis would be trying to suss them out. Now it makes sense on a purely "urban legend" level! At least once a week the subject of the pronunciation of "banadoura" comes up; I can report that the Palestinian pronunciation is preferred to the more flowery Lebanese pronunciation.

Helena Cobban said...

Rami, it wasn't a 'joke'. It happened. So I find your reference to "pureed" really upsetting.

Obama's Ear said...

Rami, you sound more like The Angry Arab when using humor like "pureed". That is a good thing.