Western eyes: (10) Bite after Bite: folklore, history and food in celebrating traditional festival


Chinese Portal  This Saturday, 20th of June China is getting ready to celebrate the “Dragon boat” festival. This festival is traditionally associated with the celebration of China's famous poet Qu Yuan who killed himself by drowning in the river. Indeed, the traditional boat competition held during this festival symbolize the attempt of Qu Yuan's rescuers to save his life. But apart from this competition, what Chinese people really are waiting for is to grab a bite of the traditional Chinese dumpling called “Zongzi” (a glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves or reed leaves).

As a matter of fact, the Dragon boat festival represents the perfect combination between food and folklore supporting the general believe that food makes everything better. And this is something that Italian people know best. Every year throughout Italy there are thousands of festivals and events celebrating the local folklore fostering excitement and happiness with the perspective of having a taste for the local dishes. While to trace a map of all these events will require the space of an encyclopedia, our focus will be on two of the major events occurring in Bologna. Beautiful medieval city, homeland of the first European university and extraordinary example of the Italian food tradition, Bologna is collocated in the North-center part of Italy where it hosts every year the Fira di Sdaz (Sieve fair) in Pontevecchio and the Historical Masquerade in San Giovanni in Persiceto.

Fira di Sdaz (Sieve fair) in Pontevecchio

According to historical records, the Pontevecchio's Sieve Fair took its name from the largest sieve fair of San Lazzaro and it was officially established in 1673. The fair is held around the beautiful Rossi's palace, a great example of medieval architecture, local culture and rural life in Bologna during the Middle Age. The fair originally represented a great opportunity for farmers to show their products, sell their animals and enjoy music and other type of entertainments. Today, it still represents the celebration of Bologna's local culture, food and traditional roots. But for many citizen of Bologna as I am, it more importantly represents the unique opportunity to have a bite of the delicious traditional Borlenghi – a sort of pancake made with flour and water and filled up with minced meat and parmesan cheese.

Historical Masquerade in San Giovanni in Persiceto

Masquerade is an event that run all over Italy during February. But what is special about San Giovanni in Persiceto's one is its traditional performance called “Spillo.” The “Spillo” is a term taken from Bologna dialect and originally referring to the water gush and the act of transforming. Contrary to other masquerades' parade, the Spillo signs in the San Giovanni's one the moment in which the float “unveil” itself. As soon as the float reaches the city centre, the performance starts. In a perfect combination of stage effects and theatrical performances, the float unveils its true aspects while disclosing its allegorical meaning. But since “you should also please your stomach”, the masquerade has as well its own “looking-forward-to-eat” traditional delicious dish. A deep-fried sweet pastry served with icing sugar, the “sfrappola” is the protagonist of masquerades longed for by both adults and children.