Friday, 7 September 2018

when life gives you lemons

Derived ultimately from the Arabic word for swindler, mafioso did not necessarily carry the negative connotations on the island of Sicily where it took on the qualities of swagger and fearlessness and the mafia itself arose, as presented quite fascinatingly by Æon Magazine, due at least in part to the success of another Arabic transplant, the lemon.
The unification of Italy (previously Sicily was ruled by a Bourbon dynasty and the residents of the island probably viewed the mainland as just another in a long succession of colonial powers) intersected with the medical insight that citrus would prevent scurvy in sailors on long ocean voyages and translated to a huge windfall for those who kept orchards on the island. More and more groves were planted to keep up with demand and in order to prevent loss of the valuable fruit through theft, guards were employed to supplement the unreliable or non-existent defence that local police or the courts could provide. Eventually such protection, merited or otherwise, became customary with a growing cut of the proceeds going to wardens who had established themselves as fixtures of the marketplace and de facto authority.