Archive for June, 2019

Yak Shaving, part 2: Wikidata, Busiati col Pesto Trapanese, and Other Slow Food

Some time ago I celebrated a birthday in an Italian restaurant in Haifa, and I saw a pack of pasta of a curious shape on a shelf there. I asked whether they serve it or sell it.

“No”, they told me, “it’s just a display”.

This answer didn’t satisfy me.

I added the pasta’s name, Busiate, to my shopping list.

I searched for it in a bunch of stores. No luck.

I googled for it and found an Israeli importer of this pasta. But that importer only sell in bulk, in crates of at least 12 items. That’s too much.

And of course, I searched Wikipedia, too. There’s an article about Busiate in the English Wikipedia. There also an article about this pasta in Arabic and in Japanese, but curiously, there’s no article about it in the Wikipedia in the Italian language, nor in the Sicilian language, given that this type of pasta is Sicilian.

So I… did a few things about it.

I Improved the article about Busiate in the English Wikipedia: cleaned up references, cleaned up formatting, and updated the links to references.

I also improved the references and the formatting to the article about Pesto alla trapanese, the sauce with which this pasta is traditionally served.

I also cleaned up the Wikidata items associated with the two articles above: Q48852218 (busiate) and Q3900766 (pesto alla trapanese).

I also translated all the names of the Wikidata properties that are used on these items to Hebrew. I usually do this when I do something with any Wikidata item: I only need to translate these property names once, and after that all the people who use Wikidata in Hebrew will see items in which these properties are used in Hebrew. There are more than 6000 properties, and the number is constantly growing, so it’s difficult to have everything translated, but every little translation makes the experience more completely translated for everyone.

I added references to the Wikidata item about the sauce. Wikidata must have references, too, and not only Wikipedia. I am not enthusiastic about adding random recipe sites that I googled up as references, but luckily, I have The Slow Food Dictionary of Italian Regional Cooking, which I bought in Italy, or more precisely in Esino Lario, where I went for the 2016 Wikimania conference.

Now, a book in Wikidata is not just a book. You need to create an item about the book, and another item about the edition of a book. And since I created those, I create Wikidata items for the dictionary’s original Italian author Paola Gho, for the English translator John Irving, and for the publishing house, Slow Food.

And here’s where it gets really nerdy: I added each of the sauce’s ingredients as values of the “has part” property, and added the dictionary as a reference for each entry. I initially thought that it’s overdone, but you know what?—When we’ll have robot cooks, as in the movie I, Robot, busiati col pesto trapanese will be one of the first things that they will know how to prepare. One of the main points of Wikidata is that it’s supposed to be easy to read for both people and machines.

And since I have a soft spot for regional languages, I also added the sauce’s Sicilian name under the “native label” property: pasta cull’àgghia. The aforementioned Slow Food Dictionary of Italian Regional Cooking actually does justice to the regional part in its title, and gives the names of the different food items in the various regional languages of Italy, so I could use it as a reliable source.

And I translated the Wikipedia article into Hebrew: בוזיאטה.

And I also created the “Sicilian cuisine” category in the Hebrew Wikipedia. A surprisingly large number of articles already existed, filed under “Italian cuisine”: Granita, Arancini, Cannoli, and a few others. Now they are organized under Sicilian cuisine. (I hope that some day Wikipedia categories will be managed more automatically with the help of Wikidata, so that I wouldn’t have to create them by hand.)

Finally, I found the particular issue of the Gazzetta Ufficiale of the Italian Republic, in which busiati col pesto trapanese was declared as a traditional agricultural food product, and I added that issue as a reference to the Wikidata item, as well.

And all of this yak shaving happened before I even tasted the damn thing!

So anyway, I couldn’t find this pasta anywhere, and I couldn’t by it from the importer’s website, but I wanted it really badly, so I called the importer on the phone.

They told me they don’t have any stores in Jerusalem that buy from them, but they suggested checking a butcher shop in Mevaseret Tsiyon, a suburb of Jerusalem. Pasta in a butcher shop… OK.

So I took a bus to Mevaseret, and voila: I found it there!

And I made Busiate, and I made the sauce! It’s delicious and totally worth the effort.

Of course, I could just eat it without editing Wikipedia and Wikidata on the way, but to me that would be boring.

My wife and my son loved it.

These are the busiate with pesto alla trapanese that I made at home. I uploaded this photo to Wikimedia Commons and added it to the English Wikipedia article as an illustration of how Busiate are prepared. I wonder what do Wikipedians from Sicily think of it.

There is a story behind every Wikipedia article, Wikidata item, and Commons image. Millions and millions of stories. I wrote mine—you should write yours!

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