An online fight over whether the chicken parmigiana should be considered a dish of Australian, Italian or American origin has been ongoing for years.
Wikipedia editors have been discussing whether the website entry for the beloved dish has been too slanted towards Australia, with some saying the parmigiana’s roots in Italy should be highlighted more.
Others say the dish should be traced back to Italian immigrants to the US.
“(In my opinion) someone seems to have an agenda to claim the dish as Australian, when the majority of sources state the dish is Italian-American in origin,” one Wikipedia editor wrote on a discussion page in 2015, going on to call “BS” on another editor’s argument.
By that time, the discussion had gone on for over a year.
Anyone can post an entry to Wikipedia, and the information on the site is edited by volunteers who use a set of internal rules to decide how articles should be worded and sourced.
Often, even small changes to Wikipedia articles spark heated debates in discussion pages at the site’s back end, where those engaged in improving the online encyclopedia argue their case.
The entry for chicken parmigiana was last edited three days ago, and the discussion page for the dish has hosted a lively debate that has continued in the past few years.
So who is right? Food historians say it depends on what you mean when you say chicken parmigiana.
The dish many Australians know and love – a crumbed chicken breast topped with melted cheese, tomato sauce and sometimes ham, served with chips and salad – only achieved its status as a pub classic in the 1980s, according to food historian Jan O’Connell.
As the name suggests, it’s a take on a dish that originated in Italy, although that version typically didn’t use chicken.
Back in the old country, the delicacy originated as an eggplant dish in the 17th and 18th centuries.
“You won‘t find chicken parmigiana in any Italian cookbook,” Ms O’Connell told ABC Radio in 2019.
The American version, which is often served on spaghetti or on a sandwich, was introduced there by Italian immigrants in the early 1900.