Pasta And Miss Braithwaite

Think of pasta and you think of Italy; one is synonymous with the other, but is pasta Italian? There's no doubt that that the Italians are the modern masters of creating pasta, but where do its origins lie?

I was having these very thoughts as I untied yards of Spaghetti from around my neck (I love Spaghetti, but have not yet mastered the eating of it, at least not in public), so I decided to do a little research on the matter, and it turns out that there are a few myths surrounding our durum friend. It looks like Miss Braithwaite, my teacher from the distant past, had told me a few lies, and me at such a tender age hung on to her words without question Marco Polo, although being a first class explorer and thoroughly nice bloke, did not bring pasta back from China. To be fair to him, I don't think he ever tried to claim credit for its introduction, and I don't know how the rumour started. Maybe he once ate his shoelace for a bet; I don't know, but Miss Braithwaite swallowed it anyway (the rumour, not the shoelace).

As is the case with many aspects of life in Southern Europe, the Arabs have had a great influence and diet is no exception. During the 8th century, they invaded Sicily on many occasions, and realising that they were going to become a little peckish between raids, they brought along with them a kind of dried noodle which was the forerunner of modern pasta. Are you listening Miss Braithwaite? This first incarnation of pasta soon spread to the mainland, where the climate is perfect for cultivating durum wheat.

The 13th century housewife quickly discovered that dried pasta would allow her time to pop around to the neighbours for a glass of Chianti and a good moan, then get back home in time to throw a few of those bow-tie jobbies in a pan before the hubby arrived home, to hear how she had had a hell of a day. Dried pasta was also very useful for long sea voyages. Did you know that there are around 350 shapes of dried pasta available in Italy? That's just about a different shape for every day of the year, but I'm sticking to Spaghetti. Actually, it's sticking to me.

We all know that pasta and tomato go together likeā€¦ well, a bit like tomato and pasta, but this hasn't always been the case. It wasn't until the 19th century that the two came together. Tomatoes had been in Europe for a long time, after being brought back from the 'New World', but being a member of the 'Nightshade' family were considered for a long time to be poisonous. The first documented recipe for pasta and tomatoes wasn't penned until 1839.

Italians not only make the best pasta, they also eat a lot of it; outstripping the per capita consumption of Americans by a ratio of 3-1. Of course, when it comes to Hamburgers, the Italians aren't in the same league. Many believe that the best 'fresh' pasta comes from the Emilia-Romagna region, where it is served with a cream sauce in winter and tomato sauce in the summer. Fresh pasta is not better than dried pasta; it's simply a different beast and the two are used according to the dish. The sauce is really a matter of personal taste. I have a pasta machine, and I love winding the pasta between the rollers. There's something very satisfying about creating pasta from scratch, however, I enjoy fresh and dried pasta equally well.

If you love pasta, do yourself a favour and visit it in it's homeland of Italy. Well, it's been lovely talking to you, but I must go now; I'm a little tied up at the moment.

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About The Author, Alan Liptrot
The Author is the founder of providing worldwide holiday accommodation The original article, along with other interesting articles can be found at