Pasta: The Story of a Universal Food

Pasta: The Story of a Universal Food

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Ranging from the imperial palaces of ancient China and the bakeries of fourteenth-century Genoa and Naples all the way to the restaurant kitchens of today, Pasta tells a story that will forever change the way you look at your next plate of vermicelli. Pasta has become a ubiquitous food, present in regional diets around the world and available in a host of shapes, sizes, textures, and tastes. Yet, although it has become a mass-produced commodity, it remains uniquely adaptable to innumerable recipes and individual creativity. Pasta: The Story of a Universal Food shows that this enormously popular food has resulted from of a lengthy process of cultural construction and widely diverse knowledge, skills, and techniques.

Many myths are intertwined with the history of pasta, particularly the idea that Marco Polo brought pasta back from China and introduced it to Europe. That story, concocted in the early twentieth century by the trade magazine Macaroni Journal, is just one of many fictions umasked here. The true homelands of pasta have been China and Italy. Each gave rise to different but complementary culinary traditions that have spread throughout the world. From China has come pasta made with soft wheat flour, often served in broth with fresh vegetables, finely sliced meat, or chunks of fish or shellfish. Pastasciutta, the Italian style of pasta, is generally made with durum wheat semolina and presented in thick, tomato-based sauces. The history of these traditions, told here in fascinating detail, is interwoven with the legacies of expanding and contracting empires, the growth of mercantilist guilds and mass industrialization, and the rise of food as an art form.

Whether you are interested in the origins of lasagna, the strange genesis of the Chinese pasta bing or the mystique of the most magnificent pasta of all, the timballo, this is the book for you. So dig in!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231519441
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 11/06/2002
Series: Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
File size: 24 MB
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About the Author

Silvano Serventi is a historian of food and of French and Italian culinary practices. He is the author of many books, including The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy (with Odile Redon and Françoise Sabban).

Françoise Sabban is a sinologist and director of studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris.

Antony Shugaar is coauthor of Latitude Zero: Tales of the Equator and translator of The Judge and the Historian by Carlo Ginzburg, and Niccolo's Smile and Republicanism by Maurizio Viroli. He lives in Arlington, VA.

Table of Contents

Series Editor's Preface
Note Concerning a Definition of Pasta Products
Introduction: In the Beginning Was Wheat
1. The Infancy of an Art
2. The Time of the Pioneers
3. From the Hand to the Extrusion Press
4. The Golden Age of the Pasta Manufactory
5. The Industrial Age
6. Pasta Without Borders
7. The Time of Plenty
8. The Taste for Pasta
9. China: Pasta's Other Homeland
10. The Words of Pasta

What People are Saying About This

Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Finally a thorough, scholarly examination of this universal food published in English. I applaud this work for all the misconceptions it will clarify and for all the new paths it will open to research.

Piero Selvaggio

Italy and China share the birth and evolution of pasta, the most universal of all food, and certainly the most exciting. This book, so eloquently composed, gives us the most comprehensive and in depth information on pasta with all of the historical, traditional and emotional tones. We learn the history and culture of people that have maintained tradition and legacy through pasta, influencing its taste, shape and importance.

Carol Field

The fascinating research that fills the pages of this amazing book has moved me to make a forest of little check marks next to information I want to remember. I applaud this important contribution to the literature. Now that I know how much mystery, rivalry, intrigue, clever and audacious planning and the accidents of history and geography have contributed to the production of the food we all love to eat, I'll appreciate it even more.

Charles Perry

The history of pasta has been a blank canvas for lazy guesswork so long that it is gratifying to find it discussed at last in serious, concrete detail. Serventi and Sabban have gathered just about everything that is truly known about pasta and tell a story that can be trusted, even on the obscure and slippery origins of this fascinating food.

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