Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pasta, Spaghetti and Noodle Etiquette

Some pretty interesting gadgets have been invented to help eat spaghetti and other long noodles.  This shown above, is one of the least practical Etiquipedia has seen.

Over time, many inventors have tried to invent forks, spoons and other utensils for the eating of pasta, hoping it would make eating pastas easier and cleaner, but few have actually worked. In the end, any way you twirl it, long pasta or noodles can still be very messy.
This 1939 creation resembles a child's "pusher" utensil, but is designed with spaghetti and other difficult foods to eat in a "highly genteel manner" ~ "Accordingly, in use and practice, the implement may be held in one hand with the scraper face 3 flatwise upon a plate, dish or the like C as shown in Figure 3. A fork D may be held in the other hand, and the gathering of the particular foodstuff upon the fork D for conveyance to the mouth may be facilitated in a simple, convenient, and highly genteel manner, as illustrated in Figure 3, thereby conducing to the ease and satisfaction of the diner and obviating the frequency occurring embarrassment of 'chasing food around the plate.'"
Practice makes better, so keep practicing when you can

Some spaghetti etiquette tips:

• If you want to twirl, you may use a spoon to help you.
Leave the bowl of the spoon on the plate, not up in the air,
and only try to twirl two or three “strings” at a time onto the
fork with the help of the spoon. If you put too many strings
on the fork, the result will be too much pasta once it is all
• Try not to have any “strings” hanging down from the fork
that you will need to slurp up into your mouth, or bite off, to
fall back into your plate.
• Bring the pasta to your mouth, not your mouth to the pasta
or plate.
• If you need to, you can cut your pasta with the side of
your fork, but never use a knife.
• Make sure you have a napkin on your lap to catch anything
that may fall to your lap.  Use your napkin to wipe you
mouth in between bites too, if you think there is a chance
you have sauce on your face.
• Practice makes better, so keep practicing when you can.
From Maura Graber and The RVP Institute of Etiquette 

A 1953 "spaghetti twirler fork" ~ On Eating Spaghetti : "The aficionado knows that the only graceful and satisfying way to eat real Italian spaghetti (which comes in full length or perhaps half-length rounds) is to eat it with a large soup spoon and a fork. The spoon is placed in the left-hand more or less upright in the plate (or often platter) of spaghetti. The right-hand uses a fork with the tip of the prongs against the spoon to wind the spaghetti in to a manageable mouthful. It should not drop off the fork. The fork full of spaghetti is then conveyed in the mouth while the spoon remains in the hand and on the platter. As with any sauce dish, it should be eaten without stirring the spaghetti, grated cheese, and meatballs (or other garnish) altogether, infant style.  The timid way to eat spaghetti is to cut it into small bits with knife and fork and eat it with a fork alone. Thick macaroni can't be eaten rolled on a fork so readily and is better cut with a fork as one goes along. Remaining sauce of each dish maybe eaten with a spoon or sopped up with small bits of bread, which are then eaten with a fork." Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette

Pasta and the Arabs 

In the Jerusalem Talmud, written in Aramaic in the 5th century AD is the first certain record of noodles cooked by boiling. The word used for the noodles was itriyah. In Arabic references this word stands for not homemade noodles, which would have been fresh, but the dried noodles purchased from a vendor. While fresh noodles must be eaten immediately, dried noodles are extremely portable. Pasta was more than likely introduced to Sicilians during the Arab conquests and carried in as a dry staple. The Arab geographer, Al Idrisi wrote that a flour-based product in the shape of strings was produced in Palermo, then an Arab colony.

Marco Polo and Pasta

As the Chinese are known to have been eating a "noodle-like food" as early as 3000 BC. Marco Polo describes a starchy product made from breadfruit - hardly what we now know as durum wheat. The myth that Marco Polo brought pasta with him upon his return from China was debunked long ago.  Polo returned to Italy in 1295 after twenty-odd years of travel, but much earlier in 1279, a Genoese soldier listed in the inventory of his estate a basket of dried pasta ('una bariscella plena de macaronis').
A 1933 table-fork designed specifically for any "string-like" food.
New World Tomato Meets Old World Pasta

In the 16th century, the Spanish brought their food discoveries back to the old world. Among the rich assortment of foodstuffs that were to become permanent fixtures in the old world was the tomato. The tomatoes may have been a pale variety as they were given the name 'golden apple' (pomo d'oro) by a Sienese botanist, Pietro Andrea Mattioli. The tomato was born to meet pasta as any Italian might have guessed, and tomato sauce altered the history of pasta forever. The first recipe for tomatoes with pasta wasn't written until 1839, however, when Ippolito Cavalcanti, Duke of Buonvicino, offered a recipe for 'vermicelli co le pommodoro.' A mere thirty years later, La Cuciniera Genovese offered recipes for purées, soups, distinctly different sauces for meats, chicken, veal and pasta. Tomatoes had arrived. 
Vintage and modern table tools for eating long spaghetti~ A simple noodle shaped the history of manners as well as the history of food ~ Until the creation of tomato sauces, pasta was eaten dry, and with one's fingers. The liquid sauce suddenly demanded one's use of a fork.  The manners of the common man were changed forever. 
Old Italian artwork in background on magazine cover, shows how pasta was once eaten properly~ "A North American father, presumably initiating his son, aged 15, into the world of adult business affairs, took him out to what the boy described as 'a big dinner meeting.' When the company was served spaghetti, the boy ate it with his hands. 'I would slurp it up and put it in my mouth,' he admitted. 'My dad took some grief about it.' The October 1985 newspaper article does not describe the response of the rest of the company. The son was sent to a boarding school to learn how to behave. 'When we have spaghetti,' he announced later, 'you roll it up real tightly on your fork and put it in your mouth with the fork.'

What he described, after having learned it, is the dinner-table ritual --as automatic and unquestioned by every participant in it, as impossible to gainsay, as the artificial rules and preferences which every cannibal society has upheld. Practical reasons can be found for it, most of them having to do with neatness, cleanliness, and noiselessness.  Because these three general principles are so warmly encouraged in our culture, having been arrived at, as ideals to be striven for, after centuries of struggle and constraint, we simply never doubt that everyone who is right-minded will find a spaghetti eating companion disgusting and impossible to eat with where even one of them is lacking. Yet we know from paintings and early photographs of spaghetti eaters in 19th century Naples (where the modern version of spaghetti comes from) that their way of eating pasta was with their hands-- not that the dish was likely to appear at a formal dinner. You had to raise the strings in your right hand, throwback your head, then lower the strings, dexterously with dispatch, and without slurping (there are invariably 'polite' and 'rude' ways of eating), into your open mouth. The spaghetti in the picture does not seem to have sauce on it.

Today, spaghetti-eating manners demand forks, and fist fulls of wet pasta are simply not acceptable on any 'civilized' occasion. The son's ignorance cast a dark reflection upon his father: he had not been doing his duty, had not given his child a proper 'upbringing.' Even if the boy had not seen spaghetti before, he subsequently admitted that what he ought to have done was to look about him, watch how other people were eating this awkward food, and imitate them. In any case, the options were clearer after this demonstration of an ineptitude: either the boy learns his table manners, or he would not be asked to 'a big dinner meeting' again by anyone who had heard of his unfinished education."  Margaret Visser
, The Rituals of Dinner

In Japan, when you move into a new home, it's customary to present your neighbors with buckwheat noodles known as "hikkoshi soba."  In addition to being the name of the noodle, soba is a homonym for the word 'near' and "hikkoshi soba" is a play on words meaning "We've moved near you."
A most modern noodle fork.

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