Category Archives: Blog 2

Nooodle: A String That Connects People to People

The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo are burial catacombs in Palermo, Sicily in southern Italy. Around eight thousand corpses in varied states of decay inhabit the site. While there exist other historically fascinating catacombs in Europe, Capuchin Catacomb is known for its perfect preservation of bodies — the particularly dry atmosphere allowed for the natural mummification. Such climate also brought about the birth of dry pasta. From the Middle Ages, southern Italy has been the birthplace of different shapes and varieties of dry pasta; made from durum wheat, its firm texture that remains even through the cooking process to give you a crunchy al dente bite which is outstanding.

In Bologna, however, the pasta culture is drastically different. Tortellini, sometimes also described “belly button pasta”, are ring-shaped pasta typically stuffed with a mix of meat, cheese, or a combination of both. Fresh packed tortellini is found in the refrigerated section of the supermarket as it has a much shorter shelf life. Because it’s more expensive, people often assume that fresh pasta is better than dried, but that is not true. The comparison is apples to oranges; they are just different types of pasta, and certain types of pasta are more suited to certain kinds of sauces and cooking methods. While dry pasta was a product of warm breeze from the Mediterranean Sea, northern Italy boasts a vast array of local cheeses. Both identities of Chinese and Italian food come from its diversity by regional differences; Italians place strong emphasis on fresh, local and seasonal ingredients, cooked simply and seasoned well. The “regionality” makes it easy to understand why fresh, local foods are the choice of cooks in both Italy and China. The Alpine regions produce a great number of unique cheeses — the famous Gorgonzola and Asiago cheese come from northern Italy as well.  Because northern Italy is marked by humid summer and harsh winter, its pasta culture revolved around the regionality; instead of dry pasta, local ingredients such as meat and cheese are utilized, so pasta is kept fresh.

Coal has supplied more than 70 percent of China’s energy for the past 50 years and has shown no sign of waning. China first began burning coal for heat, cooking , and smelting steel during the Han dynasty. Usage of high-flame coal single-handedly changed the culinary culture of China — stir frying, in which ingredients are fried in very hot oil while being stirred in wok, emerged as a groundbreaking technique. While minimizing the destruction of nutrients, stir-frying is exceptional at bringing out essence of ingredients. Noodles with various thickness and shapes were experimented, giving birth to an array of new dishes. Near my high school in Taipei was a small store called ‘Shanxi Noodle House’; the texture and feel of these noodles stayed stubbornly in my mind for years. The owner of this place practiced the art form for years to master — noodle dishes were served stir-fried or in broth. My classmates and I would always struggle to choose a dish here, and we would always end up ordering 5 different dishes and sharing.

To both Chinese and Italian people, ‘noodle’ is a way of life. Noodle reflects their culture, regions, cities, and people that cook them. Just the way southern Italians had to adopt to their dry weather and invent dry pasta, northern Italians leveraged local produce and sticked to fresh pasta. Shapes of noodles vary according to regions and many cultural regions, not to mention the different sauces and broth that are accompanied. A dish can tell you a lot about the region — but there seems to be one governing principle. Noodle is a comfort dish for a community: ‘Fare una spaghettata’ is an Italian expression literally translated as ‘to eat pasta’, but in reality is a whimsical way of saying “Getting together to eat and having a good time”. ‘无面不 (wu mian bu huan),’ similarly, is a saying that can be loosely translated to ‘no satisfaction without noodles.’ To both Chinese and Italian people, noodle is more than just staple food; noodle brings people together and therefore plays such an integral role in the food culture. Noodle symbolizes the communal spirit. Noodle embodies the regional identity. Noodle is a lifestyle in which people mingle together.

I made Taiwanese Beef Noodle soup.
I made Vietnamese Pho.
I made Korean Bibim noodles.

 

I made ragu pasta.

Wikipedia defines noodle as ‘staple food made from unleavened dough which is stretched, extruded, or rolled flat and cut into one of a variety of shapes.’ As an avid cook, I define noodle as a string that connects people to people; I went on my food instagram (@choidiningclub) to see how many noodle dishes I’ve made for my friends. The graphic I designed symbolizes ethnic identities that reside under the name of ‘noodle’ and the communal spirit. Noodle dishes are usually for groups and for togetherness.

Category: Blog 2, Student Work

Noodles on the Silk Road 2018-06-16 05:39:22

Noodle has long history in Italy and China. From hundreds of years ago, if not thousands, noodle served as an important kind of food in the daily life. However, noodle is not just merely a kind of food for Italians and Chinese. It also plays an important role in their culture, becomes a symbol of Italian and Chinese food respectively.

Pasta was created or introduced to Italy in 13th century. It was first created as affordable food which is also easy to store for sailors on the ships. But it was after the renaissance that the sauce and the variety of pasta became abundant. At first, pasta was kneaded and dried in the sun, and then cooked with meat and vegetables. So at that time in Italy, streets were full of pasta drying in the sun. In the beginning, people ate pasta with bare hands and then sucked the juice on the hand. However, the upper-class people thought it was not elegant to eat pasta like this. Finally they adapted knife and fork for pasta. This was a great milestone of western cuisine. Thus, pasta plays and indispensable role in promoting the development of Italian food. The Americas brought spice and tomatoes back to Europe, further improved the taste of pasta. Pasta became the most popular food in Italy. Now, Italians consume more than 28 kilograms of pasta per year, per person, reflects how enthusiastic Italians love pasta. Different places in Italy has its own regional pasta, even each family has its own secret ingredients. There is also a pasta museum in Roam, exhibiting the tools Italians used to make pasta, telling people the history of pasta. Pasta becomes a symbol of Italian culture.

Noodle was first called “Tang Bing” in China. It was not until Song Dynasty that noodle was called “Mian Tiao” as it is called now. Noodle was recorded as a kind of so called “Zhu Shi”, main food, for two thousand years ago. However, archaeologists discovered a bow of noodle which is dated nearly four thousand years ago. This discovery greatly extended noodle’s history. In China, noodle is made with wheat flour. Because there is not plenty of river resources in the north, northern Chinese farmers plant wheat instead of rice in the southern part of China, where water resource is abundant. As a result, northern Chinese people choose “Mian Shi”, include noodles, as their so called main food, whereas southern Chinese people mainly eat rice. When I visit one of my best friends’ home, I found a very interesting thing during dinner. His parents prepared two kinds of main food. His father is from southern part of China, so he had rice. However, his mother had noodle sine she is from northern part of China. Like the situation in Italy, each region has its own noodle, like “Dao Xiao Mian” in Shanxi, “Zha Jiang Mian” in Beijing, “Yang Chun Mian” in Shanghai, etc. One can say that “Mian Shi” including noodles composes half of the Chinese diet. It becomes an important part of Chinese culture.

Category: Blog 2, Student Work

Noooooodles

Category: Blog 2, Student Work

Noodles: A Song Praising Life and History

Yujing Wang
Through this week’s reading, we ventured down a culinary journey into Chinese and Italian regions, learning the unique pasta recipes of their customs. I’m convinced that noodles of a specific region have become more than a beacon which attracts tourists, but they consummate both the geographical character and history (including industrial evolution, folklore and the people’s anticipation of everyday life). In short, though one may see noodles as the most common cuisine, its cultural significance goes far beyond a cheap but nutritious product.
The methods of cooking noodles reflect more than the present tasting predilection of a certain region but gives us an irreplaceable insight on its people’s identity. We’ve read about Dan-dan noodles of Sichuan, Crossing-the-bridge noodles of Yunnan, Bamboo-pole noodles of Guangdong, macaroni of the Naples, even instant noodles that prevail around the world and countless kinds of noodles that serve as a symbol of their birthplace. Some of the articles focus on the author’s encounter with the food, others emphasize the intriguing stories behind the dish. In Dunlop’s passage introducing his experience in Chengdu, he mentions the origins of a variety of “small eats”, such as “Zhong boiled dumplings” and “Lai rice balls”, all named after the cook who had invented them, these later popular street foods are no doubt leaving their mark in Chengdu’s culinary history, and with them the pride of common workmen who have dedicated their lives to make food that please their customers. The tale behind “Crossing-the-bridge rice noodles” may be a folklore to give the recipe a legendary touch, but it nevertheless engraves the toils of ancient Chinese scholars and the pressure they face when attending the Imperial exam. On the other hand, the macaroni of Naples was a product of industrial evolution, it signified the ending of an era of hunger and poverty, as a luxurious commodity became affordable to common households. I could only imagine the joy of Neapolitans when cheap macaroni first emerged in the markets. Noodles certainly do not speak, but they easily answer where they come from and what they’ve been through. From the readings, despite the writer’s identity as a foreigner or a native, they seem to have no trouble acquiring the recipe of the pasta and therefore were able to share it in their published work, and the notion of these regional customized food taking the role of bridges between nations thrill me. Nowadays, one may not have to be in a region to know about it, and the easiest way is by tasting its cuisine and learning the story behind the food.
Noodles in Chinese culture “is not only a source of human nutrition, it also plays many roles in the aspects of religion, economy and etc.” (Na Zhang, Noodles, traditionally and today, 1) Chinese “cakes” that later evolved into the thin noodles that we are familiar today have been an efficient way of transforming wheat into both healthy and tasty aliment Chinese labels their nation as the realm of ritual, many ceremonies from ancient times can’t proceed without the proper food. Noodles also dutifully played their part in such a society, different kinds of noodles where served on diverse occasions, some for a wish of good health and longevity, others which symbol friendship and filial piety. Although in modern times people tend to neglect these meanings and consume noodles due to fondness of the taste father than the significance, the stories behind this staple food most certainly responds to the core values of Chinese culture. Noodles in China remind the people of who they are and what they treasure.
Pasta of Italy, on the other hand, records the country’s social and economical progress, as Italy herself, like China, has many regions and was united into a sovereign nation in the 1800s. Pasta is a reminder of the nation’s glorious history, back in the Roman era when she conquered Europe and certain regions of Africa and Asia, and therefore different kinds of Italian Pasta bear names that are introduced to the nation from foreign cultures. The popularization of Italian pasta was also closely connected to the nation’s industrial and economic developments “Homemade pasta moved early from family kitchens into the workshops of the mills.” (Vita, Encyclopedia of Pasta, 7) Where machines where invented to accelerate the production process, making pasta affordable to commoners.
As my blog’s title indicate I would describe noodles as a song that one doesn’t need to understand the lyrics. The taste of food, similar to the rhythm of songs, is a universal language shared and enjoyed by people in every corner of the world. Noodles narrate the struggles of people and emphasizes on the value they hold important. I would define noodles as a cultural bridge, connecting more than regions oceans away, but also the past to present. I would use a painting of Mondrian to represent noodles; although they share simple compositions, they possess a complicated and connected nature.

Piet Cornelies Mondrian, Red, Blue, Yellow, 1941

Category: Blog 2, Student Work

Noodles: The Heart of any Culture and College Dorm –Jennifer Lu

After a very busy day, my close friend Thao and I enjoy some late night noodles.

After a day crammed packed with a schedule beginning at 8am until midnight, my friend Thao and I were starving. We decided to order Chinese takeout, I mean what better food to eat at 3am than greasy noodles? Throughout my first year, food and specifically instant ramen, pho, and noodles have shaped my time at Emory.

The noodles I eat today can be accredited to the early Han Dynasty in China (206 BC – 220 AD) where noodles are believed to be originated. Since then, noodles have evolved into a worldwide phenomenon woven into the culture of countless countries and regions. Noodles play a key factor in today’s global food market, especially in Italy and China.

It is believed that Marco Polo brought noodles from China to Italy in the 13th century. Today, pasta in Italy is a staple in their diet, with the average Italian consuming roughly 60 pounds every year. Pasta comes in all shapes and sizes ranging from long thing strings like in spaghetti to the small dough pieces in gnocchi and long corkscrew-shaped pasta in fusilli. Given its long shape, Italy has various types of pasta dishes in the northern and southern regions. The northern region has a mountainous terrain and draws influence from its neighboring countries of Switzerland and France. This region of Italy is home to many cattle and pastures so cheese has become a staple food over the centuries. Here they produce butter-based sauces like the French do but the Italians add herbs and garlic to add their own flare on the dish. This unique set of circumstances and influences have given Northern Italy to produce regional pasta like risottos and fettuccine alfredo. Meanwhile, in Southern Italy the growth of tomatoes, olive oil, and fresh greens and herbs can be accounted for through the Mediterranean climate has inspired countless tomato-based dishes like the rigatoni all’amatriciana. These regional differences illustrate how pasta varies from region to region based on their unique set of circumstances.

One uniting factor of pasta within all of Italy, however, is the role it plays in bringing together families. As seen in  “Two Greedy Italians” grandmothers and mothers pass down their touch to their daughters through the sense of cooking. Family recipes are passed down through the generations which help daughters learn about their culture and lineage through the pasta. Italians usually produce pasta at large in order to share. These dishes are then served on a dinner table where a family has gathered around. The dining table is significant in Italian culture because it represents a place where food is shared, stories are told, and family is brought together.

Similar to the Italians, the Chinese use noodles as a way to bring together family and celebrate. The Chinese have a longevity noodle that signifies long life for birthdays, dumplings to celebrate the new years, and noodles to symbolize a happy marriage. Noodles have played a major role in the development and culture of China. For instance, the Dan Dan Noodle are noodles based in Chengdu, China. They are called “dan” which means to carry on a shoulder pole. These noodles were carried on the backs of food vendors in Chengdu and were easily served to passersby in the streets. In the “Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper” a student explained her relationship with these noodles as a dish to cure a heartache. They can be seen as a milestone in one’s life through the longevity noodles or as a way to encourage others like in “Crossing the Bridge” where a home cook prepares a dish for their son to wish for him to succeed on his exam. Noodles in China signify the history of its people because in every region of China the noodles are based on an external influence. Like in Northern China in the city of Lanzhou there are Muslim influences on their unique hand-pulled noodles.

The role of noodles in China is not just in the dish but how the dish was made. In “A Bite of China” the video shows street vendors and cooks preparing food for the next day. It shows that a lot of care, dedication, time, and love goes into making a noodle dish. Since cooks dedicate entire days to preparing a wholesome noodle dish, food in China is seen as something that shouldn’t be wasted. This is very similar to other countries with a Chinese influence like Vietnam.  Growing up, my mom would sometimes prepare pho for the family and she would be enslaved over the stove all day carefully making the beef broth. She would often remind me how delicate each ingredient is to the soup and dish itself. When the dish was complete the next day, my mom would remind us to always eat every noodle and vegetable in sight as well as to drink the broth until the bowl is empty. We could not leave the dinner table without first showing her the completely empty bowl. Similar to my experience, the Chinese are taught not to waste food because the cook has put so much time into preparing every noodle dish.

The various noodles and pasta dishes found around the world are a representative of the culture and history of each region/country. From the cheese based pasta in Northern Italy to the Muslim influenced noodles in Northern China, these dishes show the rich history of its region. Through noodles and pasta, cultures are able to share their traditions like passing on a family recipe or celebrating a moment in time like new years. Noodles have been known to unite people together, even on the streets of China. Strangers can be seen huddled together enjoying a street vendor’s noodle dish. Noodles have become a worldwide phenomenon, especially with instant ramen available in every convenience store and college dorm.

Category: Blog 2, Student Work

Omnipresent Noodles

Noodles are a crucial part of one’s life regardless of their gender, race, and nationality. For example, China imported up to a high 18,000 kg of pasta in 2015, and each Italian is estimated to eat over sixty pounds of pasta. Although noodle consumptions are very high throughout the world, they all are a variety of noodles, all with different backgrounds based on their cultures, regions, and those who cook them. I believe that the consumptions of noodles are always high because they are affordable and can provide a very healthy meal, as it is a carbohydrate that can keep one fuller for longer and allows one to eat more vegetables and other nutritious add-ons. Also, noodles can be very versatile and can easily change and adapt to the ingredients that are present to specific countries, regions, and even the leftover ingredients residing in people’s refrigerator.

Noodles in Italy have a long history and mean a lot to them; it can even be seen in the amount of noodles they eat throughout their lifetime. I believe that pasta in Italy is a valuable asset for them due to the fact that they are a remembrance of the history of Italy. First, it represents the long and complex history of Italian pasta that has started from the Etrusco-Roman noodle, called lagane, a modern word for lasagna; there were several differences, such as the fact that it was oven-baked instead of boiled. The diversity and varied regional cuisine was influenced by the Arabic invasions of the 8th century. Also, it can be seen today that different regional differences in Italian cooking can be due to the different invasions that have occurred; Sicily has a heavy base on Saracens, while Fruili-Venezia Giulia has a strong Venetian taste that still reside in the cuisine. Second, pasta names and categories were named after important wars, emergence of science of machinery and more. This includes tripolini that was inspired by Libya, bengasini, inspired by Benghazi, and ruote, inspired by invention of wheels. All of these historical and groundbreaking events have led to the strong affection that they have for noodles. Also, I believe that the regional differences in noodles that they have all throughout Italy makes them special, as they are special for each region, based on the regional specialties, extrusions, and drying methods. A few days ago, I went to Whole Foods to make pasta and saw the different types of pasta that were present from all of the historical events that occurred. I would not have known that all the names have come from these types of events if I have not taken this course and learned about the backgrounds of these pasta.

Chinese noodles have a long history as well that originated from the Han dynasty, which has more than 4,000 years of history. Noodles, in fact, first started off as being referred to as cake. I believe that noodles mean their culture and lifestyle as there are many sayings, customs, traditions, that are based on noodles. I believe that one of the most famous examples would be the longevity noodles that Chinese eat on their birthdays, showing that longer the noodle, the longer you will live, and the longer you live, more longevity noodles you will get to eat! Another example are the noodles that hold a special value in their culture, such as the seafood noodles (dutiful son’s noodle), Dandan noodles (Sichuan), and sister-in-law noodles, also known as ashamed son noodles. All of these have anecdotes that hold a place in their cultural beliefs and lifestyles. Digging further into this topic, the sister-in-law noodles was a type of noodles that a scholar ate when he was preparing to pass the provincial civil service examination under the care of his sister-in-law. As people followed this tradition and failed, they started calling it the ashamed son noodles. I believe that stories, the historical, and cultural background that noodles have are the basis to their integral role that it has in China. While I was traveling Singapore, I ate a special glass noodles that was only eaten during Chinese Lunar New Year. The glass noodle was served with various meats and vegetables; everyone gathered around and started to mix them with their chopsticks together. This also was a cultural moment for me as I learned from my high school friends who were originally from that area.

Similar to what was explained above for noodles in China and Italy, Korean noodles have a long history that leads to its familiarity to people and attracting more affection. Janchiguksu is a long thin noodle served in a clear broth soup. This was typically served on birthdays or marriages as flour was considered to be very special and valuable. Similar to China’s saying, the long length of noodles had a meaning of long life and these saying are passed down until now, although now they can be eaten and found more easily.

If I were to create a definition of the world noodle, it would be “food typically created by egg or flour, that is boiled to be eaten with various seasonal/regional add-ons with sauce or in a soup that are likely to have a cultural background in each country that is based upon. By looking at different types of noodles in China, Italy, or Korea I believe that they all have a strong historical or cultural story that leads it to have such high affection by people. Noodles are essentially the simplest, yet the most versatile, staple food ingredient capable of encompassing the culinary of any culture, history, and region.

Category: Blog 2, Student Work

The Journey to Defining the Noodle

Michelle Boamah

Over time, noodles have gone from being a mere food item to being a representation of one’s culture and background. One can learn so much from a culture just by analyzing the type of noodles that is eaten in that culture. You will be able to learn about the most notable influences in a culture, how the geographical region has shaped the culture and how people in the culture express themselves and view one another. Noodles can help someone understand a brief history of the culture.

Noodles can showcase the different societies that have influenced the specific regions in which the noodles are present. Many people in Italian societies believe that noodles were first introduced to Italy by Marco Polo from one of his voyages to China. However, this is not the case. Noodles had already been introducing to Italy by the Etruscan and Romans who enjoyed a noodle type dish also made from durum wheat but was oven baked not boiled. This is a very important important showcase of how another culture affects a society because the Etruscan-Roman noodles has spanned the centuries and remained an integral part of the culture  even though the recipe is not the same. This shows how deep and widespread the Etruscan-Roman influence has been to Italy because many other cultures have influenced and introduced Italy to many different cuisines, however, noodles has been the one to stand the test of time and become an important aspect of modern day Italy. The belief by many Italians that noodle had been introduced to Italy by China also shows how important Chinese influences were to this region. The Silk Road allowed many goods imported and exported to and from Italy, allowing for a stable economy, so it’s not so far-fetched to believe that an important cuisine in Italian culture was due to China and brought to the region by the Silk Road as many other items had been. Another evidence of another culture influencing Italian society through noodles is the fact that pasta didn’t become a staple in this Italy especially the southern region like Sicily until the Arabs became a presence in this region. This early pasta introduced by the Arabs was a staple in Sicily and spread throughout Italy’s mainland due to durum wheat being a great produce for Italy’s climate. Evidence of the Arabs extensive mark on Sicilian society can be viewed through their regional pasta recipes which still include middle eastern ingredients such as cinnamon and raisins.

Noodles also serve as a way to pass tradition down through generations in order to maintain certain aspects of identity and culture. These noodle traditions serve the societies in a helpful way by promoting a long and fruitful lives while also celebrating loved ones. A custom in china is for people to eat longevity noodles during birthdays as a way of attaining long life and prosperity. This tradition allows for everyone involved to be able to attain long life while celebrating the birthday honoree. Another custom is for people at the time of marriage moving into their new home to eat noodles with gravy symbolizing a flavored life. Another Chinese custom pertaining to noodles is eating dragon whisker noodles on the day of lunar February 2nd to look forward to good weather.

Noodles are also a way for one to express their affection and show how much they care without using words. This is because the art of making noodles is labor intensive and requires a commitment takes great care so one must really enjoy making this dish and have great love for the recipient of the dish to make it. An example of this can be seen through the different type of noodle dishes and the stories behind them. From seafood noodles, also known as dutiful son noodles, to vinegar pepper old friend noodles. Both stories for these two noodle dishes got their name from an act of kindness and loves displayed to loved one. Dutiful son noodles received this name due to a noble son taking care of hid ill mother by making her noodles in a soup filled with multiple sources of protein including seafood and eventually leading to the mother making a full recovery. Old friend noodles also received its name from a similar story. There was a teahouse owner who had a customer who come in every day for tea. However, the regular customer stopped coming in for a few days, so the teahouse owner went to check on his old friend and found him to be ill. He made a bowl of vinegar pepper noodles soup for his friend and his friend soon recovered. These stories all show the power of love and care that people have for one another and express through noodles.

Noodles represent a huge portion of Chinese and Italian societies. Noodles gives Chinese and Italian people a sense of pride and a stronger sense of identity. This is because every region in both countries has their own definition of the noodle and distinct noodle dishes that has been passed down from generations and represents family traditions. In China, Shanghai has Shanghai noodles in superior soup, Nanjing has small boiled noodles and Hangzhou has Hangzhou Pain Er Chuan noodles which is noodles with preserved vegetable, sliced Pork, and bamboo shoots. These dishes are associated with specific cities and the people that live there. The way noodles are shaped also helps develop a sense of identity and regional pride. There are a multitude of pasta shapes that can be tied to specific regions n Italy even though they have spread worldwide. The region of Campania in southern Italy is known for penne, Chiara is a pasta that is most typical of Abruzzo in central Italy and trofie is a staple of Liguria in North Italy. These distinctions between the noodle also allow people to have a stronger sense of family and interpersonal relationships because these cuisines are usually the staple dishes of a region which forms a closer bond between families and brings about a sense of togetherness

I believe that noodles play such an integral role in the culture in Italy and china because of its accessibility and the traditions that have been fused around the noodle. Noodles became an integral part of society, I believe due to its basic ingredient-flour. Flour as previously mentioned in this blog is extremely abundant in Italy due to its climate and extremely abundant in China with it being the biggest grain producer and consumer in the world. The easy accessibility to flour is how the noodle began to weave its way into people’s live. However, the ingredients are not what make noodles such an important part of people’s lives. It is the way that over time it has become a part of every aspect of one’s life-from one’s identity, to traditions to being used as a tool to convey emotions. Examples of noodles being a part of one’s life as previously mentioned in the blog are different regions with different noodle dishes and noodle forms that foster a sense of community and self, traditions like eating longevity noodles that lead to long and prosperous life and showing someone, you care for them by making them a bowl of soup like the dutiful son soup.

All this leads me to my definition of the noodle. I would define noodles as a food item that transcends time and has influenced and connected every part of the world while still managing to allow us to maintain a sense of self and community. This I believe is the true definition of the noodle and has details that the previous definitions we read in class didn’t because they focused on one dimensional analysis of the noodle not realizing that the noodle was much much more bigger and meant more than just what’s in it.

 

Category: Blog 2, Student Work

Noodles as a Way to Celebrate our Identity — Eunheh Koh

What is a noodle? “Noodle (n): a food paste made usually with egg and shaped typically in ribbon form” (Merriam-Webster). It is more difficult than expected to formulate a modern definition for the noodle as there are so many factors that are at play and are not included in the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition. There are so many varieties of noodles in the world, ranging from rigatoni to Lo mein; noodles are the product of globalization. As the noodle became more popular over time and spread across regions, different types of noodles came to life. Noodles began to vary in composition as some were made with rice, while others with various types of flour. They began to take different shapes and thicknesses as well as being cooked differently. The sharing of new ideas that resulted from globalization have definitely played a factor in changing the making and cooking of noodles, which changed the definition of the noodle. The Italians, for example, started to boil noodles (Demetri) while the Chinese utilized techniques like stir-frying to cook their noodles (Zhang and Ma). In addition, different recipes were formed using the various ingredients that were available to chefs in their regions and over time, these new recipes became an integral part of the country’s cuisine and were passed on from generation to generation. A clear example of this occurred after tomatoes were introduced from the New World; they originally were thought to be toxic but after the misconception was shattered, they were used for cooking and began to play a huge role in many of the pasta dishes we see today (Demetri). Thus, when thinking about the definition of the noodle, it is a food that has changed the most with time as new ideas were developed. Noodles are particularly versatile as they can be made and cooked with a variety of ingredients. This quality allows noodles to become easily adopted in to a country’s palette as it can be cooked with the regional ingredients of that country. Noodles can be made of certain ingredients to best complement the flavor of the dish. For example, dried pasta, made purely of durum wheat and water, is used to absorb the sauce while fresh pasta, which is usually made of flour and eggs, is used for more light and seasonal sauces (Demetri); they are thus used to cook different dishes. Noodles have been praised all over for this trait and became popularized all over the world. As a result, in order to fulfill the worldwide demand for them, they have evolved to become mass produced. Many people believe that these noodles are not authentic. However, the origin of these noodles are still linked to the traditional methods of making noodles. Pasta that has been mass produced in Italy, for example, is still kept to “time-tested production methods” (Demetri) to guarantee the pasta’s quality. A similar instance in China is the creation of instant ramen noodles which was derived from a Chinese tradition, the Yi noodles (Zhang and Ma). Although these mass produced are sometimes viewed in a negative light, I believe that these have become a distinct part of the food culture of both Italy and China; through mass production, these noodles have become more accessible to even more audiences and thus, can continue to be used to synthesize new recipes.

As a result of these observations, I believe that noodles are a true product of collaboration and culture because the noodle recipes that are developed by families are passed on over time down the family lineage, and thus, are able to become a part of the culture. This is evident in both Chinese and Italian culture. For instance, in China, the long-life noodles carry a special meaning of longevity with every bowl (Durack), while the Italians value the family coming together and making pasta (Two Greedy Italians). Therefore, I think that one definition of a noodle cannot be isolated as every individual will have a different definition of the word “noodle.” Thanks to their versatile nature and delicious taste, they are able to become adopted within many family’s traditions and cultures and therefore, adopt meaning that is unique to everyone’s identity and their family background. For example, 물냉면 (mul-naengmyeon) is a popular noodle dish in Korea, typically made of buckwheat, and deliciously accompanied with a chilled beef broth. This dish is also serves as an example of a product of collaboration as there are so many different varieties that exist. For example, the noodles in 냉면 (naengmyeon) can be made from sweet potatoes, arrowroot starch and kudzu rather than buckwheat (NamuWiki), and can also be served two ways, either with the cold broth I mentioned earlier, 물냉면 (mul-naengmyeon), or mixed with a spicy sauce (비빔냉면 [bibimnaengmyeon]). The 물냉면 (mul-naengmyeon) is a dish that is something that is particularly fond to me and my family and it was the first dish that came to my mind when I thought of the word  “noodles.” 물냉면 (mul-naengmyeon) is a dish that originates in Pyongyang because it is usually served cold and with ice, and in the past before ice machines, North Korea had a lot of ice. The dish was served in the winter time (as that’s when there was the most ice) and there is also a Korean saying “이열치열,” which signifies “fight hot with hot,” meaning that eating a hot dish when it is hot outside will help you feel cool (and the reverse logic applies as well). My maternal grandmother was born in North Korea when Korea was an united country, and she had moved down to Seoul right before the Korean War. Unfortunately, she was never able to go back, which was always very difficult for her, as she missed her family members very much. Thus, 물냉면 (mul-naengmyeon) became a very special dish for her that she would make for my sister and I; she always would talk about how much comfort she felt whenever she would eat the noodles. As a result, whenever I eat the noodles, I also feel a sense of comfort and connectedness to my roots as I have always associated these feelings and memories with the dish while I was growing up. As a result, when I began to eat 물냉면 (mul-naengmyeon) with some of my friends from college, I was able to learn more about what the noodles meant to them; we all had different feelings associated with the dish due to our different experiences growing up and our family background. That being said, many of us agreed that this dish is particularly special as it is associated with the hope that one day, the Koreas will be united once again. This is a prevalent sentiment among many people who identify as Koreans, since the drawing of the 38th parallel and ceasefire tore many families apart, and many of us would like the two units to unite again. I think this insight made me also realize that the definition of the noodle is also constantly modifying over time. Even in my personal experience, the way I view 냉면 (naengmyeon) has changed a bit. A recent example of this change was after the leaders of North and South Korea ate 냉면 (naengmyeon) together at the Summit; this created a nationwide spark of eating these noodles in Korea as people celebrated the two Korea summit (BBC). After I saw the nationwide phenomenon and the peaceful lunch shared between the two leaders, it made the noodles even more special, because it solidified my personal hope of unification of the two countries.

a bowl of 물냉면 (mul-naengmyeon)
The two Korea leaders sitting together enjoying 냉면

Subsequently, I think that it is difficult to isolate one definition of a “noodle.” I believe that everyone’s family background, values and personal experience affect what they think a noodle is. These stories are what makes noodles special over time, since noodles are able to be embody memories and feelings that we are reminded of every time we eat them. Even mass-produced noodles, like ramen, have become an essential part of the culture as they are a dish that can evoke feelings of love and connectedness, even for people who are thousands of miles away from home. We tend to associate certain memories and sentiments with food and the noodle is able to play that role for people of diverse backgrounds because it is versatile. Also, the definition of a noodle is not solidified; it is fluid and able to embody many different meanings for everyone.

Therefore, when I was trying to isolate one pure phrase to define “noodle” with, I was perplexed as it is quite complex. I created this image below with each of the letters made from a different picture of a different noodle and arranged them in a “fluid” way in order to represent the always changing natures of both noodles and our identities. I was hoping to show that noodle dishes in whatever form and of whatever ingredients are able to play a role in everyone’s unique identities because of the meanings we give to noodles. They are able to embody different meanings because there are an endless amount of ways noodles can be cooked; there is no “right” way to cook noodles or just “one” noodle dish. In this way, this aspect of noodles parallels identity. Identity is not something that is one thing or the other; we are also able to embody and embrace multiple identities. Noodles and identities are quite intertwined; our identity shapes the way we view and give value to noodles while noodles provide a way for us to celebrate and cherish our culture and family background. 

 

 

Works Cited

Demetri, Justin. “History of Pasta.” Life In Italy, www.lifeinitaly.com/food/pasta-history.asp.

“Korean Summit Sparks Cold Noodle Craze.” BBC News, BBC, 27 Apr. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-43918330.

“Long-Life Noodles.” Noodle, by Terry Durack, Pavilion, 2001.

“냉면.” 냉면 – 나무위키, NamuWiki (나무위키), namu.wiki/w/%EB%83%89%EB%A9%B4.

“Noodle.” Noodle, Merriam Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/noodle?src=search-dict-hed.

“Two Greedy Italians.” BBC Two Greedy Italians – Italian Family Lunch, www.youtube.com/watch?v=_v4gFyYM4Hs.

Zhang, Na, and Guansheng Ma. “Noodles, Traditionally and Today.” Journal of Ethnic Foods, vol. 3, no. 3, 2016, pp. 209–212., doi:10.1016/j.jef.2016.08.003.

**photo credits given when you press the photo 

Category: Blog 2, Student Work

The Present, the Future, and the Past(a)

Posted on by 0 comment
Category: Blog 2, Student Work

Making the Noodle Our Own by Vaishnav Shetty

One of the most interesting aspects of the noodle as a food has to do with just how much larger the food’s cultural background is when compared to the physical and tangible nature of the food itself. Different societies that have incorporated the noodle into their culinary tradition have absorbed more than just the noodle’s starchy qualities that make it the perfect base for various sauces and meats, but instead have absorbed the traditions of camaraderie, family, and gathering that have become unavoidably associated with it.

To truly understand what noodles means to the cultures that champion their use and consumption, one need look no further than the twin food giants of Italy and China. Both these cultures hold storied places in world of international cuisine, having expanded their reach so far as to have an influence in almost every corner of the world when it comes to food. Their influence has been accompanied with the inexorable introduction of the noodle because of the important role that this food plays in both Italian and Chinese cuisine. The International Pasta Organization’s “The Truth about Pasta” waxes lyrical about the virtues and benefits of consuming this type of food, highlighting the way that pasta provides health and energy without placing undue stress on one’s diet or on the Earth’s environmental resources due to unsustainable farming practices. These benefits are responsible for pasta’s position as a pillar of the Mediterranean diet for the longest time, with versions of pasta existing in the Etrusco-Roman diet as far back as 1 AD, as mentioned in Life in Italy’s “History of Pasta”. While this reflects the importance of healthy and robust food in Italian cuisine, pasta also owes its popularity to the cultural significance that has developed with the dish. The making of fresh pasta involves processes that require a high level of care and precision, which translates to familial love and care due to the large amount of effort some individuals can contribute to give their family’s the best. Chinese food culture mirrors this belief in many ways, as evidenced by the many meanings and cultural connotations around the idea of bing in David Knechtges analysis of Shu Xi’s “Rhapsody on Pasta”. Chinese cuisine at the time had already accepted pasta and acknowledged that the various types of bing present owed itself to unique origins from various villages and towns across the nation. Despite this, bing found itself favoured by all levels of society, holding a unique position as a pillar of Chinese cuisine that was consumed by both villager and emperor. Furthermore, each of these different types of bing are associated with different cultural ceremonies at different types of the year and to celebrate different events, pointing to the ritualistic importance of this food. This cements the cultural significance of the noodle and its variants in Chinese culture, as well as the unavoidable parallels that exist between China and Italy when it comes to the noodle. The noodle and pasta have come to play such an integral role because of a combination of the food’s nourishing qualities and its ritualistic contributions to the act of coming together and the formation of a community.

The importance of the noodle in both Chinese and Italian food has meant that any country that has experienced the influence of these cuisines has been exposed to this food. Considering just how far and wide both these cuisines have spread, it is hard to imagine any country’s cuisine and food being unaffected by the noodles hailing from China and Italy. Indian cuisine is no different, having experienced Chinese influences in its dishes due to the two nations’ proximity and having received Italian food due to the process of globalization.

Much like China, due to extremely large geographical area of the country and its varied topography, India possesses varied regional cuisines. Noodles manifest in a variety of different ways in Indian cuisine, based on the region that it hails from. Oftentimes, these variations revolve around the starch base that the noodles are derived from.

India’s wheat noodles, also known as seviyan, often used in cuisine from the Gujarat region.

One of the two types of Indian rice noodles, known as sevai, which are first made into an idli pancake before being pressed into the more traditional noodle shape

Indian sev, which are a popular munching snack noodle derived from extruded chickpea-flour dough and then fried to make them crisp

Indian falooda, which are noodles made out of cornstarch and then served with sweetened milk or Indian ice cream known as kulfi

These various Indian cuisine noodles utilize a variety of different starches that are combined with water to create a pasta dough. Thus, when creating a definition that combines Chinese, Italian, and Indian ideas of pasta and the noodle, one must emphasize the importance of both the different starches involved in the process as well as the different methods of preparation once the noodle is formed. A tentative one that expands on the basic definitions provided by the Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries to include these findings has been included below:

The noodle is a piece of pasta created from a combination of a starch (such as flour, cornstarch, rice, etc.) and water, cut into a variety of different shapes, and then prepared using a cooking process that involves a liquid (boiling, stir-frying, steaming, frying, etc.).

While this definition is a clear expansion on the fairly limited versions that both dictionaries have provided, there is still a significant aspect of Indian, Chinese, and Italian noodle culture that fails to be represented. Our analysis of various texts referring to Chinese and Italian noodle culture emphasize the cultural meanings and connotations that invariably accompany the tangible nature of the food. The place that the noodle occupies in Indian culture is the same and is best represented by what virtually every Indian person will point to when asked about Indian noodle culture. The noodle that I am referring to is the Maggi 2-minute noodle that has become an important cultural phenomenon all over India and holds a place as the nation’s favourite comfort food.

This comfort food is present in a variety of different flavours and noodle types, but the one thing that remains constant is the important role this food plays in the Indian community. People all over the country eat this noodle, lovingly referred to as the nation’s third staple after wheat and rice, available for purchase even in the most remote villages in all regions of India. It exemplifies the companionship and community that is an integral part of the noodle’s cultural significance in China and Italy, providing a common food all over the nation that every Indian can relate to. The cultural significance is made even more obvious when one looks in the bags of every Indian who has to leave the country, as they stock up on Maggi in order to provide them with a quick and easy connection to home whenever they are feeling down. Ultimately, the space that these noodles occupy in Indian food culture showcases the way that this food’s cultural significance has extended past the roles that it plays in Italian and Chinese food culture. With this in mind, I have attempted to provide an expanded definition of the noodle that seeks to incorporate this integral aspect of the noodle:

The noodle is a piece of pasta created from a combination of a starch (such as flour, cornstarch, rice, etc.) and water, cut into a variety of different shapes, and then prepared using a cooking process that involves a liquid (boiling, stir-frying, steaming, frying, etc.), whose consumption promotes a sense of camaraderie, connection, and community to a specific culture or identity.

Category: Blog 2, Student Work