In recent weeks I’ve been on two major travels, one to Beijing, China, and another to northern Italy. I couldn’t really afford to go, but then I got some money from the CIA and the Mossad for my Islamophobic essays. I also remembered that I had not cashed in on my annual white privilege bonus for a few years. Once I had done that, I could go for a holiday, anyway.
I will describe my impressions from these travels in later essays, but will start with reflecting on the history of pasta. I talked to one Italian man who believed that pasta was invented by the Arabs, whereas another frequent claim is that it was invented by the Chinese. I am personally skeptical of both these claims. To quote food historian Linda Civitello in Cuisine and Culture:
“For hundreds of years, it was accepted ‘fact’ that Marco Polo discovered noodles in China and brought them back to Europe. Now, in his masterwork, A Mediterranean Feast, food historian Clifford Wright states flatly that there is no truth to the story of Polo and pasta. Wright unravels the tangled strands of the origin of pasta and takes it down to its basic ingredient: hard semolina or durum (Latin for ‘hard’) wheat. This makes pasta different from bread, which is made from soft wheat. The Chinese did not have durum wheat. Wright places the origins of ‘true macaroni’ — pasta made from durum wheat and dried, which gives it a long shelf life — ‘at the juncture of medieval Sicilian, Italian and Arab cultures.’”
Marco Polo (1254-1324) was the son of a merchant from Venice in northern Italy who had good contacts in the East. The book Il Milione (“The Million”), describing his alleged travels in Asia in the late thirteenth century, became hugely popular in the Renaissance period and inspired other European travelers in their search for Asia, among them Christopher Columbus. Polo supposedly spent years in Mongol-ruled China but never mentions tea, nor the Great Wall or the practice of foot binding, which crippled millions of Chinese women well into the twentieth century. It is quite possible that he was a well-traveled man for his time, but scholars are still arguing about whether he really did all of the things he claimed to have done.
Read the rest at Vlad’s place.