The Many Reflections of the Noodle–Madison Rousseau, Journal 3

The Many Reflections of the Noodle

A 2002 archaeological study in the Qinghai Province left people stunned when archaeologists stumbled upon a 4,000-year-old bowl of noodles on the Chinese archeological site. Many would think that this finding would be conclusive in determining that China was where the noodle originated because it is said to be the earliest noodles ever found, yet there is still debate as to which country really founded this edible cultural artifact. This continued debate shows how the noodle is a source of cultural pride, something that would give whatever country or region of the world it came from bragging rights essentially. Some think the noodle came from Italy, others believe it came from China, and there are some that believe it came from the Middle East. Regardless of whichever country invented noodles however, both China and Italy should be extremely proud of the noodle dishes they have maintained over many hundreds of years, or as people from the Western Hemisphere like to call “pasta” dishes. The noodle reflects the culture, regions, cities, and people that cook them in these countries and plays a very integral role in the food culture of both China and Italy. With the cultural and regional importance attached to noodles, it is understandable as to why the birthplace of noodles is still so hotly contested.


Culture consists of many aspects such as language, religion, fashion, customs, and as the basis of this paper—food. Both Chinese and Italians are very food-centered people, so food happens to be a very large part that makes up their cultures, and is also a primary source of enjoyment and pleasure in life. The noodle is continuously referred to as a culture bearer, conveying information about cultures and being the rare cultural artifact that we actually put into us. Variability of food, such as varying shapes and compositions of noodles, is not necessary for human survival, but humans partake in such variability anyways, and there is variability amongst these variabilities in food around the globe at least partly due to cultural differences ( What Chinese see as “human nature” or cultural traditions and “worldly common sense” or customs are reflected through noodles (Zhang and Ma 209). In China, a common greeting is “Have you eaten today?” and a compliment is “You look fat,” both comments probably being seen as odd in Western culture but normal in Chinese culture. Though there is a strong focus on food in China, overindulgence in food is frowned upon, according to Chang’s Food in Chinese Culture: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives. Food is greatly valued for its medicinal properties in China, thus food acts as a substitute for medicine oftentimes, showing a cultural preference for natural products rather than pharmaceutical products. With this focus on the medicinal properties of food, there is a large focus on health in China. This focus on health can be seen with the longevity noodle in China—on a birthday, Chinese will customarily take the longest noodle from their bowls and place it in the bowl belonging to the person celebrating their birthday in order to give them a long, healthy life due to the longest noodles being in his or her bowl. In Italy, if continuing tradition, daughters and granddaughters will help make the spaghetti gravy for a big Sunday lunch starting on Friday to give the gravy time to cook and will help in the process of making the pasta at home also. There is a big emphasis on family in the Italian culture and the time-consuming process of making pasta at home gives an opportunity for more familial time between the generations of women in a family and the big Sunday lunch in which the pasta is being made for allows the family, males and females, to all gather together at the table and eat while discussing recent events in their lives and taking the time to reconnect in a way.

The noodle also reflects the region in which it is cooked. There is a wide variety of regional food, noodle dishes included, in China and Italy due to the regions of both countries having a history of invasions, foreign influences, and geographical factors that affect agriculture. Region is one component that goes into how noodles are categorized. All twenty regions of Italy have different types of pasta from each other. In China, the Eastern region has a different set of noodles from the other Chinese regions including “Shanghai noodles in superior soup (上海阳春面), Nanjing small boiled noodles (南京小煮面), Hangzhou Pian Er Chuan noodles (noodles with preserved vegetable, sliced Pork, and bamboo shoots in soup) (杭州片儿川面), Wenzhou vegetable raw noodles (温州素面), Zhenjiang pot noodles (镇江锅盖),” and “Shandong Fushan hand-pulled noodles (山东福山拉面),” while Northern China has a different variety of noodle dishes such as “Beijing fried bean sauce noodles” and “Shanxi shaved noodles (山西刀削面)” (Zhang and Ma 211). Wheat noodles are more commonly eaten in northern China while rice noodles are more commonly eaten in southern China due to agricultural differences. Rice is primarily grown in the southern part of China and wheat is grown in the northern part of China, both of which are used to make noodles, and this difference in agriculture led to a difference in behaviors. The southern Chinese are much more interdependent and cooperative than northern Chinese because of how labor-intensive growing rice is according to Thomas Talhelm’s Rice Theory. The flat plains of northern China are conducive for growing wheat and the many rivers and lakes in southern China are conducive to growing rice. There are different types of pasta and sauce pairings depending on region, too. Penne can either be smooth or have ridges depending on the region it is cooked in and what sauce is being paired with it. Italy has such diversification in regions due to being separate for a large part of the country’s development and thus developing different dialects that the same noodle or pasta dish can go by different names depending on the region, such as lombricelli with its 28 different names.

Noodles reflect cities because “[m]any noodles have local characteristics” (Zhang and Ma). Each city has its own cuisine partly because each city has different fresh local products because of geographical factors like landscape and location on the globe. Each of Italy’s cities is unique, consisting of their own food, community, and ways of doing things due to Italy not being a unified country for a long time, so there is still an essence of campanilismoin Italy, meaning local patriotism, each believing that they make the best noodle dishes and each with one they are known for.

The noodle reflects the perseverance of people that cook them due to the hard work that goes into making noodles, as illustrated by the old couple in China waking at 3 in the morning to start making them and only finishing at 9 in the evening (A Bite of China). As noodles are a source of pride for both Italy and China, the cooking of noodles provides a sense of dignity to those that cook them. Noodles are very versatile and adaptable, so they can be changed very easily when cooking, affecting tastes and feel and reflecting the preferences of those cooking them (Slippery noodles)

Noodles, being as versatile as they are, can mean different things for different people. Though noodles are often eaten in China, noodles seem to mean “celebration” and “honor” for Chinese. Noodles are a source of nourishment and nutrition, while also being used as a means of celebration in China, such as with the Lantern Festival and the Dragon Boat festival. Noodles are also used to honor gods, spiritual beings, and both living and dead loved ones. For example, seafood noodles are also known as dutiful son noodles. Giaza, a type of noodle, literally means “the end and the beginning,” but figuratively means family reunion for many Chinese. Much like each character means something different in China, each noodle dish has a different meaning behind it. The heat of the fine egg noodle dish supposedly keeps bad spirts away in the story, “Crossing the Bridge” (Durack 183). Noodles seem to also mean honor in Italy and love. A key theme in the Italian dish, Strega Nona, is that the elderly are seen as authority figures, thus honoring the elderly with this key theme. Noodles seem to also mean love in Italy because food is a way of dialogue between people, being how they display love for one another by joint eating of food and/or cooking of food for someone. Food and drink are a way for Italian people to spend time together, allowing them to have a vocal dialogue but also a silent dialogue of love through noodles.


Noodles play an integral role in both China and Italy’s dietary patterns. As Zhang and Ma said, “noodles are a kind of cereal food,” being “the main body of the traditional Chinese diet” and “the main source of energy for Chinese people and the most economical energy food” (Zhang and Ma 209). Noodles are meant to avoid the disadvantages that come with a low carbohydrate, high energy, and high fat diet and thus promote health, according to Zhang and Ma (209). Noodles hold a high status in the dietary structures of both China and Italy. In the Mediterranean diet, hard grains are held on a high pedestal and many Italians thus try to make pasta from hard grains, making pasta an essential part of the Mediterranean diet. Chef Gurelli says that “It’s beautiful. They (Italy) tamed the sea and land to grow what they want” but sometimes you’re limited to the land and geographical region you’re in which leads to the development of certain foods fitting for your region due to the growth of crops—more so, it’s beautiful they created beauty out of simplicity; “Highlighting the importance of this traditional dietary pattern, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes the Mediterranean Diet as an element of intangible cultural heritage. Health experts affirm the role of pasta in nutritious, Mediterranean-inspired eating patterns” (p. 6, The Truth About Pasta).


Noodles are defined as a basic global staple food made from durum wheat semolina or other flours “mixed with water and/or eggs to make a dough” in The International Pasta Organization’s book of pasta (p. 5, The Truth About Pasta). Though, I would define noodles as being more than their components and instead as a bridge—they act as a bridge covering gaps between people by allowing them to bond and also as a bridge to the past, one that connects people to their ancestors and history.


I designed a DNA strand consisting of 15 different types of Chinese and Italian noodles—the pulled noodle; rigatoni noodle; dandan noodle; campanelle noodle; rice noodle; macaroni noodle; penne noodle; udon noodle; linguine noodle; longevity noodle; reginette noodle; Henan stewed noodle; Kunshan Ao Zao noodle; hot dry noodle; and trofie noodle. The DNA strand made of noodles represents how noodles are an integral part of one’s cultural DNA. The noodles, which are supposed to look like they are intertwining in the DNA strand, are also meant to show the link between China and Italy in terms of noodles due to China being the likely originator of noodles and their subsequent travel to Italy. The different noodles meet together in the DNA strand to show the similarities of a deep love for noodles and having food-centered cultures in both China and Italy.



Noodle (click here to see PDF image)



Culture is reflected in the noodles of both China and Italy, but with globalization and commercialization, the noodles have managed to wrap themselves around the globe and the traditional noodle dishes begin to slowly lose their cultural authenticity. People eat them and may recognize them as Italian or Chinese, but many do not understand the culture of those countries that is imbued in the noodles, thus not understanding the significance of the dishes.






Works Cited

(2014) A Bite of China 02 The Story of Staple Food(HD). In: YouTube. Accessed 25 Jul 2019.

(2013) BBC – Italy Unpacked: The Art of the Feast. In: YouTube. Accessed 24 Jul 2019.

Canadian Journal of History. In: Canadian Journal of History. Accessed 27 Jul 2019.


(2018) Chicken Stir Fry with Rice Noodles. In: Salt & Lavender. Accessed 27 Jul 2019


Corn, Bacon, and Egg Pasta – Video Recipe. In: FineCooking. Accessed 27 Jul 2019

Dan Dan Noodles. In: Spice Mountain. Accessed 27 Jul 2019

Dried linguine and rigatoni pasta on a wooden surface. In: 123RF. Accessed 27 Jul 2019

Durack T (2001) Noodle. Pavilion, London.

Eat North (2019) Parcheggio’s Rigatoni Alla Carbone. In: Eat North. Accessed 27 Jul 2019

Food in Chinese Culture. In: Asia Society. Accessed 26 Jul 2019

Staff LVB (2011) Witness the Art of the Hand-Pulled Chinese Noodle. In: Las Vegas Blog. Accessed 27 Jul 2019.

Limited A Stock Photo – Famous noodles in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China, have many flavors. In: Alamy. Accessed 27 Jul 2019

The Stone’s Hot Dry Noodles, Wuhan – Restaurant Reviews & Photos. In: TripAdvisor. Accessed 26 Jul 2019

Wine Dharma. In: Basil pesto pasta: how to make the authentic italian recipe | Wine Dharma. Accessed 27 Jul 2019

Thongchaipeun Italian pasta (macaroni) stock photo. Image of food, macro – 34958744. In: Dreamstime. Accessed 27 Jul 2019

Penne With Vodka Sauce. In: Food Network. Accessed 27 Jul 2019

Savita Easy Stir Fry with Udon Noodles – Stir Fry Noodles Recipe. In: Accessed 27 Jul 2019

Sippitysup, David, Paulina, et al (2019) Chinese Longevity Noodles Recipe. In: Cooking On The Weekends. Accessed 27 Jul 2019

Reginette con pesto rosso *** Reginette pasta with red pesto sauce. In: Home Italian Recipes. Accessed 27 Jul 2019

Zhang N, Ma G (2016) Noodles, Traditionally and Today. Journal of Ethnic Foods 209–212.

Lin HJ (2015) Slippery noodles: a culinary history of China. Prospect Books, London

The Truth About Pasta: One Food, One Love. In: International Pasta Organization.




Cydni Holloway- What is the noodle?

The noodle is a food that is eaten in numerous countries around the world, but ​what exactly is the noodle and how do we define​ ​it​? From a biochemical point of view, most noodles are a combination of eggs and flour. These two simple ingredients are found almost every crevice of the world, and are relatively inexpensive. The flour and egg mixture, that only begins to resemble noodles after hours of mixing, kneading, rolling, cutting, drying is made of mostly carbohydrates and proteins. These two macronutrients give the body long lasting fuel and energy. The practicality and accessibility of noodles makes it a staple food. However, the noodle goes beyond its practical uses. Noodles in both Italy and China serve as pillars for community and tradition​. For these reasons, I define the noodle as a multidimensional, yet practical food item, that serves as an anchor and a symbol of stability in many households across the world.

The noodle is multidimensional both literally and figuratively. In both China and Italy, the noodle takes on various shapes and clings to sauces that have wildly different flavor profiles. Two types of noodles that date back to ancient China are the shui yin and bo tuo. The “shui yin is cooked by pulling the dough into strips as thick as chopsticks, cutting these into segments 30 cm long, soaking in a dish of water, then pressing them into flat noodles shaped as a leek leaf and cooking in a pot with boiling water. Bo tuo is especially smooth and delicious” (Ma and Zhang 209). Similarly, noodles in Italy come in various shapes and sizes. For example, Bucatini are “thick spaghetti-like noodles with a hole running through the center” (menuism), and they are usually served with buttery sauces. On the other hand, Ditalini, is a “tiny tube-like pasta​” (menuism). In this way, the noodle serves as an unofficial symbol of the diversity that is present in China and Italy. China is a massive country with diverse regions and groups of people, and it is well-known for its long history. The noodles are analogous to the country as a

whole, as they have been around for centuries, and represent the different regional cultures by having such variation in how they are made. For example, East China is known for Shanghai noodles. Shanghai noodles is a mouthwatering combination of fragrant, flavor packed green onion, cabbage, refreshing ginger, and a choice of meat. The journey that your taste buds go on while eating Shanghai noodles is nothing short of marvelous. The flavor profile in the noodles completely mirrors the cultural profile of East China that is known for its light and mellow, yet flavorful cuisine. On the other hand, North China is known for its Beijing fried bean sauce noodles. These noodles are brown in color and delectably sweet in taste. The fried bean sauce noodles mirror the sweet tastes that are common in northern China. In Italy, noodle shape and sauce depends heavily upon the region in which the noodle dishes are being made. For example, noodles in the southern region of Italy, which is home to breathtaking beaches and fresh seafood, is often paired with the locally produced olive oil. For these reasons, noodles serve as a clear reflection of Italian and Chinese cultures.

Additionally, the noodles play an integral role in food culture, because people are able to experience highs and lows with the noodle right by their side. In Terry Durack’s Noodle, the narrator’s grandfather ate the “glossy, gleaming, and studded with mushroom and pork-and-for such a special occasion-abalone” long life noodles for his special 60t​ h​ birthday in a room filled with laughter, warmth, and sounds of his grandchildren slurping the lengthy noodles as they ate (Durack 88). The same man also ate the long-life noodles at his 100th birthday celebration as he basked in his loneliness after outliving most of his family members. The long-life noodles symbolized tradition and stability in many Italian and Chinese homes. Noodles are there for people during their highs and in their lows. In many Italian-American homes, the entire family

gathers on Sunday afternoons to eat a big pasta meal (Oteri). First and second-generation Americans continue to keep this tradition today in an effort to hold tight to the traditions from their homelands. The dish would usually consist of a bright red sauce made from perfectly ripe tomatoes and fusilli that was made by Nona’s only a few hours prior. For many Italians, “Pasta means Italy”, and being connected to Italian culture means eating pasta (Identify). Not only does pasta symbolize Italy’s diversity, but it also acts as a unifying force that is able to anchor people in Italian culture. In Italy, pasta brings people together on a micro and macro level. Pasta acts as a great unifier in Italy, Pasta is able to bring families together, they bond with pasta making techniques that have become integral parts of family. Pasta also unites the different regions of Italy due to the shared consumption of specific types of pasta; and finally, pasta is able to unite the entire nation because of the pride many Italians share in pasta.

However, pasta doesn’t solely have emotional ties in Italy. Growing up, my mother would cook what she called “spaghetti and meat sauce” every Thursday. No matter what was going on in our hectic world, I was always comforted by the taste of spaghetti that had been drenched in butter and the canned onion and garlic tomato sauce that my mom bought in stores. The dish would always be ready by the time I made it home, but I would always make the garlic bread. As my stomach growled after a long day of school, I would eagerly set the oven, cut the French style bread, add the garlic butter sauce, and warm the bread until it was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. This scene remained the same for almost every Thursday of my life, until I moved to college. It still brings me an incredible amount of peace to think about how that one meal, would always make my day just a tad bit better.

Going back to my initial definition of the noodle, a​ ​multidimensional, yet practical food item, that serves as an anchor and a symbol of stability in many households across the world; The multidimensional aspect of the noodle standout to me the most. The noodle is integral in so many cultures, and has been able to travel from China to Italy, to the rest of the world, because it is able to change shape and form. In this way, the noodle is limitless. I am looking forward to witnessing how the noodle continues to transform as time passes.









The Versatility of Noodles (Rohan Khatu)

The time reads 2:00 AM. I plod my way to the kitchen, open the pantry, and grab a packet of MAMA Noodles: Shrimp (Tom Yum) Flavor. I flick on the electric kettle, and cut open the noodles packet, emptying the contents into the bowl next to me. Click! I reach over and grab the handle of the kettle and tilt my head away from the steam as I pour the boiling water into the bowl. Dumping in the spice packet, I mix the noodles around, and saunter back to my desk. Waiting a couple minutes for the noodles to cool down, I twist a good amount on my fork, and take the first bite. Delicious. Now sit back, relax, and let me take you on the thousand-year journey that brought that mouth-watering bite of warm spicy noodles to the comforts of my home.

It was during the Han Dynasty in China that the noodle came to be, however at that time, it was more commonly referred to as cake. In the dynasties that followed, specifically the Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties, the composition and shapes of these noodles slowly increased, paving the way for two very unique kinds of noodles: Shui yin and Bo tuo. Greater varieties of noodles were soon introduced in the Sui, Tang, and Five Dynasty Periods, along with new methods and techniques for cooking these various types of noodles. Many types of exotic noodles emerged, such as Leng tao, which is a cold noodle, and Pig and sheep raw noodles. Some of the more famous noodles were brought to be in the Qing Dynasty, and these were the Five spicy noodles, as well as Eight treasure noodles. According to the article titled “Noodles, traditionally, and today”, these two types of noodles, “…were made of five and eight kinds of animal and plant raw material powder, respectively, and mixed into flour, which were considered top grade noodles” (Zhang 2016, 209).

Noodles in China not only represent the diversity in regions across China, but also the various cultural and traditional values of Chinese society. In China, food is used as a means to celebrate an important event or milestone in one’s life. For example, at birthdays, people usually eat longevity noodles, with the belief that this specific type of noodles will help them live longer. When two people get married, and eventually move in together, they celebrate by eating noodles with gravy which signifies a colorful, and vibrant married life. The Chinese eat different noodles for different occasions, seasons, and festivals. As China covers large territorial ground, and is made up of numerous regions, there are thousands of variations of noodles which are unique to each region. The differences in each noodle is based on the composition of it, the size of it, and the gravy seasoning used. While most noodles are made of flour, in the Southern province of Yunnan, noodles are made from rice. The diversity of Chinese noodles is linked to the diversity of each of its regions, and the people who cook them. Not only are the compositions of noodles varied across regions, but also the thickness of them. They can range from being, “as thick as chopsticks or as thin as hair, such as the dragon beard noodles” (Zhang 2016, 211). Noodles can also be classified by how they are made (i.e. hand-pulled or shaved noodles), as well as by the seasoning used (i.e. Beijing fried bean sauce noodles and Shandong noodles with gravy).

This diversity in noodles across the regions is not just unique to China; in fact, noodles in Italy are as diverse as they are in China. According to the article, Italy’s Cultural Heritage, “the most deeply rooted aspect of Italian cooking is that of its regional differences”. In the 8th Century, Arabic invasions of the Southern Peninsula of Italy greatly influenced the pasta in regions like Sicily. Many Sicilian pasta recipes incorporate predominantly Middle Eastern ingredients such as raisins and cinnamon, thanks to the presence of Arabic people in the South. As pasta spread to the mainland thanks to the abundance of durum wheat, the types of pasta that each region produced were varied. While the Romans unified Italy politically and via a common language, the regions of Italy remained unique in their, “local customs and provincial languages” (Italy’s Cultural Heritage). From the North to the South of Italy, the shapes and way pasta was cooked differed greatly. Nowadays there are over 300 different shapes and varieties of dry pasta across the Italian peninsula. According to the article, History of Pasta, the shapes of dry pasta range from tubes to bow ties, and even to shapes such as tennis rackets. These types of dry pasta were specifically designed for the purpose of grabbing and holding onto the rich, creamy sauces. Along with dry pasta, came fresh pasta which were made with slightly different ingredients. In the Northern regions of Italy, fresh pasta is prepared using all-purpose flour and eggs, whereas in the Southern regions, it is prepared using semolina and water. This only goes to further showcase the diversity in pasta across Italy. Not only is the way the pasta is prepared unique to the specific region of Italy, but so is the sauce used on the pasta. Fresh pasta is usually served with cream sauces, and a light tomato sauce for summer months, however in the Piedmont region, fresh pasta is usually served with a butter sauce complimented with local black truffles. The most important rule of Italian cooking is using fresh local ingredients, and this only further enhances the uniqueness of each pasta dish as the fresh ingredients used in each pasta dish is unique to the region they are grown in.

Similar to that of China and Italy, the type of noodle that one eats in India varies from region to region. However, unlike the noodles of China and Italy, which are usually cooked in boiling water, this specific type of Indian noodles is fried. Sev is a popular Indian snack food which consists of crunch fried noodles made from chickpea flour paste and seasoned with traditional Indian spices such as turmeric and ajwain. While they all can vary in thickness, similar to various types of pastas in Italy and China, sev is unique as it is deep-fried in oil to create that crunchy texture. The types of sev also vary from region to region in India. In Northern India, one would usually find sev mixed with chili powder, nuts and lentils, however in the Southern regions of India, sev is popularly mixed with sesame seeds and honey. Much like the noodles of Italy and China, the preparation, thickness, and taste of sev is unique to the region and people that make it.

I find it rather difficult coming up with a definition of noodles that successfully encompasses all the unique traditional, cultural and societal traits of China, Italy, India, and other countries that have adapted their own take on what the noodle is. However, for the sake of this assignment, I will do my best to define what noodles are. In my opinion, noodles are the glue that holds societies together. The glue that keeps traditions and cultures alive. The glue that defines differences, as well as similarities, in regions of countries. Lastly, the noodle is the glue that unites the world as it takes on various forms, shapes, sizes, textures, and most importantly, names.

Now on to the second bite of my delicious MAMA noodles…

The image that I chose represents the various shapes and sizes of pasta across the Italian peninsula. I found this image fascinating as it also highlights the versatility of pasta and the dishes that can be produced from the various local ingredients unique to regions in Italy.

Works Cited

Begg, Peter. “The Ultimate Guide to Pasta Shapes: Features: Jamie Oliver.” Jamie Oliver, Jamie Oliver, 12 June 2019,

Dada. “Sev.” Cuizine Maurice, 17 Sept. 2017,

“History of Pasta.” Life in Italy, 5 Nov. 2018,

“Italy’s Cultural Heritage.” The Classic Italian Cookbook, by Julia Della Croce, Reader’s Digest Association (Canada), 1996, pp. 8–17.

The Truth About Pasta. The International Pasta Organization, 2016,

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.


The Noodle Crossing Borders by Alisha Mody

In a recent survey, I asked five of my American friends where they believe the noodle originated. They all replied with China. When I asked one of the participants why they didn’t consider it to be from Italy, he replied with, “Well you asked me where the noodle originated, not pasta!” In a different survey, I asked five different Americans where they believed pasta originated. Four of them said Italy, and one of them said China. This short survey only reinforced what I believe are the common misconceptions of the word “noodle” and “pasta”, which is that the “noodle” refers to a food of the Chinese cuisine, where as “pasta” refers to a food of the Italian cuisine, and “pasta” is different than “noodles”.  In this post, I hope to clear up some of the common misconceptions about the noodle through its origin and significance. 

In China, the origin of noodles dates as far back as the Han dynasty, where they were commonly referred to as “cake(饼)”, according to the “Noodles, traditionally and today” article (Zhang 2016).  While there were several different shapes of noodle, the vast changes in shapes and its increase in production is credited to the Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties. The change in the shape of the noodles brought about the development of two special kinds of noodles called “shui yin (水引)” and “bo tuo(馎饦)” (Zhang 2016). Shui yin is prepared by “pulling the dough into strips as think as chopsticks”, soaking them in water after cutting them into long pieces, then flattening them into “noodles shaped as a leek leaf” and cooking them in a pot of boiling water (Zhang 2016). As the variety of noodle shapes increased, especially during the Sui, Tang, and Five dynasty periods, so did the different techniques of preparing and cooking these shapes. These various methods and techniques of cooking gave rise to several exotic types of noodles such as pig and sheep raw noodles. One of the unique noodles, with a strong gripping characteristic shape, was even referred to as “one of the seven wonderful health foods”, and it was said that the “wet noodles can be used to tie the shoe” (Zhang 2016). One of the most famous types of noodles was brought about in the Qing Dynasty, and these were referred to as the five spicy noodles and eight treasures noodles. These variations of the noodle gave rise to the various unique noodles that we enjoy and eat today. 

As the various noodles traveled and developed, different regions in China began crafting and cooking the noodles differently. This goes to say that some of the differences in noodles we see today can be classified by the region they originated from. Moreover, each region specializes in the cooking of a specific noodle: East China features Shanghai Noodle in Superior Soup, while Southern China is famous for Guangzhou Wonton Noodles, and Central China features Wuhan hot noodles with sesame paste. There are several ways in which these various noodles represent the culture of the region where they originate, but most importantly, its diversity is an ode to each regions’ specific environment and access to different resources, which illustrates how they are so indicative of different regions, cultures, and people who cook them.

Not only are the noodles representative of the various diverse regions, but they also illustrate the diverse cultural and traditional values of Chinese society. There is a fascinating story behind why Quishan minced noodles were originally called “sister-in-law noodles” and later called “ashamed-son noodles”, which serves to explain the societal values of these noodles. The story goes that there was an orphan scholar who was raised by his brother and sister-in-law. The sister-in-law was a really good cook, and would make him these special noodles that would “let him read books for fame” (Zhang 2016). He passed the examinations, and as a result, the noodles were named the “sister-in-law noodles”. In an effort to replicate the same success, the parents began cooking these noodles for their children to achieve similar success, however the children failed, and as a result, these noodles were named, “ashamed son noodles”. With an abundance of stories and unique names for the noodle like so, it is hard not to see how reflective the noodle is of the Chinese culture, values, and traditions of the people that cook them. 

This reflection of noodles on region, culture, and people is not just unique to China. The Italian noodle, or pasta, has become such a universal household necessity, that it is difficult to find someone who is not aware of at least one kind of Italian pasta. Pasta is such an integral part of the food history of Italy, and is often misconstrued, especially in school. According to the article “History of Pasta”, many school children were taught that Marco Polo was responsible for bringing pasta to Italy from his adventures in China, however this is far from the truth. Pasta already played an integral role in the food history of Italy, long before Marco Polo came to be. Pasta can be dated back to the Etrusco-Roman era where dry pasta was a staple. Even though Italy is a far smaller country than China, the pasta in Italy still has vast regional differences, with the biggest difference in pasta between the North and South of Italy. In the Middle Ages, Arabic invasions in the 8th century resulted in a heavy Mediterranean influence on the pasta of Italy. This Mediterranean influence is uniquely noticeable in the Italian region of Sicily, in which pasta dishes are made with unique ingredients such as cinnamon and raisins. In comparison, from my experiences, the pasta in the North has a very different style. The pasta cooked in Northern Italy is a result of a lot of French and German influences, which highlights the various resources specific to that area. The Italian peninsula is so rich in history, and the different kinds of pasta sprinkled from the North to the South of Italy have shaped what we know as pasta today. I believe that this historical implication is the primary reason why pasta is such an integral part of Italian culture and society. While we can trace the origins of pasta all the way to the Etrusco-Roman era, the main reason why pasta has become such a global commodity is due to the Age of Exploration. According to the same article, pasta, especially dry pasta, was the perfect dish for voyagers on long journeys as it was high in nutritious value and was able to stay good for long periods of time. It was due to these factors that pasta was able to cross borders, make its way around the world, and impact the lives and cultures of every society it met.

Nowadays, there are over 300 various shapes and varieties of dried pasta in Italy, and many of these shapes range from, “simple tubes to bow ties, to unique shapes like tennis rackets.” As mentioned in the “Encyclopedia of Pasta Introduction”, many shapes of pasta have been given “endearing” names such as “farfalline (little butterflies)” and “margherite (daisies)” (Zanini De Vita 1936). This shows that many of pasta names that we know of today are related to beautiful shapes in nature. These unique shapes of pasta are a testament to its rich history in Italy, and are indicative of the culture, traditions, and people cooking them. One important cultural value of the Italians with regards to pasta is that it must always always always be prepared by hand, just as how the nonnas in “How to Create Pasta like a Badass Italian Nonna” did, which is a form of art in itself. This idea of pasta as a form of art reveals a key value of the Italian culture—discipline. The Italians never sway from this traditional preparation of the noodle. 

In my country of origin, India, noodles are represented in various ways across different regions, just like as seen in both China and Italy. One of the most popular, and delicious versions of the noodle is present in a dish called falooda, as pictured above. The noodles used in making falooda are vermicelli rice noodles, which is traditionally a very thin type of pasta. In Italy, vermicelli is slightly thicker than spaghetti, but in Asian countries, vermicelli is similar to that of angel hair pasta or capellini. In India, the vermicelli used in falooda is very thin, and is made traditionally from wheat, arrowroot, cornstarch, and sago. What makes falooda especially unique is that unlike other noodle and pasta dishes, falooda is a dessert. The vermicelli noodles are usually mixed with rose syrup, sweet basil seeds, ice cream and milk. While falooda is a very popular dessert in India, contrary to popular belief, this dish actually originated in Iran, and was brought over to India by Muslim merchants and dynasties that settled in India. Nowadays falooda is popular in Bangladeshi and Pakistani culture and is usually served on Islamic holidays and various other occasions. There are also many variations of falooda across the Indian subcontinent. Some parts of India make their falooda with fruit jelly instead of nuts, while others use strong black tea and tapioca pearls. Similar to noodles in China and pasta in Italy, falooda varies from region to region across India, representing the various cultures and traditions unique to each region.

In my opinion, noodles are one of the most versatile dishes in the world. As a food item, noodles not only serve to fill out big appetites, but they also provide a cultural, societal, and economical value. They have influenced and connected every part of the world, while also maintaining a sense of self and uniqueness to communities and regions. This complicated, yet simple, food item has served to unite the world, and transcend boundaries. While there are various definitions of the noodle and pasta today, I believe many are not as open-minded and inclusive of all regions and cultures cooking them. If I were to define the noodle, I would say that it is a diverse food made from a dough that can be shaped and cooked in any way, which has allowed it to cross borders and continues to do so to this day, while also shaping cultures as it travels. Below is a picture I believe encompasses my definition of the noodle.

Works Cited:

Vita, Oretta Zanini De, et al. Encyclopedia of Pasta. University of California Press, 2009.

“History of Pasta.” Life in Italy, 5 Nov. 2018, <%22http://>.

The Truth About Pasta. The International Pasta Organization, 2016,

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.


Keyi Chen Journal #2 — Noodle as a cultural symbol

Noodle, as ubiquitous staple food worldwide, has been evolving to various shapes and types made from diversified ingredients in history. More than that, noodle has played the role of a country’s cultural symbol, representing people’s dietary habits and the basic philosophy of living. Owing to this week’s reading materials, I have taken a close look at how noodle has worked as a cultural symbol in both China and Italy from the past to the present.


In China, different types of noodles are eaten by people due to various regional characteristics, and cultural traditions. To begin with, noodles can reflect climates in different parts of China. For example, the birthplace of Dan Dan Noodle, Sichuan Province, has an extremely hot and humid climate; therefore, people there tend to eat spicy food in order to sweat out the dampness inside the body and cool down the body temperature; as a result of which, most Sichuan cuisines, including Dan Dan Noodle, are made of chilis, chili oil, and spicy preserved vegetables. Another province where people love eating spicy food is Shaanxi Province. As a province covered by the Huangtu Plateau in northwestern China, it has such cold weather that people need to keep body temperature by eating spicy food, especially during wintertime. Thus, we can observe that the Saozi Noodle shown in the video “The Story of Staple Food” included a red soup base, tasting sour and spicy. Also, the ingredients of noodles also indicate the local climate. In northern China, noodles are made from wheat flour since the dry climate and longer sun time are suitable for growing wheat. On the contrary, in southern China where rice is the staple crop due to the moist climate, rice noodles, such as the Crossing-the-Bridge Noodle, appear on people’s dining-tables. Besides, as Chinese culture is relatively conservative and Chinese people seldom express their love and care directly by language; as a result of which, noodle, as the main staple food, is used to express their love and care. The beautiful story of Crossing the Bridge in Noodle just reflects the use of the noodle in expressing people’s love and wish. Furthermore, Chinese noodles usually reflect the pursuit of harmony in Chinese culture. We can see the examples, Beijing fried bean sauce noodles and Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles, in the article Noodles: Traditionally and Today. These two types of noodles are both made of vegetables, meat, and seasonings that balance the flavors. The combination ensures that necessary nutrition can be taken by our body, and the balance between different flavors is always used as an analogy of our life. Different feelings and emotions experienced by us in our daily life are similar the five tastes; just like balancing different flavors can make the food delicious when cooking, adjusting to balancing all those emotions can help us to live a better life. The way of cooking noodles and all the other Chinese cuisines just represents people’s wisdom and philosophy of living of all ages.


Similarly, Italian pasta also works as a cultural indicator which reflects the country’s history and culture. The untold kinds of pasta give us a glimpse of the continuous foreign invasions suffered by this peninsula in history. Immigrants from various foreign countries brought their own food culture to Italy continuously until the country was finally united in the 19th century. The complex history has contributed to the dazzling pasta we see today. Although Italian pasta seems quite simple to cook, the important rules of using traditional tools and fresh ingredients make pasta delicate with the simple cooking methods. This just indicates the important principles in Italian food culture—simple and freshness. Unless people follow these principles from the production to the cooking process, they would not be able to taste the authentic and qualified pasta otherwise. Moreover, since there are so many kinds of pasta and countless methods to cook them, each Italian family has their own preferred way of cooking pasta. Because of this, as we learned in class, eating homemade pasta is a linkage to the family ancestors and history, not only yourselves’ but also other families’ history. In other words, pasta is a linkage to people’s spiritual world in Italy.


The reason that the noodle plays such an integral in food culture in both Italy and China can be explained from nutritional and economical aspects. In the article Noodles: Traditionally and Today, the author mentioned that noodles can “avoid the disadvantages of a high energy, high fat, and low carbohydrate diet”. Also, the book Truth About Pasta tells us that pasta is a “slowly digesting carbohydrate food” which “offers a steady source of energy”. Noodles and pasta, together with other ingredients, sauces, gravies, and soup bases, offers essential nutrition and energy to the human body. From an economical point of view, noodles are mainly made from ground wheat and eggs, which are common in people’s life. The sauces, gravies, and soup bases can be made from simple ingredients like tomatoes or beans. Other ingredients like vegetables and meat are usually minced, pickled, or sliced. In general, the cost of a bowl of noodle is relatively low compared to many other dishes, and people can choose their own way to make it, depending on their financial situation; therefore, noodles are affordable to most families. Therefore, the characteristic of providing necessary energy with the lowest cost makes noodles such a common food in people’s lives in the history in both countries, and then make noodles so important in both food cultures.


To define the noodle, from my point of view, it’s better to begin with the clinical definition— a food that is made from ground wheat, rice, or cereals, boiled in water, and served with soup bases, gravies, or sauces. As noodles are made into countless shapes, including shapes in the definition would make it not broad enough. Besides the clinical definition based on ingredients and the way of cooking, the cultural definition of noodle cannot be ignored. Noodle, as one of the most common staple food worldwide, is a symbol that reflects traditions and history in many food cultures.

Naya Shim Journal #3: The Slippery Grasp of the Noodle

The identity of noodles may be ever-evolving, but there is no doubt it is a food that is considered an art. As with any art, the noodle has the ability to move, change, and inspire people whether that may be physically and emotionally. The readings for this week supports this because it seems that there is always a symbolic representation for the food when it is placed on the dining table. In other words, food is eaten and served with purpose.

Consequently, the noodle is able to even have the ability to reflect the culture, regions, cities, and people that cook them, which is a really special characteristic to have. The article, Noodles, traditionally and today, opens up with the increase in variation of noodle shapes and styles overtime, starting as early as the Han dynasty (209). Yet aside from the main ingredient and the preparation of the noodle, what distinguishes one from another is the meaning of each noodle. From observation, I find that noodles to Chinese people are a supplement to life and sociality, while Italians make it a way of life.

For instance, the “Crossing of the Bridge” story portrays the noodle as a supplemental aid to help this boy pass his imperial exam. The chef, who is not family, still shows care for the wealthy boy he serves and embodies a Chinese cultural value – an immense amount of loyalty. He travels a long journey and prepares an elaborate noodle dish with lots of time and dedication, as if the noodle was a medium of a transferal of ‘good energy’ from one person or another. For this, I find the noodle is powerful. However, this also means that the definition and meaning of a noodle (and even pasta) is hard to summarize because it is personal. On a larger spectrum, the noodle to Chinese people still supports my previous claim that it is only a supplement to life and sociality because overall people have established traditions to consume certain dishes during birthdays, weddings, marriage, moving homes, and seasons (“Noodles, traditionally and today” 210).

I say that Italians make pasta a way of life because their life revolves around the food. This especially applies to immigrants, who were able to bring a piece of their homeland with them to a new country (“History of Pasta” 1). Through food and opening up restaurants, it led to the establishment of ‘Little Italy’s’ in major cities, allowed such immigrants to make foreign places feel like home through these ethnic enclaves. More importantly, the food became a way of life because it was a source of income. While noodles carry meaning, pasta is the glue that carries the other ingredients in the dish as observed in An Intro to Italian Pasta. Overall, pasta has the power to bring families together, and it even has the power to carry on bringing people together who have distinct differences in language and culture. Amongst all of these barriers, there is a reason why pasta was named the world’s favorite food in the survey conducted by Oxfam, according to The Truth About Pasta (5). Between noodles and pasta, it is so rare to see other food have the same ability and impact to move or change entire nations and cultures.

Therefore, pulling from the readings about Chinese and Italian significance of the noodle as well as my own Korean culture, the definition of the noodle to me is a cereal-based food that provides comfort and energy to one’s lifestyle and body. It enhances life not only nutritionally because it can incorporate vegetables and meats necessary for a balanced diet, but comfort during times of need such as sickness. Noodles and pasta have the effect of one big hug, as if the noodles or pasta wrap around your body and provide security. This could be economical for a restaurant-owner, emotional for a child or adult who is homesick, feeling down, or simply feeling the tender, loving, care from a parent or grandparent that was used to make the dish.

My representative photo below to is a string of diverse people, as if it was a string of pasta or noodles, wrapping around the world bringing people together. Yet, they are standing around the world as if it was protecting the Earth. Whether this means protecting your home, your country, by consuming noodle/pasta dishes, we protect our identities and culture, and strengthen friendships and relationships. Best of all, noodles and pasta around the world show us what it means to be human by caring for each other and satiate our basic needs like hunger.

Thomas Nguyen: The Beauty of the Noodle

The noodle is a simple creation, yet its complexity lies in its variations as a staple food around the world. The food has a long and rich cultural history, and it is essential to the diets of several cultures around the world, such as the Chinese and the Italians. Within these cultures, they each have their own interpretation of the noodle, and consequently, this results in regional variations of the simple noodle. Throughout time, the noodle and its dishes have expanded and adapted not only to its location but also its definition by culture and region.

Geography and technique are the main factors that influence the noodle and dishes of the particular region. The location of a culture results in different preferences for noodles. One notable difference is the noodles of northern China compared to those of southern China. Northern China has a colder climate suitable for growing wheat whereas southern China has a warmer climate favorable for growing rice. As a result, wheat noodles predominate the north while rice noodles are more common in the south. Noodles become even more varied based on the region and the techniques used to make them. According to “Noodles, traditionally and today” from Journal of Ethnic Foods, there are thousands of types of noodles based on its shape and preparation technique. Some varieties include hand-pulled noodles and bamboo-pressed noodles mentioned in “Noodles, Pressed and Pulled” from Slippery Noodles. Bamboo pressing results in the firm texture reminiscent to Italian al dente pasta compared to that of hand-pulled noodles. Similarly, there are thousands of varieties of pasta noodles in Italy depending on the region according to Let the Meatballs Rest with shapes such spaghetti, maccheroni, ravioli, and lasagna. One notable instance of this variation is present in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. According to Let the Meatballs Rest, the tortellini of Emilia are filled with meat because of its preference for pork while the cappelletti of Romagna are filled with cheese because of its preference for sheep products.

Along with the different noodle variations comes its different meanings for a culture. For the Italians, the shapes of the pasta represent different flavors from different experiences. Italian culture highly values family unity and experience, and the Italian nonna (grandmother) preparing her own interpretation of pasta for her family to enjoy is the perfect embodiment of this idea. According to Let the Meatballs Rest, “experience teaches us the different shapes of pasta” and “produce different effects on the taste buds.” Therefore, “[f]orm leads to different flavor.” The Chinese also have meanings associated with their noodles. For instance, the “crossing-the-bridge” noodles are named after the actions of a cook to ensure his patron’s son succeed in his imperial exams according to Noodle by Terry Durack. The story highlights the importance of education and family in Chinese culture, but most importantly, it emphasizes the love a cook puts into the noodles to create a dish for the son to enjoy and ultimately enjoy a successful life. Additionally, Thomas Talhelm’s Rice Theory states that the difference in agricultural methods to produce noodles between northern and southern China have led to cultural differences between the two regions. The north primarily grows wheat and produces wheat noodles while the south grows rice and produces rice noodles. Wheat is easier to grow, allowing for farmers to focus more on themselves, while rice requires more labor and cooperation. As a result, northerners are more individualistic and independent while southerners are more cooperative and dependent. Therefore, even different noodles in the same country can convey different cultural values.

The noodle is ultimately such an integral part of Chinese and Italian foods that it has become a part of the lives of these two countries. Today, it is considered as a staple of their diets. For instance, “Noodles, traditionally and today” classifies noodles as a cereal food, an essential part of the Chinese diet and “the main source of energy for the human body.” Italians also have a similar perspective on the noodle: the pasta noodle is a major part of the Mediterranean Diet with a high nutritional value according to The Truth About Pasta. Both cultures value the noodle as a reliable source of carbohydrates and protein. However, not only is the noodle important to physical health, but it is also important as a bonding tool for society. The noodles of both countries bring families together to eat and bond them with love of a dutiful cook or a loving nonna. They are the representation of cultural values such as family unity in Italy and a long, happy life in China. The noodle today ultimately brings health and happiness to billions of people around the globe.

Noodle n. a cultural artifact composed of a mixture of flour from a grain with water and sometimes eggs that can be shaped and cooked into the various shapes created by different cultures throughout its rich history.

Image result for pasta noodle



  1. “Noodles, traditionally and today”
  2. “Crossing the bridge”
  3. “Noodles Pressed and Pulled”
  4. “The Truth About Pasta”
  5. Let the Meatballs Rest

Ryan Xu: Noodles and Cultural Identity

The noodle is an important food in both the Italian and Chinese culture. Just as specific types of pasta can be the cultural identity for cities in the Italian culture, the different types of Chinese noodle also reflect the emotions, beliefs and values of the people who cook them.

Pasta is one of the most important and representative foods in the Italian culture. As Massimo Montanari mentioned in his book Let the Meatballs Rest: And Other Stories About Food and Culture, “Pasta means Italy. No other food identifies more effectively the many parts of Italian gastronomy and, in a way, unites them.” (Montanari, Let the Meatballs Rest: And Other Stories About Food and Culture, 159) Montanari asserts that pasta can be viewed as a metaphor for both unity and variety in Italian food culture. Although pasta is a single type of food that can serve as the cultural identity for Italy, pasta is also divided into a large number of varieties, each of them unique in their shape, cooking methods, sauces, and purposes. Therefore, for the cultural identity for Italy, pasta can represent both unity and differences, which is important for Italy, a country which had a long history of being divided into different parts, but were eventually united together into one country. Although Italy is one single country now, many of its regions have different cultures and traditions, similar to the fact the each region has their unique style of making pasta.

The cultural identity of China can also be found in the noodles, considering their interesting styles, meanings and background stories. Food plays a significant role in the Chinese culture, and among the numerous categories of Chinese foods, the noodle is one of the most representative of the Chinese traditional values, beliefs and cultures. Chinese people eat different kinds of noodles at different occasions, seasons and festivals. For example, it is the Chinese custom to eat the longevity noodles during birthdays, noodles with gravy when moving into a new house or at the time of a marriage, and dragon whisker noodles on the day of lunar February 2. There are also noodles with interesting stories associated with them, such as the dutiful son’s noodle, dan dan noodles, sister-in-law noodles and old friend noodles. (Zhang, Noodles: Traditional and Today, 210) These noodles reflected the love, dreams, care and friendship of the people who cooked the noodles. Therefore, each of these noodles is not only unique in cooking style and tastes, but is also special in its meanings and representations of the emotions of the people who cooked them.

One of the most famous types of noodles is the Crossing-the-Bridge noodles, which is a rice noodle soup from the Yunnan Province. Crossing-the-Bridge noodles also has an interesting story associated with it. According to the story, the noodle was invented to have the capability of keeping warm for a long time under cold winds and temperatures, so that when the cook brings the noodle soup across the bridge to the boy who was studying for the imperial examinations, the noodle soup would still be hot and warm enough to eat. “ ‘It is too hot!’ he said, and began laughing. ‘I know,’ said the cook, nodding happily. ‘It is the fat that keeps out the wind, the cold, and the bad spirits. Now that you have the nourishment you need, learning will come naturally and gracefully.’ The boy ate the delicious soup with a hunger that he did not know he had as he watched the chef skipping like a child across the bridge back to his kitchen.” (Durack, Noodle, 183) Therefore, Crossing-the-Bridge noodles reflected the cleverness and mastery of the cook in cooking, as well as the love and care he had for the boy, and the passion he had for pleasing people with his food. The interesting background stories of the various types of noodles also reflected the important traditional Chinese values of filial piety, family relations, friendship, and care for others.

If I were to create a definition of the noodle based on what I have learned about the noodle as seen in Italy and China, which is also my own country of origin, I would add to the clinical definition of the noodle, which is “a food paste made usually with egg and shaped typically in ribbon form,” according to Merriam Webster, by defining noodle as “a food paste made usually with egg or wheat and shaped in various forms according to the traditional culture of the region, originating from China and Italy, and would often reflect the histories, values, and beliefs of the culture, region, cities, and people who cook it.”

Image Source:


Works Cited

Durack, Terry. “Crossing the Bridge.” Noodle, Pavilion, 2001, pp. 182–183.

Montanari, Massimo. Let the Meatballs Rest: and Other Stories about Food and Culture. Columbia University Press, 2015, pp. 156–163.

“Noodle.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,

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.


The Role of the Noodle

Courtney Andrews

The noodle, in its essence, is quite simple: flour, water, maybe an egg. This dough can be cut, twisted, and shaped into a number of visually varying pastas, with the root substances remaining the same at their cores. And yet, the noodle seemingly encompasses the cultures of a number of peoples both within and across countries and landscapes. Because of its modest nature, the noodle can be, not only manipulated into varying shapes and sizes, but also dressed up or down according to preference. This innate human preference is often a result of culture, place, history, and tradition. This is exactly why it can and does play such an integral role as the staple food for drastically different cultures. I believe that by definition, the noodle is an important cultural relic comprised of wheat and water at its core, yet subject to variation in composition, shape, and culinary accessories as needed to satisfy the desires, as well as cultural, regional, seasonal, and dietary freedoms, of the creator.

In the Italian culture, pasta is a reason for the family to come together. The noodle is more than a form of nutrition, but rather it is symbol of family tradition and togetherness. Family and togetherness is an integral part of the noodle from start to finish. As illustrated in a number of class examples, but especially “2 Greedy Italians: Italian Family Lunch, Love and Food”, it was clear that enjoying an Italian meal was more than just eating together; it was a group effort to make each and every tortellini by hand, prepare the other complementary ingredients, set the table, and finally sit down to savor the meal together. The noodle, sets the stage for all of this. The noodle brings the family together.

In the Chinese culture, the noodle, in addition to bringing people together, acts more powerfully. Like tortellini, dumplings in Chinese culture set the stage for a gathering and a sharing of knowledge over pasta. As in Italian culture, members of the family gather to partake in the dumpling making procedures, but in the process, allow time to converse with one another and learn from one another, especially the elder members of the family. The noodles therefore also become synonymous with togetherness. Furthermore, in this culture, the noodle represents much more. As with many foods in the Chinese culture, the noodle can be directly responsible for health, wellness, and success in life. As is stated in the article On Food and Medicine, “the Chinese do not draw any distinction between food and medicine. What is good for the body is medicine and at the same time food.” Due in part to their emphasis on food as medicine, the Chinese evidently grant foods a much greater power-role in determining life outcomes. For example, at the very beginning of our course, we read a compelling and dynamic piece on the long-life noodle. This type of noodle in particular is not only a frequent guest at milestone gatherings in Chinese culture, but also quite seemingly a determining factor in the health, longevity, and therefore happiness of the consumer. Although it may be difficult to connect to and comprehend from an outsider’s perspective, this story makes clear the message that the noodle itself determines the lifespan of the consumer— “the longer the noodle, the longer the life”. The noodle’s role in this tradition and the overall eating culture of China makes it an integral part of the culture

The noodle plays such a large part in these countries because of its historical presence in culture and tradition. The noodle acts as a shared historical relic for both China and Italy, within and across the two countries. What is something that unites two places as radically different as China and Italy, and yet makes them, in a culinary sense, unique. What is something that links together the historically independent regions of each of these countries, yet allows for characteristic and distinctive qualities? The answer to both of these questions is the noodle.             The noodle is an integral aspect of the various cultures and their histories throughout both countries. The noodle’s origin is typically attributed to the Chinese, with Italy’s adoption of it attributed to Marco Polo, yet this is not at all the case. Pasta was already present in Italy at the time of Marco Polo’s expeditions, therefore it is actually much more likely the presence of Arabic people in the south peninsula during the middle ages can be rightfully attributed to the noodle’s diffusion across the landscape. In a sense, the noodle appeared somewhat spontaneously in different parts of the world. Chinese “cake”, or in other words, pasta, can be dated back to the Han dynasty according to archeological evidence. Further, it is documented that “lagane”, a Etrusco-Roman pasta varietal that was typically baked rather than boiled, existed during the 1st century A.D. This long history makes the noodle an integral part of the diet, but also the history, tradition and culture. For example, a number of noodle varietals have become staples in important events and festivals. In China, sweet dumplings are eaten during the Lantern Festival, longevity/ long-life noodles at birthday celebrations, dumplings during the Spring Festival, noodles with gravy to mark marriage and moving into a new home (to bring a flavored life), and on the day of lunar Februray 2, “dragon head”, dragon whiskers noodles are consumed. Noodles are also tied to historical moments and stories: noodles called “dutiful son’s noodle”, “sister-in-law noodles”, “ashamed son noodles”, and “old friend noodles”, all relating to stories throughout history. Noodles have a distinct place in history, as well as the landscape. As documented throughout our studies, noodles vary by place within the country. From East China’s “Shanghai noodles in superior soup” to Southwest China’s “Guizhou noodles with pig’s blood and internal organs” and “Sichuan dandan noodles”, we see radical difference in noodle dress-up in China. From “Risotto alle Verdure”, “Agnolotti”, “Cannelloni” in Piemonte, to “pasta con le sarde” and “Pesce Spada” in Sicilia, we see variations in culture and tradition according to the landscape and historical presence.

Overall, the noodle reflects the culture, regions, cities, and people that cook them by adapting and transforming dishes that represent milestones and togetherness, which we see vary according to the landscape. The noodle means more than nutrition in that the noodle can be dressed up as medicine, a celebratory event, a powerful entity, and a reason for a gathering, all based on the complementary components that join the noodle in forming a special dish. The noodle, due to its ancient beginnings has witnessed much of the history and the beginnings of traditions in both of these countries, and therefore has been integrated as a component of such traditions. The noodle has been there since the beginning, making its mark in history, and therefore gaining and essential role in food culture.

The noodle as a cultural relic Nikki Olagbegi

I consider noodles almost like clay in that you can make it into whatever you want because of its versatility.


Noodles in China have a long history of being tied with a cultural experience or location. According to the reading noodle: traditionally and today, noodles have local characteristics.  For example, In East China, there are Shanghai noodles in superior soup. There are also many cultural practices centered around the noodle such as birthdays when people eat longevity noodles and at the time of marriage, they eat noodles with gravy also known as flavored life. Noodles are even characterized by the seasons or festivals where they are present, such as the dragon whiskers noodles eaten at the longtaitou festival. Traditions of preparing noodles typically stay in the cultures for long periods of time like the Bamboo pole noodle that is found in the southern part of China and has a long history in the culture even though it was labor-intensive and time-consuming. Even with being tied to a cultural experience though the identity of the noodle could change. For example, In history, the Dan Dan noodle was known for the way it was sold on the shoulder pole and after a long period of time when it wasn’t sold as a street snack because of government restrictions it was later known for the way it prepared with including minced meat and a vegetable preserve.  

 Italians noodles have a long history that is well tied to cultural traditions. In the 1300s pasta was often taken on long voyages because it could last for long periods of time. Like Chinese noodles, pasta is often regionally characterized, There are roughly 300 different shapes and varieties of dried pasta in Italy. For example, ziti is known to the region of Sicily and Penne is known to the region of Campania. Even Italians have pasta known for certain events. When I visited Siena for the Palio, they would serve specific dishes like pici alla lepre. This kind of dish has a huge cultural significance in that it is usually prepared and served among several other dishes the night before the festival. At this time by eating this food and singing and dancing, each of the Contrads (neighborhoods) are hoping that they would have a huge accomplishment at the festival.

The noodle is an important staple in Chinese traditions.  To people in China, noodles are a kind of cereal food and also the main source of energy.  Similarly, for Italians, it is an as important staple in the article truth about pasta the authors talk about how pasta meals have roots that stretch back to ancient times and how they would often have foods accompanied with pasta and that tradition has continued now.  The authors also talk about the Mediterranean diet and how the foundation of this cuisine is pasta because they are so easily prepared and versatile in the foods they can be prepared with.  

In China, the noodle plays an integral role,  primarily due to its long history in the culture as a simple and easy to cook food. Chinese noodles originated in the Han dynasty. At that time, they were collectively referred to as cake. Also, the reading Dan Dan noodles talk about Xie Laobans Dan Dan noodles were a  pick me up a cure for hangover a heartache and the perfect antidote to the gray humidity of the Chengdu climate. Therefore Chinese also believe noodles can have health benefits.

For Italians, pasta is a quintessential dish because of its versatility in how it can be prepared and it can be easily prepared. As stated in the article, the truth about pasta, “Pasta may be the most convenient, delicious health food out there. It can be found at parties. It’s good for adventurous palates and simple tastes. It is not expensive and it’s quick to prepare; it’s a regular on restaurant menus and grocery shelves; and, a pasta meal actually works two-fold by being a fantastic vehicle for other healthy foods.” There are so many benefits to pasta that its hard not to depend on a dish like this. 

I would consider the noodle as a staple food that can be prepared in a plethora of ways,  an integral part of the culture, and prepared for various purposes from special events, to family meals, to remedies for an illness.