A Chef’s Point of View on Cuisine and Culture

Simón A. Crespo Pérez

August 9th, 2019

A Chef’s Point of View on Cuisine and Culture


            For my final research paper, I have decided to conduct a deep ethnographic interview on a chef. The purpose of this paper, similarly to our class content, readings, presentations, and assignments, is to investigate the relationship between humans, cuisine, and culture. The most important aspect in my paper is to understand the present conceptual trend in cuisine: it is way more than just about nourishing us, it is about transmitting ideas, like art, and of doing effective business with it. The structure of the paper is built, so the reader can understand this.


            It is a sunny and windy afternoon in Guayaquil, Ecuador, when I had the amazing opportunity of visiting Juan Carlos Nehme, a twenty-one-year-old Ecuadorian chef, in his beautiful home filled with exquisite national art and colorful gardens. He receives me with a relaxed look and a warm smile. His outfit seems typical of a chef: red Crocs shoes, socks with donuts print, black jean pants, black t-shirt from the famous Koy Shunka restaurant in Barcelona, trendy glasses, wild hair and beard, and a body full of tattoos. As I contemplate the art collection in his home, he prepares me a delicious French press coffee. For the next couple of hours, we engaged in an ethnographic interview, that seemed like a passionate conversation about his origins and motivation, his life as a chef, and his views on cuisine and culture and how they affect our future.

Origins and Motivation

Juan Carlos loved cuisine since he was a little kid. For him, food creation and consumption have always been related with family and sharing. This idea is embodied in his childhood memories with his paternal and maternal sides of his family. On his paternal side, which migrated to Ecuador due to the Lebanese Civil War, he has important memories of helping his father with assisting him in barbecues, and of helping his grandmother in preparing grape leaves filled with lamb, a traditional dish from Lebanon. He gets nostalgic when he remembers he cannot cook any more with his grandmother due her health issues. On his maternal side, which migrated to Ecuador due to the Spanish Civil War, he learned how to appreciate the pleasure of good eating from his mom and grandmother even though both of them didn’t cook. On both sides of his family, he was inculcated the love for cuisine, but on his father’s side he was also instilled the love for preparing it. Additionally, cuisine can break socio-economic barriers. Olivia, which was his childhood nanny, was from the coastal towns of Ecuador, and when he went to visit her in vacations, Olivia’s family would prepare him humitas, a Native American dish from Pre-Hispanic times. Not only did cuisine meant sharing with his family, but also with people from different socio-economic status. Cuisine made him more human. Do the beautiful experiences with his family and nanny made him remember these delicious dishes? Or do the delicious dishes made him treasure these beautiful experiences with his family and nanny? From what we talked about, and we will discuss later, it seems it’s the first option. A particular dish can be delicious, but the full experience is the factor that makes it memorable.

            Juan Carlos didn’t always want to be a chef. When he was in high school, he wanted to play professional basketball. He was in the school team and had played in international competitions in Argentina and in the United States of America. At that point in his life, his plan was clear: he would go to the United States and be a student-athlete in a university. He didn’t even think about what he would study because that was secondary. The main point was to go professional. Sadly, he suffered a devastating injury in his junior year of high school that stopped his dream of making basketball his career. It was a terrible experience but looking at it from the present perspective, it was probably the best thing that could happen to him. Since the basketball dream was over, he started searching for a new passion in the summer of his junior year going to senior year. He tried architecture, engineering, and law. None of these careers seemed to spark joy to him. Until one day, he went to a nearby restaurant from his home, called La Pizarra, with his family, where he was friends with the chef, Juan José Morán. Juan Carlos talked to the chef about his struggle to find a new passion, and the chef offered him an internship. He accepted. In the first day of the internship, Juan Carlos worked for twelve hours and forgot about the physical pain caused by the injuries. It was love at first sight.

Becoming a Chef

After doing the internship in that restaurant, he was convinced that cuisine was the path he wanted to follow. His parents were fully supportive since they don’t care what their children do as long as they strive to be the best. Thanks to some business contacts of his father, the creator of contemporary Peruvian cuisine, Gastón Acurio, recommended him to attend the Basque Culinary Center of Mondragon University in San Sebastián, Spain. The other options for studying were Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Following the advice of one of the best players in the gastronomic game, Gastón, he went to Spain and join the team of four hundred students in the Basque Culinary Center in search for a Bachelor’s Degree in Gastronomy and Culinary Arts, which offers three specializations: chef, industrial, and management. Juan Carlos went for the chef specialization. The interesting thing of this institute is that you can arrive with zero knowledge regarding cuisine since they don’t care if you know or don’t know. What they care about is your passion. They teach you from how to properly crack an egg to oenology, which is the science of wine. Grades are based on accomplishing objectives, not by courses. The school has alliances with the best chefs worldwide, so he has done internships in highly prestigious places, like in the Hilton Hotel of Guayaquil, in the Bajamar Brewing Company in Guayaquil, in the restaurant Singular by well-known chef Iñigo Lavado in Irún, in the restaurant Koy Shunka by well-known chef Hideki Matsuhisa in Barcelona, and in the restaurant Geranium by well-known chef Rasmus Kofoed in Copenhaguen. In a couple of months, Juan Carlos will graduate.

The Future: Cuisine and Culture

            Juan Carlos explained to me that the current trend in cuisine is to understand it as a way of transmitting ideas, just like art. In certain ways, cuisine has always transmitted ideas, but it was not its main purpose, it was a secondary consequence. Currently, vanguard cuisine focuses mainly on transmitting ideas. It wasn’t always like that. In ancient times, food’s main purpose was to make us survive, and, then, as humanity developed, we focused on using it to survive and also invested time in making it taste and look good. Finally, in contemporary times, we are focusing on its deepest aspect: the power of transmitting ideas. Just to make it clear, someone can argue that food has always transmitted ideas, and they might be right. The thing is that now we are appreciating and being aware of it more than ever and making it a central pillar. If you read different dictionaries, the most common definition of art is the expression of human creative skill and imagination in order to create works that can be appreciated for their beauty and power of transmitting ideas that have an effect on us. Cuisine has entered the category of art. Just like cuisine has undergone through a historic process during millenniums, Juan Carlos went through a similar process in his years of university. First, when he just arrived, he focused exclusively on making dishes that taste and look good. As time passed, he discovered the deeper meaning of cuisine and his approach changed by first coming out with a concept or idea, and then worrying about the aesthetic side of it. Now we have an answer to the question of the third paragraph: do the beautiful experiences with his family and nanny made him remember these delicious dishes? Or do the delicious dishes made him treasure these beautiful experiences with his family and nanny? The answer seems to be that the dish becomes memorable due to the idea of sharing through the human experience of being with his family and loved ones, like his nanny.

            Juan Carlos provided two real life examples to support his claim that food is currently based on transmitting ideas trough experience: one of them is the Peruvian chef and businessman Gastón Acurio, described earlier as the creator of contemporary Peruvian cuisine, and the other is the American chef Grant Achatz. When Gastón entered the culinary world, he knew that Peruvian food tasted good and had rich history, but he saw the weakness it had in transmitting ideas in the international scale. Consequently, he decided to give identity to it. How do you give Peruvian cuisine identity? By transmitting it through the experience. Consequently, he designed an ambitious business plan, which consisted in opening Peruvian cuisine restaurants in international locations, like Chile and Spain, and in Perú too. Besides serving delicious dishes, he made sure to transmit the idea of Perú’s identity through the restaurant’s experiences. Additionally, he commercialized Peruvian culinary inventions like Huancaína sauce, focusing not only on the quality of the product, but also on the experience side of it, or the marketing. Through his restaurants and products, he told the story of Peruvian cuisine identity and culture. The effect was making international people to fall in love with Peruvian cuisine in their own countries, and then traveling to Perú to try it locally too. It is a genius plan. Differently from Gastón, which focused on transmitting a country’s identity, Grant Achatz focused on transmitting his own personal identity. Similarly to how Beethoven lost his hearing, Grant lost his sense of taste due to cancer. He didn’t want to stop cooking, so he focused on the texture and experience of the food, which were things he could manage, while he left to his assistant the job of the taste. Under this plan, he created Alinea, which has been named the best restaurant in America four times. Just like his life, the experience is based in texture; consequently, he serves dishes like helium balloons made of sugar, which means you have to suck the helium, which makes you laugh and talk funny, and then you can eat the sugary material. What a wonderful way is to start a meal with a laugh! He created a restaurant that focusses on transmitting his personal story through experience. Luckily, through the years, he has recovered the sense of taste.


            Clearly, a particular dish can be delicious, but the full experience and idea that it is transmitting is the factor that makes it memorable. Juan Carlos lived this with his family and nanny, Gastón made a genius business plan that gave special importance in the marketing of the restaurant (the decoration, the menu, the music, etc.) to transmit an idea, and Grant captured it through his strange dishes. The plan of Juan Carlos is to copy the business model of Gastón in Ecuador not only because it will most likely make him rich, but also because it fulfills his ultimate goal of creating an international culture of Ecuadorian cuisine. It is a win-win situation: he does what he loves and earns money while being supportive of his country’s culture and people. When you elevate the cultural status of your cuisine, even the farmer who gathers the grains of rice or coffee starts to feel the improvements in their life. This happens because the chefs and owners of restaurants are obligated to invest money in their suppliers, like farmers, so they can get the best ingredients to work with. For example, if you own a seafood restaurant and are gaining international reputation, you would most likely pay more to your local fishermen, so they can get you the best seafood. His long-term plan is to invest his money and time in that project. To sum up, contemporary cuisine is heavily influenced by the concept of transmitting ideas, like cultural identity or personal stories, and creating effective businesses.

The Worldwide Gluten-Free Movement and its Effects on Pasta

Olivia Diaz Gilbert

Abstract: Recently, there has been a worldwide movement increasing awareness of gluten related illnesses and the number of people that consume a gluten free diet.  This trend has been caused by an increase in the diagnoses of celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance and by the promotion of the gluten-free diet as a weight loss strategy.  The gluten-free movement has had an effect on the food culture surrounding foods traditionally made from wheat such as pasta, in many regions around the world.  The effects have been unique in several heavy noodle-consuming countries, specifically China, Italy, and the United States.

In the last decade, the gluten free diet has gained popularity due to its medical and perceived dietary benefits.[1]  This trend has much to do with the growing number of diagnoses of celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance world-wide.[2]  Because gluten is used in so much of food production, the gluten free movement has fundamentally changed the food industry and food culture in the Western World.  Noodles are one of the foods upon which the gluten-free movement has had the biggest impact, due to the fact that its main ingredient is wheat flour.  However, this impact varies greatly geographically, and between Western and non-Western countries.  The following paper will explain the causes of the gluten free movement, and the effects it has on pasta in the U.S., China, and Italy.

One of the most well-researched reasons to avoid gluten is celiac disease.  Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the villi lining the small intestine when gluten is ingested.[1]  This reaction can not only cause digestive discomfort, but also a multitude of nutrient deficiencies as it impairs the small intestine’s nutrient absorbing capabilities.  If left untreated, celiac disease is also associated with many more severe life-altering diseases such as osteoporosis, thyroid diseases, and even certain types of cancer.[2]  Additionally, the only known treatment for celiac disease is to exclude gluten altogether from one’s diet.[3]  This reality has led many suffering from celiac to search for gluten-free products to replace certain diet staples such as bread and pasta.  In the past several years, the number of people diagnosed with celiac disease and thus awareness of the disease has increased significantly.[4]  Still, according to the celiac foundation, out of the estimated 3 million Americans suffering from celiac disease (1% of the U.S. population), there are currently only 400,000 diagnosed cases.[5]

            In addition to celiac disease, there are two other main medical causes for eliminating gluten from the diet.  The first is a wheat allergy, which is one of the eight most common food allergies and affects approximately 0.3% of the U.S. population.[6]  The second is non-celiac gluten sensitivity.  Experts have estimated that as many as 18,00,000 or 6% of Americans suffer from non-celiac gluten intolerance.[7]  However, there still has not yet been conclusive evidence showing that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a diagnosable problem or if the positive results that people report from eliminating gluten from their diets are due to sensitivity, a reduction on the amount of junk food eaten, or the placebo effect.[8]  Further research remains to be done that could conclusively link non-celiac gluten sensitivity to specific genetic or physiological factors.  Regardless, reports and diagnoses of both celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity have been on the rise sine the mid 2000’s, which has caused the demand for gluten free products to increase significantly. 

            Lastly, as celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity have gained awareness in the U.S., the gluten-free lifestyle has also been promoted as a diet strategy to promote weight loss.[9]  This diet has become so popular, that as of 2014 one study showed that 30% of Americans self-reported they “avoid gluten.”[10]  Contrary to the gluten-free doctrine that some celebrities and public figures promote, evidence suggests that going gluten-free is not actually the best strategy for weight loss.[11]  People may experience weight loss as they eliminate highly processed, refined, or sugary foods from their diets, however, if these foods are replaced with equally unhealthy gluten-free foods, the benefits of a gluten free diet will be lost.[12]  However, so long as the public perceives that a gluten-free diet is good for weight loss, they will continue to demand gluten-free products.  This ultimately has a positive effect for those with legitimate disorders, sensitivities, or allergies that prevent them from consuming gluten by increasing the availability of gluten free foods.

            The increase in desire for gluten-free products for the reasons explained above has resulted in the development of gluten-free alternatives to products traditionally made from wheat flour, or other ingredients containing gluten.  Along with breads, and almost all other baked goods, alternatives to wheat flour pasta and noodles are also in demand.  According to Food Business News, pasta sales grew almost 3% world-wide between 2015 and 2018.[13]  If it was not already, in recent years pasta has become a staple food for Americans, with the average American eating 20 pounds of pasta each year.[14]  This trend in the U.S. has led to even greater need for gluten-free alternatives to noodles and producers have reacted accordingly.  Between 2014 and 2018, gluten-free food production went from being a 5.9 billion dollar industry to a 17.6 billion dollar industry.[15]  This means that more gluten free products including pasta and noodles, are getting on the shelves at supermarkets, and more people than ever are buying them.

            This exponential growth in the gluten free food industry, and the rising popularity of pasta in general has led to many innovations in gluten-free pasta.  Multiple different kinds of cereals, psuedocereals, and legumes have been used to make gluten-free pasta and noodles including, quinoa, millet, rice, amaranth, sweet potato, corn, lentils, and chickpeas to name a few.[16]  Research shows that pastas made with some grains are preferred to others.  For example, one study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that 83% of participants in the study found pasta made from corn acceptable, while only 50% of the same pool of participants found pasta made form millet acceptable taste-wise.[17]  Another study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that people without celiac disease had lower acceptability scores for pasta made from Andean corn than people with celiac.[18]  These studies imply that producers of gluten-free pastas and noodles have desires to improve the standard of their products, and broaden the types of ingredients that are used in them.  Additionally, some of the more recent additions to the variety of gluten-free pastas available include those made of legumes such as chickpeas or lentils.[19]  These types of noodles have been introduced to the market as high protein alternatives to other gluten-free pastas.  These pastas appeal to more than just gluten-free consumers, but also consumers with different kinds of dietary restrictions that make it more difficult to eat enough protein such vegetarians and vegans.[20]  The research and innovation in alternatives to wheat flour pasta has led to the increase in variety of gluten-free pastas currently available and vast improvements in the quality of gluten-free pastas.

             Based on the trends and research explored above, the gluten-free movement has greatly influenced the food culture specifically having to do with pasta, in America.  Pasta and noodles made from ingredients other than wheat flour have increased significantly in popularity, not just with those who cannot eat gluten for medical reasons, but also for people who are not gluten-free.[21]  The gluten-free food industry in American is predicted to continue to grow in the coming years, and with this, the impact of gluten-free foods such as pasta on food culture will also continue grow.[22]

            However, the awareness for medical problems or lifestyle choices that require a gluten-free diet is much greater in some parts of the world than others.  This lack of awareness has implications for the availability of gluten-free products as well as the culture surrounding the gluten-free movement and products.  Because of the significance of the noodle in these countries, the following portion of this paper will compare and contrast gluten-free culture in China and Italy with each other and with what has already been established about gluten-free culture in the United States.

            In China, the culture surrounding gluten-free food is vastly different than that of the United States.  Firstly, awareness about celiac disease or gluten intolerance remains relatively low among the general population.[23]  Even among those who are aware of the of the medical issues associated with gluten consider these “Western problem[s]”.[24]  According to Dr. Zou Lin, a Physician at the Southern Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine in Guangzhou, many believe that the medical issues associated with gluten are psychological rather than physiological, or that these issues can be cured by slowly reintroducing gluten back into the diet.[25]  However, this is most often not the case. 

Additionally, in China, there exists the concept that gluten related illnesses do not affect the Chinese as much as they do Americans and Europeans.[26]  However, one study conducted in 2018 shows that the percentage of the population suffering from disease in Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania, North America, and South America are very similar and even concluded that the prevalence of celiac disease in Asia (0.6%) was higher than the higher than the prevalence in North America (0.5%).[27]  From a public health standpoint, this misinformation needs to be rectified so that Chinese people with celiac disease can get the health advice and treatment they need.

However, raising awareness and changing attitudes surrounding gluten-free diets of people in China is a lot easier said than done.  Wheat is an extremely culturally important staple food in China and is used in a multitude of ways outside of just noodles.[28]  Wheat flour is used as a thickening agent in much of Chinese cuisine and is an ingredient in soy sauce which is used to flavor many Chinese dishes.[29]  Between these two uses of gluten in Chinese cuisine, gluten can be found in dishes that do not include noodles or other foods made from doughs.  In China, eating or making gluten free food means completely changing the process of how food in general is made.  Because of this, it will likely take longer for the gluten-free movement to gain traction in China and thus for gluten-free foods like noodles to be used where wheat is a traditional staple.[30]  Thus far, the gluten-free movement in China has had little to no effect on food culture and it is yet to be seen if it will in the future.

In Italy, a culture surrounding the gluten-free lifestyle has emerged that is different from both the culture in the United States and China.  Similar to the United States, awareness of celiac disease and other gluten related illnesses is high among the general public.  In fact, celiac disease has been recognized by health experts as a public health issue in Italy for longer than ns United States or other European nations.[31]  Its leading celiac association, the Associazione Italiana Celiachia, was founded 30 years ago in 1979.[32]  Because of the high level of awareness of gluten-free diets in Italy, there is also a high level of availability of gluten-free products.

Pasta is one of the most culturally important foods in Italian Cuisine.  Where the average American eats 20 pounds of pasta every year, the average Italian eats 52 pounds of pasta every year.[33]  For Italians with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, finding a gluten-free alternative to pasta means that they can continue to enjoy culturally significant dishes, and thus there is a high demand for gluten free pasta.  Dry pasta producers like the Italian multinational pasta producer, Barilla, have responded accordingly in providing a diverse line of high-quality gluten-free alternatives to traditional wheat-flour pastas.[34]  Small pasta producers such as restaurants have also responded either by purchasing gluten-free pasta to provide their gluten-free customers, or by formulating their own recipes and making gluten-free pasta in house.[35]  Italian pasta producers large and small have embraced and provide for the dietary needs of their celiac and gluten-sensitive fellow pasta lovers. 

However, their lies a key difference in gluten-free food culture in Italy and the United states.  In Italy, sufferers of celiac disease and gluten intolerance are looked upon with pity by non-sufferers.  Unlike in the U.S., in Italy, the gluten-free diet has gained little traction as a diet specifically for weight loss or a “healthy lifestyle”.[36]  Pasta is considered a delicious and healthy food, and thus there is no reason that a person without a gluten related illness would eat a gluten free diet and deprive themselves of it.[37]  Rather than “adopting” a gluten-free diet as people do in America, Italians are often literally prescribed one.[38]  Italians diagnosed with celiac disease are given a monthly allowance by the government to spend on gluten-free alternatives to staple foods which can be found at pharmacies rather than supermarkets.[39]  The gluten-free diet is considered treatment for a disease and is almost never a choice.

Another major part of Italian Culture that has been affected by the gluten-free movement is the tradition of making pasta at home.  People with gluten related illnesses cannot make and eat pasta in the same way that Italians have for hundreds of years.  Because of this dilemma, new products have been developed to mimic the properties of gluten in the baking process.[40]  There are now gluten free flour formulations that are designed to completely replace wheat flour.  With the addition of xantham gum, a newly available gluten-free binding agent, these flours can be used to make pasta in the traditional Italian way.[41]  Although purists may protest the deviation from tradition, gluten-free Italians and Italian-Americans can now experience the joys of homemade pasta and participate in this culturally significant Italian practice.[42]

 The gluten-free movement has had different manifestations in food culture in different regions around the world such as the United States, China, and Italy.  The rising awareness of celiac disease and gluten intolerance has led to the development of gluten-free replacements for gluten-containing staple foods such as pasta and noodles.  However, this awareness for gluten-related illnesses and availability has yet to spread very far outside of the historically Western world.  Celiac disease poses a public health issue world-wide, especially in countries such as China where the idea of going gluten free has not gained any cultural traction.  There are still many cultural effects to be observed and researched related to the gluten-free movement as this public health issue gains more awareness in countries where there is currently very little awareness.

[1] “What is Celiac Disease?” Celiac Disease Foundation.

[2] “What is Celiac Disease?” Celiac Disease Foundation.

[3] Bijlefeld, Marjolijn, and Zoumbaris, Sharon K.. Encyclopedia of Diet Fads: Understanding Science and Society.

[4] “What is Celiac Disease?” Celiac Disease Foundation.

[5] “What is Celiac Disease?” Celiac Disease Foundation.

[6] Fasano, Alessio. “Five Myths about Gluten.” The Washington Post (Decmber 2018).

[7] Bijlefeld, Marjolijn, and Zoumbaris, Sharon K.. Encyclopedia of Diet Fads: Understanding Science and Society.

[8] Bijlefeld, Marjolijn, and Zoumbaris, Sharon K.. Encyclopedia of Diet Fads: Understanding Science and Society.

[9] Bijlefeld, Marjolijn, and Zoumbaris, Sharon K.. Encyclopedia of Diet Fads: Understanding Science and Society.

[10] Fasano, Alessio. “Five Myths about Gluten.” The Washington Post (Decmber 2018).

[11] Bijlefeld, Marjolijn, and Zoumbaris, Sharon K.. Encyclopedia of Diet Fads: Understanding Science and Society.

[12] Bijlefeld, Marjolijn, and Zoumbaris, Sharon K.. Encyclopedia of Diet Fads: Understanding Science and Society.

[13] Donley, Arvin. “Worldwide Pasta Consumption on the Rise.” Food Business News.

[14] Donley, Arvin. “Worldwide Pasta Consumption on the Rise.” Food Business News.

[15] “Gluten-Free Products Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product (Bakery Products, Dairy/Dairy Alternatives, Meat/Meat Alternatives), By Distribution (Grocery Stores, Mass Merchandiser), And Segment Forecasts, 2019 – 2025.” Grand View Research.

[16]. Chiu, Meichen, Talwinder Kahlin, and Rebecca Milczarik. “Whole Grain Gluten-free Egg-free Pasta.” Cereal Foods World.

[17]. Chiu, Meichen, Talwinder Kahlin, and Rebecca Milczarik. “Whole Grain Gluten-free Egg-free Pasta.” Cereal Foods World.

[18] Giménez, M. A., Gámbaro, A. , Miraballes, M. , Roascio, A. , Amarillo, M. , Sammán, N. and   Lobo, M. (2015), “Sensory evaluation and acceptability of gluten‐free Andean corn spaghetti.”. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

[19] Cronin, Alyssa. “Why is America Embracing the Widening World of Non-wheat Pastas?” Washington Post.

[20] Cronin, Alyssa. “Why is America Embracing the Widening World of Non-wheat Pastas?” Washington Post.

[21] Cronin, Alyssa. “Why is America Embracing the Widening World of Non-wheat Pastas?” Washington Post.

[22] “Gluten-Free Products Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product (Bakery Products, Dairy/Dairy Alternatives, Meat/Meat Alternatives), By Distribution (Grocery Stores, Mass Merchandiser), And Segment Forecasts, 2019 – 2025.” Grand View Research.

[23] Harding, Hazza. “Across China: Gluten-free Foods Yet to Impress Despite Bakery Boom.” Xinhuanet.

[24] Harding, Hazza. “Across China: Gluten-free Foods Yet to Impress Despite Bakery Boom.” Xinhuanet.

[25] Harding, Hazza. “Across China: Gluten-free Foods Yet to Impress Despite Bakery Boom.” Xinhuanet.

[26] Harding, Hazza. “Across China: Gluten-free Foods Yet to Impress Despite Bakery Boom.” Xinhuanet.

[27] Singh, P., Arora, A., Strand, T.A., Leffler, D.A., Catassi, C., Green, P.H., Kelly, C.P., Ahuja, V., Makharia, G.K. “Global Prevalence of Celiac Disease: Systematic Review and Meta-           analysis.” National Center forBiotechnology Information.

[28] Haimovitch, Carie H., “Getting Gluten-free Food in China.” Celiac Travel.

[29] Haimovitch, Carie H., “Getting Gluten-free Food in China.” Celiac Travel.

[30] Haimovitch, Carie H., “Getting Gluten-free Food in China.” Celiac Travel.

[31] Curry, Andrew. “Gluten-Free Dining in Italy.” The New York Times.

[32] Curry, Andrew. “Gluten-Free Dining in Italy.” The New York Times

[33] Donley, Arvin. “Worldwide Pasta Consumption on the Rise.” Food Business News.

[34] Cronin, Alyssa. “Why is America Embracing the Widening World of Non-wheat Pastas?” Washington Post.

[35] Curry, Andrew. “Gluten-Free Dining in Italy.” The New York Times.

[36] Curry, Andrew. “Gluten-Free Dining in Italy.” The New York Times.

[37] Curry, Andrew. “Gluten-Free Dining in Italy.” The New York Times.

[38] Curry, Andrew. “Gluten-Free Dining in Italy.” The New York Times.

[39] Curry, Andrew. “Gluten-Free Dining in Italy.” The New York Times.

[40] Abraham, Lena. “Best-Ever Gluten-Free Pasta.” Delish.

[41] Abraham, Lena. “Best-Ever Gluten-Free Pasta.” Delish.

[42] Heath, Elizabeth. “How to Make Pasta Like a Badass Italian Nonna.” The Hiffington Post.

Works Cited

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Bijlefeld, Marjolijn, and Zoumbaris, Sharon K.. Encyclopedia of Diet Fads: Understanding  Science and Society, 2nd Edition. Englewood: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2014. ProQuest Ebook     Central.

Chiu, Meichen, Talwinder Kahlin, and Rebecca Milczarik. “Whole Grain Gluten-free Egg-free    Pasta.” Cereal Foods World (January 2013).            https://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publication/?seqNo115=278013.

Cronin, Alyssa. “Why is America Embracing the Widening World of Non-wheat Pastas?” Washington Post (June 2019).            https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/voraciously/wp/2019/06/14/why-america-is-embracing-the-widening-world-of-non-wheat-pastas/?noredirect=on.

Curry, Andrew. “Gluten-Free Dining in Italy.” The New York Times (June 2014). https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/29/travel/gluten-free-dining-in-italy.html.

Donley, Arvin. “Worldwide Pasta Consumption on the Rise.” Food Business News (May 2018). https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/11886-worldwide-pasta-consumption-on-the-   rise.

Fasano, Alessio. “Five Myths about Gluten.” The Washington Post (Decmber 2018).

Giménez, M. A., Gámbaro, A. , Miraballes, M. , Roascio, A. , Amarillo, M. , Sammán, N. and     Lobo, M. (2015), “Sensory evaluation and acceptability of gluten‐free Andean corn       spaghetti.”. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 95: 186-192 (April 2014).             doi:10.1002/jsfa.6704.

Haimovitch, Carie H., “Getting Gluten-free Food in China.” Celiac Travel.            http://www.celiactravel.com/stories/getting-gluten-free-food-in-china/.

Harding, Hazza. “Across China: Gluten-free Foods Yet to Impress Despite Bakery Boom.” Xinhuanet (May 2019). http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-05/13/c_138054956.htm.

Heath, Elizabeth. “How to Make Pasta Like a Badass Italian Nonna.” The Huffington Post (September 2018).

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Ramen Noodles: From Japan to Every College Dorm Room Across the Globe (Courtney Andrews)

Ramen noodles, according to the Cambridge Dictionary are “a Japanese meat or fish soup containing noodles and vegetables.” Although the definition conjures up images of the steamy noodle soup so commonly associated with Japanese culture, such a definition, according to Japanese tradition and practice, is much too simple. Ramen, as a whole, is separate from its generic noodle soup counter parts in that the dish is characterized by the use of kansui, alkalinized water reminiscent of mineral rich water once drawn from wells. This ingredient is vital to the iconic ramen noodles which are then added to broth, and topped with appropriate additions and garnishes, such as slices of fish cake, pork belly, eggs, green onions, and more. This use of kansui, lye, or general baking soda mixed with water, serves as the key ingredient that gives Ramen noodles their distinctive yellow color, earthy fragrance, and chewy texture. In essence, it is what keeps the noodles from boiling into mush despite bathing in steamy liquid; the noodles maintain their characteristic bounce while the broth remains warm and steamy. The ramen noodle concoction is simple: soup, noodles, and toppings. And yet, despite such simplicity in their very being, ramen noodles have become a sensation—a noodle soup superior to all other noodle soups. Diving deeper into the history of such a dish works to make this fact even more perplexing.

            The negotiation that is possible with ramen is and has been vital to its development from a simple noodle soup. There are four commonly accepted classes of ramen soup, shio, shoyu, miso, and tonkotsu, three of which are dictated by the “flavor” and the final, tonkotsu, simply by its pork broth base. There is overlap within and between these three flavor classes across regions and according to place. Shio is the oldest form, first introduced to Japanese port cities by the Chinese upon the and miso is the newest. Shio style ramen is the original ramen soup, with origins dating back to the late nineteenth century in port cities with temperate climates that supported the success of light soup bases. Miso ramen started in northern Hokkaido in the mid 1960’s as a result of colder weather. The harsher temperature begged for a heartier soup with greater depth to satisfy the citizens. The intermediate flavor, shoyu, or Japanese soy sauce, is the ramen seasoning most popular in the Kanto region of central Japan. It originates from Yokohama, a port city near Tokyo that contributed to some of the early successes of ramen. The particular combinations of these flavors are what make for ramen’s variability along the vast scale of flavors, generally guided by shiro seasoned soups on the lighter end and miso seasoned soups on the heavier, with shoyu finding its place somewhere in between. As the lines separating the categories of ramen by flavor generally lead to overlaps and blending that make ramen variety unclear, regional diversity is instead differentiated according to heaviness. Two descriptions are generally used to describe the heaviness of the soup base: “kotteri” which is used to describe richer soup and “assari” which describes lighter bases. For thicker broths bones from pork or chicken are left to simmer for longer periods of time, whereas lighter broths usually call for fish or chicken bones simmered for less time. Regional variation is also marked by spice levels, which for the most part, are dictated by heavier or lighter use of chili oil within the broth. Broth variation is the most obvious and well recognized factor when it comes to ramen types, although all are distinctive qualities of the Japanese cuisine.

            An interesting, yet frequently overlooked aspect of ramen is the variation of noodles included within the distinctive broths. By definition ramen noodles are made up of simple ingredients: wheat flour, salt, water, and konsui. Although the ingredients remain largely unchanged depending on the style of ramen, there are particular shapes of noodles associated with the soup bases. The noodles are engineered to best deliver the respective soup base to the mouth and taste buds of the consumer. The goal of varying the noodle type is to retain as much of the soup on the noodle throughout the “slurping” process. Although most ramen noodles, especially in western countries, are crinkly and extremely yellow in color, purposely reminiscent of the instant ramen to which Americans and Europeans are most accustomed, the noodle types vary by dish and soup base in traditional Japanese varieties. There are two common forms of ramen noodles: straight and wavy. Straighter noodles are more commonly used in thicker broths as the thick broth more effectively binds and is absorbed with the straight noodles as a vessel the fats cling to. The wavy noodles are meant to keep the thinner broths from quickly sliding down the noodles as the non-linear pattern slows their rapid descent. Although both act as vessels to bring their soup base with them, it is not ideal for them to simply soak up the broth. The perfect noodle is considered overdone after sitting in the broth for more than 5 min. This is why if ramen is taken to-go, the noodles are often separate, and this is only if the ramen place allows for to-go at all. This keeps the ramen at a level of quality the creator intends for the dish to be savored.

            Two popular types of ramen are Tokyo style and Sapporo. Tokyo style ramen is categorized by its moderate thickness and slightly wavy noodles in an assari chicken and pork broth flavored with dashi and shoyu. Dashi is a broth made with bonito fish flakes and sea kelp and is used in a wide variety of different Japanese dishes. This Tokyo style shoyu ramen was one of the most popular forms of ramen until the recent boom of tonkotsu ramen. Sapporo ramen is known for its density. The noodles are very thick and the miso broth is thick to match. The broths are made from pork, chicken, or fish broths that fully use the miso’s functional thickness pairing. The particular type of miso often used is akamiso meaning “red soybean paste.” As Sapporo is a city in the north of the large island province of Hokkaido, and Hokkaido was the birthplace of miso ramen, Sapporo has become the center for ramen characterized by extremely thick ramen that fully utilized the new and in vogue miso flavoring.

            Although it is unclear when exactly “ramen” was first invented, historians seem to agree that it is a result of Chinese relations. Origin stories of Japanese ramen noodles place its conception somewhere between the seventeen and twentieth centuries. The story that seems to describe the earliest possible immigration of ramen to Japan is described in a book published in 1987. The hypothesis is based on the historical record of a Chinese refugee advising Japanese feudal lord Tokugawa Mitsukuni to add a number of ramen-like ingredients to his udon soup as early as the 1660’s. However, it is unclear whether or not these noodles included the key ingredient in ramen noodles: kansui. As the chewy yellow noodles are the distinguishing factor between a noodle soup and true ramen, the styling of the udon in this story can only be suggestive of a new kind of style to noodle soup like ramen, but not the true origin. This legend however, is well favored by ramen enthusiasts, as it places the history of ramen much further back in history than the other origin stories. One that is more likely, however, places the conception of ramen in the time period that marked the opening of Japan. In the late nineteenth century, Chinese and Westerners, for the first time in over 200 years, were allowed entry into Japan. The Chinese brought their own noodle soups to the port cities in Japan such as Hakodate, Yokohama, and Kobe. These basic soups, devoid of toppings, likely became the initial, shiro-style adaptions introduced to Tokyo by pushcart peddlers in the early twentieth century. The soup-noodle street food, at this point in history, still had yet to undergo the preferential adaptations and changes that have formed the various dishes known as Japanese ramen today. Finally, the third hypothesis more or less adds specification to the second. It places the birth of ramen sometime between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, yet it links ramen to a single creator. According to this tale, Ozaki Kenichi, who had once worked as a customs agent in Yokohama, opened a shop called Rai-Rai Ken that served the first ramen. The ramen that was served in his restaurant incorporated a characteristic soy-based seasoning sauce in the soup, chāshū (braised pork belly), naruto (fish-meal cake), green leafy vegetables, green onions, and nori, as well as an alkalinized noodle called Shina soba. In total, the dish attributed to Rai-Rai Ken and creator Ozaki Kenichi is seemingly the first instance of the iconic ramen noodle soup. From this dish, the ramen noodle was conceived, although many other changes throughout history had yet make their marks on the development of the dish.

            In the early days of ramen, the dish was associated with early signs of industrialization and urbanization. The dish was seen as a foreign food, richer and heartier than the Japanese noodle dishes that did not contain meat broths or toppings. The dish typically sold from street carts and Western or Chinese-style restaurants, provided the nourishment and calories needed to fuel the developing country. Furthermore, as ramen noodles were one of the first industrialized foods, they were fast and inexpensive; a mechanical noodle-making machine could produce the key ingredient for ramen efficiently, therefore making the dish even more desirable. In the 1940’s, however, this wave of popularity was stopped in its tracks. World War II introduced Japan to food shortages and famines, as well as governmental regulations on foods supplies and food producers. Until 1949, no one in Japan was allowed to earn a profit via the sale of food—selling ramen could land on in jail. Moreover, ramen was associated with China and foreign influence, topics that became unfavorable in the midst of a world war.

            After the war, with the Unites States occupying Japan, the country witnessed a shift in the food system. Food rations were still technically in place, as was the prohibition of outdoor sellers, yet ramen began making a comeback. In the time of this foreign occupation, wheat and lard imported from the United States became substitutes for the shortage of rice and meat experienced throughout the nation. This abundance of wheat made foods like bread and noodles the standard diet of the population. Wheat and lard, as well as garlic, became the main components of “stamina foods”, foods that filled bellies during the desperate times during and after the war. Ramen, almost by default, became the food that nourished the Japanese during an era characterized by great hunger and poverty. For this reason, ramen gained a reputation as a food made for desperate times, a food eaten only when the consumer could not afford anything else. It was only in the next generation, with the postwar economic boom in full swing, that ramen regained its shining status. In the period from 1955 to 1973, ramen, along with the rest of Japan experienced great nationalization. While the rest of the country began building venues and transportation projects for the 1964 Olympics, upscale restaurants specializing in the Japanese staple began to surface across the landscape. Ramen became a symbol with Japanese cuisine, but this time, in a luxurious and affluent light.

            By the 1980’s, as ramen shops were still on the rise, it became clear the once peasant food had found a new clientele: the “Shinjinrui” or “new breed”. The new breed consisted of young urban consumers who flocked to the newly fashionable craft food. Ramen, unlike other traditional Japanese foods, was not bound by unspoken rules of preparation. The dish was open to innovation and experimentation by the new generations of young cooks, eager to provide their own interpretations of a Japanese staple. As a result, ramen and ramen shops became trendy, marked by limited menus and higher prices. Ramen’s ability to deviate from the set standards and norms made it all the more desirable among the younger generations. Ramen abandoned its status as a desperate source of fuel rooted in Chinese influence and American occupation, and instead became an icon, a symbol of Japanese cuisine. The once foreign import, and dish concocted from foreign ingredients had progressed to the focus of so many Japanese millennials’ obsessions. Eating ramen became a hobby distinguished by waits in hour-long lines at special shops and travels across the landscape to taste some of the regional varieties first-hand. By the 1990’s, some of the more renowned ramen chefs had even achieved a sort of celebrity status in Japanese culture. This rise to fame was fueled by the younger generation’s fascination with the noodle dish, which they took to the internet, and soon the rest of the world.

            Although the art form of making ramen first started in Japan, it has since immigrated across the globe. Ramen has become a craze here, even in the United States with Japanese culture connoisseurs and hipsters alike. Some of the best ramen shops in larger Unites States cities such as San Francisco and New York call for one to arrive at five o’clock in the morning in the hopes of tasting the special dish at all that day. Specialty ramen has taken the country by storm, especially when considering the first instance of ramen likely occurred in Japan just over a century ago, nearly no time considering its roots can be dated back tens of thousands of years. Exactly how the craze made its way from Japan to countries like the United States in so little time is largely unclear. However, the over ten-year gap in the beginnings of the apparently similar trends, suggests the trend is not a result of translation from the younger Japanese generations to the new age of American. Although there is no one definitive reason as to why ramen noodle bars have become an American obsession, the trend is actually most likely a result of younger generations endearing relationships with a very special type of ramen noodles: instant ramen.

            During the twentieth century, Japan provided the world with a number of life-changing inventions: the bullet train, the Walkman, the fuel-efficient car, digital cameras, emojis, karaoke, Nintendo, electric rice cookers, true ramen noodles, and greatest of all, instant ramen noodles. In a study conducted in Japan, in 2000, instant ramen was named the greatest invention of the twentieth century. Although the study only sought to discover the opinions of Japanese citizens, it is clear that ramen noodles have become a global sensation. Packages of ramen line the shelves of grocery stores across the world, lending themselves as a cheap, easy, and delicious food perfect for the working professional as well as the stressed broke college student.

            The instant ramen was first welcomed to the world by Momofuku Ando in Japan in 1958, ten years after the end of World War II. After witnessing and experiencing food shortages in the midst of the post-war devastation, Ando sought to create a food that was tasty, nonperishable, quick, cheap, safe, and healthy. After many failed attempts to find an efficient means of preserving noodles that would rehydrate with a desirable texture, he found that tempura frying the noodles drove out the moisture while maintaining the bouncy texture of the noodles upon boiling. And so, instant ramen was born. “Chicken Ramen,” the world’s first instant noodle meal, was surprisingly enough, not created with the intention of becoming a junky filler food for starving college students. In fact, instant ramen cost more than fresh soup at a local ramen shop. Instead the instant ramen was marketed toward middle-class women and children as a complete easy and nutritious meal for nuclear families looking to avoid the flocks of students and working professionals who had taken over ramen shops. The product was a hit, so much so that other companies entered the Japanese market before instant noodles expanded their reach into Asia and the rest of the globe. The globalization of instant ramen into foreign markets has made this delicious food a staple beyond Japanese borders. Furthermore, the low cost and ease associated with ramen noodles have made them especially practical for and prevalent among college students. Ramen’s association with a younger age group has likely contributed to its popularity among hipsters and trend-setters in the United States.

            Whenever my family goes on vacation, I spend my time shopping and sight-seeing while my brother chooses to spend his walking countless blocks to find hole-in-the-wall ramen shops top ranked ramen eateries. He gladly stands in line for hours and wakes at dawn just to try whatever ramen he is hunting for. I never questioned why—it was his hobby, his passion, the reason he has spent multiple summers in Japan tasting all that the country has to offer. He even took a class one summer, where he was taught the etiquette, values, and key concepts associated with ramen. Although he is far from your typical trend-follower, my brother has an insatiable love for ramen. When I questioned him about his obsession with the dish, he told me that it is the uniqueness of ramen that makes it worth waiting and searching hours for. It is filling and comforting without being boring. It’s the satisfaction of steak and potatoes, or chicken noodle soup, and yet it is impossible to get sick of. The variation makes it exciting yet in its essence, ramen is always smooth and comforting.

            The ever-changing status of ramen makes it a particularly intriguing noodle dish. Its regional variations make the dish an icon of Japanese culture across the landscape. With nothing set in stone besides a need for warm broth and chewy noodles prepared for the heat by incorporating kunsui, ramen leaves much up to the artistic vision of the creator, as well as his or her culture and influence. From humble beginnings, and simple guidelines, ramen has endured over a century of changes in perception and acceptance, despite little change in character. The noodle dish is has remarkably not left a population untouched: from starving post-war survivors to new age Japanese students and professionals, from middle class Japanese families or American hipsters to college students on a budget. Ramen, whether it be viewed as a famine food or a trendy food, has never failed to satisfy the souls or the bellies of its consumers



Work Cited:


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A Look at Chinese Diaspora in Peru through the Noodle

Abstract: Latin America is a region heavily impacted by historical events that have led to a wide diversification of people (Oxford Reference, 2019). Despite mass erasures of cultures through the period of colonization and indentured servitude in Latin America, several aspects of these cultures have been persevered and have aided in the shaping of modern Latin America. This paper addresses the displacement of the Chinese people in Latin America since the mid 19th century (Chang-Rodríguez,1958). Specifically, the paper will analyze the Chinese diaspora and assimilation in Peru through the use of foods such as the noodle. Which has led to the creation of the unique Chinese-Peruvian culture that has impacted Peru’s culinary, social, and political history forever.

Through a western lens, we can understand Latin America to be one of the few regions only distinguished by an ethnicity (Latino/a/x) and not by a prevailing race. That is because Latin America has been widely impacted by its indigenous civilizations, European colonization, the Atlantic slave trade, migrations of Asian indentured servants, etc, (Oxford Reference, 2019). As described by Dr. Fernandez of Harvard University, the word Latino serves as a category for anyone from Latin America or of Latin American descent to be classified under, regardless of race or other ethnic backgrounds (Fernandez, 2018). Unfortunately, there is a tendency for many Latin Americans to erase the entirety of their ethnic backgrounds by only preserving the European aspects. There is a preference for European looks and heritage in Latina America, that impacts the stories and history you hear about your own people. Despite this, the wide categorization of Latin Americans is in part due to the resulting ambiguity of many years of intermixing between different races/ethnicity groups.

This diversification of people has a long and rather unpleasant history in Latin America. By the end of the slave trade there were approximately 12.5 million Africans taken to the Americas, where only about 400,000 African slaves made it to the U.S. and the remaining 10.5 million that survived were taken to Latin America and the Caribbean (Gates, 2012). A startling statistic that not many people associate with the founding of current Latin America. This migration of people has impacted every aspect of Latin American culture such as cuisine, music, dance, religion, and even down to the different uses of the Spanish language. I bring this up to highlight, that despite these mass erasures of cultures that occurred during periods of colonization such as Spanish settling in what is now known as the Philippines that led to trade with South America, some original practices and traditions of the original cultures still remain prevalent (Chang-Rodríguez,1958).

When zooming in on Asian history in Latin America we can think of a couple major countries. During the 19th century, the prosperity of the tea industry was introduced to Brazil leading to a migration of expert tea workers from China, forming “the first organized Asiatic colony in the New World” (Chang-Rodríguez,1958). Inner turmoil within Latin America, due to the end the slave trade and crippling economic systems from Spanish rule, countries in Latin America saw a need for indentured servants. Contracted from China some of the first indentured servants arrived in Cuba in 1847, many of whom died or committed suicide on the voyage. (Chang-Rodríguez,1958).  Similarly, Peru suffered a great labor shortage due to a decrease in population and lack of contribution to labor forces by indigenous people. Peru opened up it’s legislation to encourage foreigners to move to the country’s Amazonian region by offering them privileges in exchange for work. This 1849 immigration law was the foundation for thousands of Chinese settlements in Peru (Chang-Rodríguez,1958).

Unfortunately, several cases occurred where many indentured servants were taken in inhumane conditions from China to work in Peru. By the end of the 19th century more than 100,000 Chinese indentured laborers arrived in Peru (Lausent-Herrera, 2009). Many of whom were men and their contracts did not allow them to have contact with local women, however, larger cities such as Lima were many Chinese laborers “were employed as domestic servants… [had] greater liberty” leading to more mixed-race births (Lausent-Herrera, 2009). Years of discriminatory practices against Chinese people in the U.S. and other countries, made Lima, Peru stand out because the “Hispanic cultural tradition does not emphasize racial difference” (Wong, 2009). Despite there still being subtle racism and discrimination, as mentioned prior there were no legal restrictions in Lima, on miscegenation between Chinese and Peruvian people, aiding in the assimilation of Chinese people and culture to what we know it to be in modern day Peru (Wong, 2009).

Nevertheless, life for Chinese Peruvians was very difficult, they had no recognition from their Chinese government and little from the Peruvian government. Torn between two worlds, Chinese Peruvians were looked down upon by native Chinese people for being “half-bloods” and they were not represented in Peru for being of Asian descent (Lausent-Herrera, 2009). During the mid to late 1900s, many Peruvian Chinese people were unsure to return to China or to stay in Peru. Both countries were facing issues with communist dictatorship like regimes, however, Peru for some Chinese people provided a way to be protected by what was occurring in mainland China while conditions bettered for Peru with the return of democracy in 1980 (Lausent-Herrera, 2009). During this time, the Chinese Peruvian culinary scene began to flourish because new Chinese cooks whom were less conservative began creating new dishes that preserved and emphasized the “creole Chinese cuisine special to Peru” (Lausent-Herrera, 2009).

According to the Overseas Community Affairs Council,Republic of China, Peru is currently the Latin American country with the highest population of Chinese people and ranks 7th overall in the world for largest population of Chinese people outside of China, 1.3 million Chinese Peruvians (OCAC, R.O.C., 2005). Despite prior negative Chinese-Peru relations, this large population of Chinese people in Peru has widely shaped Peru’s culinary history. Contributing to one of the most unique and diverse food fusions, the Peru-Chinese creation of Chifa, Chinese-Peruvian cuisine. In Peru there are local restaurants known as Chifas that serve the Chinese-Peruvian cuisine known as Chifa. Chifas have become as an easier way for Chinese immigrants to spend quality time with their families because “the circulation of information concerning the family and commercial activities no longer depends on institutions” in Peru but on these Chifas (Wong& Tan, 2013). Which served as a place to continue Chinese practices, communal gatherings, gaming centers, and as a means for bringing Peruvian and Chinese people together (Wong & Tan, 2013).

Chifa serves as a sort of symbol of the amalgamation between Peru and China. A necessity for Chinese-Peruvians who felt betrayed by the lack of recognition from the Chinese government, as well as out of place in a country with majority mestizo mix of European and Indigenous people. Leaving Chinese-Peruvians in their own category in which they had to learn to maneuver and reconstruct a new Ethnic group with similar yet different practices and traditions. Preserving their culture, Chinese immigrants in Peru still held on to their culinary traditions and learned of ways to combine them with regional spices and existing food practices already home to Peru. Birthing fusion dishes such as Arroz Chaufa (Cantonese-Peruvian Fried Rice), Tallarin Saltado (Cantonese-Peruvian Chow Mein), Wanton Frito (Fried Wonton), and Lomo Saltado (Beef and vegetable stir-fry).

Moreover, what is unique about Peruvian-Chinese food is that it is fully immersed in the culture of Peru. In the U.S. we think of different ethnic foods to be separate from American food, we think of Mexican food being solely Mexican and Chinese food being solely Chinese. However, in Peru because Chifa comes from the blend of Peruvian and Chinese cultures it is thought to be entirely Peruvian in origin. Much like there is little racial distinction amongst Latin Americas, that applies to all aspects including food which is just broadly defined as the region where the food originated. Peruvians have accepted and adopted many Chinese traditions in their own lives when it comes to food, serving as a source of comfort for a Chinese-Peruvians who felt a sense of displacement (Lausent-Herrera, 2009).

Peru-Chinese history is best told through immigration stories and through the use of anthropological data collection methods, such as interviews. Many of these stories are woven into the food and dishes that have emerged from such a blending of cultures. Such as that of BuzzFeed’s Stantos Loo, who is of Chinese Peruvian descent. Santos shares a touching story of his grandfather emigrating to Peru from Guangzhou and opening up a Chifa restaurant. While sharing this story he is also making a dish from his grandfather’s original menu, Chaufa de Marisco’s which is essentially a fried rice dish with mussels. Santo’s goes on to explain that this dish represents his heritage stating that he is a blend of Peruvian and Chinese cultures. He metaphorically describes the combination of ingredients in the wok as a merging of two cultures. The dish uses both Chinese and Peruvian ingredients to make a totally new cuisine. Such as the mixing of aji amarillo, which is a Peruvian chili pepper. As Santos puts it “Peru meets China” with the additions of soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil to the dish (Loo, 2019).  Traditionally, these dishes are served in large bowls with the intention of everyone to share, which is another ethnically Chinese derived practice.

There are several noodle dishes in Peru with Chinese origin, known broadly as tallarin which are made of yellow egg noodles. The tallarins come in many varieties such as Cantonese-Peruvian Chow Mein style, or aeropuerto which is a mix of chow mein and fried rice dish. There are also wonton soup dishes known as sopa wonton and styles of fried wonton known as wonton frito. In the Journal of Ethnic foods article noodles are described to be a “reflection [of] cultural traditions and customs in China” and are even described to mean “human nature” implying that noodles are obviously embedded within everyday life for Chinese people (Zhang & Guansheng, 2016). Many noodles signifying something just beyond the necessary nourishment and are used in different traditions such as the longevity noodle which is eaten on birthdays to signify a long life, as well as the consumption of dragon whisker noodles in anticipation of good weather (Zhang & Guansheng, 2016). For many Chinese Peruvians continuing to eat these noodle dishes is a method of cultural preservation and when combining the dishes with Peruvian styles of cuisine it is a means of validating and establishing the ethnic group of Chinese Peruvians.

Moreover, many of the Chinese migrants to Peru came from the Southeastern region of Guangdong, Macao, and Hong Kong bringing with them their Cantonese styles of music, art, language, and primarily cuisine. In the southern region of China, Guangzhou wonton noodles are widely popular, as well as in Hong Kong strained noodles, rickshaw noodles, and shrimp roe noodles (Zhang & Guansheng, 2016). Many of which have made their way into Peruvian tallarin styles of cuisine, although these dishes have not been exactly replicated. In addition to this, for Chinese people “cereal food… is the main source of energy for the human body” highlighting the importance noodles have in maintaining a “good diet tradition” (Zhang & Guansheng, 2016). The bringing of Cantonese style noodles to Peru demonstrates the importance of the noodle for Chinese people, being that out of all the cuisine in China several noodle dishes prevailed in the scene of Chinese-Peruvian Chifa. In fact, many restaurants in Peru have noodle manufacturers linked to them where they distribute noodles to local businesses, also observed in Peru is the appearance of wonton and stuffed breads such as mimbao “made and sold in the streets” (Lausent-Herrera, 2011).

In the “Crossing the Bridge” noodle story we learned that noodles are meant to provide the sustenance necessary to overcome a feat such as studying and the fat in the noodles also helps keep out the bad spirits. Although the story is a metaphor for the protecting and capabilities of noodles it comes to life in almost all Chinese immigrant stories. For indentured servants in Peru who endured poor quality of life and their predecessors who faced ethno-social adversity, noodles provided a source of nourishment, comfort and familiarity to Chinese laborers in their times of hardship. Many of the laborers relied heavily on food to uplift their spirts and as a means of economic improvement, they opened up restaurant’s around Lima. After time, there were so many restaurants concentrated in the area that it became known as the Barrio Chino or Chinatown (Lausent-Herrera, 2011).  These Barrio Chinos gave Chinese-Peruvians a space to practice their traditions and currently Chinese festivals such as Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn festival are celebrated there (Asociación Peruano China, 2015). Also home to Barrio Chinos are many temples and oracles which provide a sense of belonging for Chinese-Peruvians in a home away from home manner (Cruz, 2010).  

For Chinese migrants, there is a heavy importance tied to noodles as a means of expression and significance. The use of noodles makes its way into all culinary spheres as a symbol for cultural heritage and has persisted in Peru through 172 years of hardships associated with the displacement of Chinese-Peruvians. Serving as an entity that connects Chinese-Peruvians with their homeland as well as Chinese-Peruvians with their predecessors in Peru. The persistence of the Chinese noodles across the world stands as a testament for the tenacity of Chinese culture. Earlier in the paper, I made the note that although there have been many attempts to erase different cultures throughout history there are still parts of these cultures that remain, impacting the traditions and societies of adoptive lands. There are even instances of complete immersion where new cultures and spaces are created to accommodate the needs and traditions of these newly founded cultures, much like what occurred in Peru with Chinese-Peruvians.

The Chinese diaspora is one that is indistinguishable from the diaspora of the noodle, it’s widespread popularity cannot be recognized or understood without the acknowledgment of the beautiful culture behind the production of the noodle. I have previously mentioned and still believe the noodle can be defined as a meal that has transcended cultural, linguistic, and international boundaries through its expression of care and love when prepared, served and consumed.


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The Chinese food culture from regional cuisines and its impact on the American food culture

Haerim Lee

CHN 370W

Hong Li and Christine Ristaino

August 09, 2019


The Chinese food culture from regional cuisines and its impact on the American food culture


The exotic yet such a pleasant scent welcomed me as I opened the door of the restaurant. As I expected from the two Chinese characters “金 佛” on the door, the intense red everywhere inside and the oriental painting on the surface of a wall exuded an atmosphere of the authentic China. The first impression of this Chinese restaurant, Golden Buddha was mostly the same with the image that came to my mind when thinking of a typical Chinese restaurant. However, as I looked around the inside for a moment, I could identify that the customers were from all different countries not just Asians. Since Golden Buddha is a Chinese restaurant, I initially thought that there would be more of Asians than Americans in the restaurant. What is this a new phenomenon? What are the effects that the Chinse food culture had on the American food culture? Based on these two questions, I decided to write my final research paper about ‘The Chinese food culture from regional cuisines and its impact on the American food culture’. The Chinese food culture is manifested itself in the different regional cuisines that have their own unique taste and style. This distinctive food culture of China has fascinated the American people playing a crucial role in shaping the identity of the American food culture.

China is the world’s number one country for its vast territory and huge population. It has twenty-three provinces in total and each region has its own style of living and culture. There is nothing but food that can show the unique style that differs from region to region as it is the only cultural artifact that solely becomes who we are. Then, why are the cuisines different from region to region? What are some of the factors that make such regional differences? To gratify such curiosities, I scrutinized both primary and secondary sources about Chinese regional cuisines and could figure out the four main dividing factors that distinguish from one region to another: Agriculture, climate, palate, geographical isolation, and religion.  

The agriculture is one of the biggest distinguishing factors that affects the regional cuisine. The ingredients that chefs use in making food are dependent on the agriculture and wildlife of that region. This idea can be clearly shown by comparing the Northern and Southern china. In Northern china, where what cultivation is suitable, wheat flour is the staple food for people in that area, so the Northern Chinese people enjoy eating noodles and dumplings. On the other hand, in Southern China, where rice cultivation is suitable due to warm and rainy weather, they eat rice as their staple food.

Another dividing factor is the climate. The climate in China is different regionally and the central and south china are humid. Because of the humidity, the central and south Chinese people usually eat spicy food in the belief that chili peppers in those foods help to move internal dampness and cold.  In ‘Shark’s fin and Sichuan pepper’, the memoir written by Fuchsia Dunlop, she claims that Xie Laoban’s Dan Dan noodles were a potent pick-me-up, a cure for hangover or headache, and the perfect antidote to the grey humidity of the Chengdu climate (Fuchsia 2019).

  The palate is the third aspect of causing difference in regional cuisines. Most of the Chinese people enjoy eating spicy food as their palate is accustomed to it. However, Cantonese cuisine shows that those in the southeast like sweet food, in contrast to a mostly savory palate in the rest of China (Annie 2018).

Geographical isolation specifically indicates why Taiwan food is different from that of other regions. As Taiwan is isolated from China, it has developed its own mixed cuisine blending some cooking styles from Fujian and Guangdong.

Lastly, religion also played a role in making a difference in regional cuisines. The main religious food is the halal food restrictions adhered to by Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in China’s northwest (Annie 2018). These factors ultimately led to the difference in the taste of Chinese cuisine regionally and divided China into five different regions based on the flavor and cooking style: Northern, Eastern, Western, Central, and Southern minority cuisine.  

The Northern China food is most characterized to be salty and simple with less vegetables. The districts that belong to Northern part of China are Shandong, Beijing, and Inner Mongolia. Shandong cuisine is mostly famous for seafood due to its Northeast location along the coast. The Shandong chefs try their best to keep the original flavor of fresh seafood only with simple ingredients and braising. They are also known for making both clear broth and creamy soup. The staple food for Shandong people is wheat, so they serve much more dishes made of wheat compared to other regions resulting in the more consumption of noodles. One of the famous dishes in Shandong is ‘Jyoh-jwan daa-chang’ which is braised pork intestines in brown sauce. It might sound not appealing to people who have never heard about or tried this food before, but the dish is in fact very appetizing as the Shandong chefs skillfully harmonize all the different flavors through a series of cooking techniques. Another Northern district is Beijing, the capital city of China. I am sure that everybody has heard about the dish called ‘Peking roast duck’. This famous roast duck is from Beijing and Beijing cuisine is mostly influenced by Shandong and Inner Mongolia. It is known for its imperial cuisine with strong seasonings like vinegar and garlic. Inner Mongolia cuisine also belongs to Northern China food and as the name suggests, it originates from traditional Mongolian culture. Inner Mongolia cuisine mainly includes dairy products and all kinds of red meat and the representative foods are ‘roasted whole sheep’ and ‘roast leg of lamb’.

The Eastern China cuisine is sweet and light with a lot of fish and seafood dishes. Cantonese and Fujian are the main regions of the Eastern China. Cantonese cuisine that originated from Guangdong province is the most popular style of Chinese cuisine around the world especially in America. It is characterized for mild and sweet taste with less spices focusing more on freshness and natural flavor of ingredients. The dishes from Guangdong are diverse in its kind such as fine seafood dishes, rice dishes, soup, and dim sum. One of the most famous Cantonese cuisine is ‘Slow-boiled soup’, a clear broth made by simmering meat and other ingredients over a low heat for several hours (Annie 2018). Since Chinese herbs and medicines are used as the main ingredients in making the soup, Chinese people believe that a bowl of this soup has the power to heal and strengthen their health. Fujian cuisine is noted for its use of exotic ingredients from mountain and sea. This unusual mixture of various ingredients yields a unique flavor that differentiates Fujian cuisine from other Chinese regional cuisines. The most well-known dish of Fujian is ‘Shark Fin Soup’ that needs a preparation of about three days. It is known for its marine taste and usage of about thirty mostly high-class ingredients, such as abalone, shark’s fin, scallops, and sea cucumber (Annie 2018). 

The Western China cuisine is known for Muslim food from Xinjiang cuisine and Tibetan food from Tibetan cuisine. As many of the inhabitants in Xinjiang are people from Uyghur, the cuisine is mostly based on halal foods as Xinjiang people are Muslims. Tibetan cuisine features a mix of flavors of Nepalese, Indian, and Sichuan cuisines due to its geographical position and its original dishes influenced by the harsh climate.

The Central China cuisine is hot and spicy along with strong seasonings. The regions that are in the Central China are Sichuan and Hunan. When people are asked to name one of the spicy Chinese foods, many of them first think of dishes from Sichuan. Sichuan cuisine is famous for its spicy and numbing flavor arises from the use of Sichuan pepper and Chili peppers. Kung pao Chicken is a traditional Sichuan dish made with chicken, chili, Sichuan peppers, peanuts, and vegetables (Annie 2018). The level of spiciness can vary depending on how much peppers are put in, but the soft texture of chicken does not change. Hunan cuisine is also famous for its spicy flavor, but it can be even spicier than Sichuan cuisine. The high agricultural output of the regions enables the use of diverse ingredients when making food. A typical Hunan dish is a numbing spicy chicken made with red chili peppers and spicy ingredients.

The Southern minority cuisine includes many preserved foods as people in this area are mountain farmers who usually preserve foods that they cannot eat immediately. This regional aspect determines the type of cuisine of that area such as picked vegetables and tofu that have sour flavor.

These diverse regional cuisines from Northern China to Southern minority all come together to form the distinctive Chinese food culture. Being acknowledged for its versatility, the Chinese food culture had impact on the food culture of other countries especially in the United States. The influence of the Chinese food culture on the American food culture dates back when the Chinese people first moved to the San Francisco Bay. In 1849, the rumors of gold nuggets that drew thousands of East Coast get-rich-quick hopefuls out of California during the Gold Rush also resonated across the Pacific with the merchants of Canton in South China (Rude 2016). The Chinese merchants, who had good feelings of success of their business in America, became the first immigrants to provide services for the miners in the San Francisco Bay. This first wave of immigration fueled later waves of Chinese immigrants who buckled down to work as pioneer agricultural laborers to manage their American life. All of these workers were undoubtedly also hungry for good Chinese cooking that reminded them of land they have left behind (Rude 2016). To satisfy their yearning for home food, the Chinese immigrants became the restaurant owners by impressing the patrons with cleanliness and professionalism. The restaurants owned by Chinese people became popular not only for the appetizing dishes they served, but also for the cheap price. Nevertheless, the relationship between Americans and Chinese people was not in a good shape as both wages and job opportunities declined due to the depletion of gold resources. The animosity towards Chinese people grew bigger and bigger and eventually became law. In 1882, “The Chinese Exclusion Act” was passed banning all Chinese workers entering the United States. This law continued until 1943.

Despite the social turmoil, the Americans were still captivated by the Chinese food. However, the food was mostly derived from only Cantonese cuisine. The liberalization of American immigration policy in 1965 brought new arrivals from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Mainland, who in turn brought with them the foods they had enjoyed in areas like Hunan, Sichuan, Taipei and Shanghai (Rude 2016).

President Richard Nixon’s famous visit to China brought a big culinary impact on the United States. At that time, the Americans had not much knowledge about the authentic Chinese food, but only knew about Chinese dishes like chop suey, chow mein, and egg rolls and paid no more attention to them. However, after witnessing their president eating Pecking duck, the traditional dish of Beijing on a live broadcast, they became curious about the authentic Chinese food. The Americans went exploring in Chinatowns and fell in love with the flavor that they have never experienced before. The Chinese restaurants thrived in the United States than ever before.

Today, according to the Chinese American restaurant association, there are over 45,000 Chinese restaurants currently in operation across the United States. This number is greater than all the McDonald’s, KFCs, Pizza Huts, Taco Bells and Wendy’s combined (Rude 2016). The investigation demonstrates that the Chinese food culture is forming an ever-greater part of the American food culture.

The anthropological study about ‘Golden Buddha’, the Chinese restaurant in the United States further illustrates what is the impact of the Chinese food culture on the American society. In the interview with the restaurant manager, Steve, he claimed that his restaurant has two main kinds of foods: the Americanized Chinese food and the Korean style Chinse food. These two types of cuisines are the identity of not only this particular restaurant, but also the American food culture as they were made from the taste of the American people. As shown in the one of the popular Chinese restaurants in the United States, the Chinese cuisines are a big part of the American food industry and they are not the authentic Chinese cuisines, but the Americanized Chinese dishes that captivated the customers in America who are from all different countries.

In conclusion, the Chinese food culture of today is comprised of the different regional cuisines that come from agriculture, climate, palate, geographical isolation, and religion. Each region has its own unique flavor and cooking style that distinguishes itself from others. Since early times, the Chinese food culture had impact on the American food culture and its influence has increased recently due to brisk cultural exchanges from the globalization. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Chinse food culture shaped the identity of the American food culture as the most hip food that the most Americans enjoy eating is the Americanized Chinese food. The big boom of Chinese food in America will still go on and more and more younger generations will fall in love with this amazing cuisine just like their parents did.



Works Cited

DUNLOP, FUCHSIA. SHARK’S FIN AND SICHUAN PEPPER: a Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China. W W NORTON, 2019.

Crowther, Gillian. Eating Culture: an Anthropological Guide to Food. University of Toronto Press, 2018.

Eric Fish, Asia Society. “How Chinese Food Got Hip in America.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 9 Mar. 2016, www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/03/chinese-food-hip-america/472983/.

Hinsbergh, Gavin Van. “China’s 8 Great Cuisines – Best 8 Culinary Classics.” China Highlights, 9 Aug. 2018, www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-food/eight-cuisine.htm.

Liu, Junru. Chinese Food. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Rude, Emelyn. “Chinese Food in America: A Very Brief History.” Time, Time, 8 Feb. 2016, time.com/4211871/chinese-food-history/.

Wei, Clarissa. “An Illustrated History of Americanized Chinese Food.” First We Feast, First We Feast, 20 Oct. 2016, firstwefeast.com/eat/2015/03/illustrated-history-of-americanized-chinese-food.

Wu, Annie. “China’s Regional Cuisines – Chinese Food Types North–South.” China Highlights, 8 Aug. 2018, www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-food/regional-cuisines.htm.

Wu, Annie. “Discover China’s Regional Food Through 10 Dishes.” China Highlights, 23 May 2018, www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-food/discover-china-regional-food.htm.


Origin: The Relationship of Pasta and the Genesis of Traditional Italian Meal Structure



Traditional Italian meal structure creates a featured dish for each course of the meal. The meal structure provides a platform to showcase different elements of Italian cuisine. Some eat the traditional Italian meal structure frequently, while others only partake of certain courses. For some, the full traditional Italian meal structure is often saved for festivities and celebrations. The meal structure developed over centuries in Italy. I have sourced references from Zanini De Vita’s Encyclopedia of Pasta, where she uses the anthropological method of interview to gain insight into the transformation of Italy, its food culture and relationship with food, noodles, and pasta during the nineteenth and twentieth century. In this research paper, I seek to ascertain the origin and significance of the traditional Italian meal structure, pasta’s importance to the meal, Italy’s identity and heritage, as well as the pasta experience of various socioeconomic and regional groups. Pasta’s undeniable relationship to Italy and its identity likely explain why noodles and pasta are the “Primo”.







After World War II and the age of economic prosperity in Italy, noodles and pasta became more widespread. Today, pasta plays a central role in Italian cuisine. In the traditional Italian meal structure, pasta is the Primo, but is the third in the order. No other course has such a welcome in the Italian meal structure, which represents the importance of pasta and the noodle in Italian Cuisine and the esteem bestowed upon it. The traditional Italian meal structure begins with the Apertivo, which is typically a beverage, such as wine. The Antipasto is the next act, setting the table for the entrance of the Primo. The Antipasto is lighter than the Primo and usually consists of salami, prosciutto, cheeses and other lighter fare. The Primo typically consists of hot noodles and pastas, lasagna, vermicelli, gnocchi, et al. The Secondo follows, and includes varieties of meats, fish, and poultry. The Insalata or salad follows. Also accompanying the meal is the Dolce, comprising of sweet dishes, such as tiramisu, cake, pie, and other confections. The Caffè follows with an espresso being a leading example. A beverage with digestive properties, the Digestivo closes the meal. In addition to the traditional Italian meal structure, Italians have traditional snack times: Spuntini is in the midmorning, and Merenda is in the mid-afternoon. As the Primo however, pasta and noodles have a signature position in Italy’s food culture: “pasta may be the unchallenged symbol of Italian food” (Zanini De Vita 1). During research of pasta’s importance in Italy, De Vita “identified more than thirteen hundred pasta names, counting both factory-made and homemade, which represent almost as many different shapes or sizes, though some variations are, of course, small” (Zanini De Vita 2).

In the traditional Italian meal structure, food types are served separately with pasta, meat, and vegetables coming to the table in different courses or parts of the meal, plated separately. This distinct separation is clear, except in the case of stuffed pastas, where meats, cheeses and other ingredients can be encased by the noodle. These unique stuffed pastas are ravioli, tortello, cannelloni, agnolotti, et al. We see this exception in history first with the ravioli, with early definitions describing the ravioli as “a pasta wrapping filled with meat or other foods, folded into a triangle” (Zanini De Vita 4). Nevertheless, regardless of the form, pasta is an integral component of traditional Italian meal structure. Because the prevalence of pasta in Italy is relatively recent, one may be able to conclude that the traditional Italian meal structure featuring pasta is also quite modern. Studying the progression of Italian cuisine over the last two centuries, we find that the “spread of pasta on Italian tables, as we understand the term today, is relatively modern. Until the years just after World War II, four-fifths of the population of Italy living in the countryside had a diet generically based on plants” (Zanini De Vita 9-10).

Food pyramids of the Mediterranean diet even in recent day support the widespread prevalence and bountiful consumption of fruits and vegetables as part of the diet. We observe that for many Italians in the first half of the twentieth century “pasta was reserved for feast days, often served in a legume soup” (Zanini De Vita 10). Through anthropological methods and documented history, we can confirm that pasta even in the mid-twentieth century was not a daily staple in Italy. Zanini De Vita also states that “we can conclude that the origin of pasta is not Italian, not Greek, not Jewish, not Arab” and that “whatever may be its complicated origins, it is clear that pasta has served as a sometimes opulent substitute for bread” (Zanini De Vita 17).

Pasta was not native to Italy, and the economic climate of the early to mid-nineteenth century was prohibitive for widespread pasta consumption across Italy, but certain groups held pasta as a staple: “reflecting the national culture at the middle of the nineteenth century, which states that ‘For the Italians of Mezzogiorno, of Liguria, and of some other Italian regions, pasta already constituted the main dish and one of two daily meals’” (Zanini De Vita 20). It seems that during Italy’s early national adoption of pasta, a dichotomy existed between the wealthy and those without economic means. The capital of Liguria is Genoa, which bears a history as a port capital with a thriving merchant class. The economic position of Genoa and similar cities in Italy in the nineteenth century would have afforded its prosperous inhabitants with access to pasta. We are reminded of this food disparity by the historical accounts of the Italian diet in the twentieth century. Many Italians “until just after World War II, the county had eaten “green,” that is only vegetable soup, with pasta as a rule reserved for the tables of the middle and upper classes in town and cities and only occasionally for the feast-day tables of the poor” (Zanini De Vita 2).

The emergence of the Italian meal structure could draw its roots from the feast-day traditions of the poor. This class in Italy may have savored the opportunity to eat pasta, noodles and thus created a meal structure with pasta and the noodle at the center. They would have been able to afford pasta and the accompanying elements of Italian Meal structure for feast-days, and it would have been significant for them to elaborately plan and make distinct courses in order to savor the experience of eating pasta, which was more rare for them than the middle and upper class pasta consumers to whom pasta was more affordable and accessible.

In studying Italy’s pasta traditions, we see that “greater prosperity and better living conditions in some areas can be inferred from the ingredients used in the local pasta” (Zanini De Vita 2). We see that in modern Italy post World War II during the economic boom, pasta is made and consumed more frequently by a mass audience. Italian meal structure may have first developed as an ideal to be aspired to by the poorer classes. The development of the country’s infrastructure and economic prosperity enabled that ideal to materialize with the country’s affection for pasta and noodles being at the core of this realization. The history of pasta in Italy illustrates the enjoyment of pasta by the poorer groups, who may have used their creativity in pasta making to create the traditional Italian meal structure to further enhance their enjoyment of noodles, pasta, and food. These groups may have derived satisfaction from their meal in a way that their wealthier counterparts did not experience. It is summarized that even through the industrialization of pasta, “they have never matched the creative fantasy of the Italian peasants. Rovetta estimated that industry had invented six hundred different types of pasta. But in this book, which also includes many factory-made shapes, more than thirteen hundred products are cited” (Zanini De Vita 19). Poorer groups in Italy may have had a greater appreciation for food due to their material lack. Many of the inhabitants of the poorer, less developed regions may have pursued food for enjoyment because “the march of industrialization has been long and torturous throughout Italy, which at the beginning of the twentieth century still lacked electricity and channels of communication” (Zanini De Vita 9).

However, industrialization has made pasta more accessible nationally. Zanini De Vita summarizes the effects of technological advancements in transportation and globalization of the foods indigenous to Italy: “my interviews of these older people also made me more aware of how rapidly the agrarian landscape had been transformed and how the grain varieties once essential to the making of pasta and other foods had disappeared with the entry onto the market of superior varieties from other countries” (Zanini De Vita 1-2). Economic development and prosperity can be linked to the gaining of infrastructure such as roads, acquisition of automobiles and more frequent travel of residents of different regions to various parts of Italy, taking with them their local ingredients, noodles and pasta. We see that “the advent of the modern pasta industry, facilitated by large-scale retail chains, has fostered maximum diffusion of shapes that were once limited to their place of origin” (Zanini De Vita 6). Given that some areas were developed and gained roads in the 1960s, migration of various local pasta types within Italy may have happened quite recently.

Urbanization, industrialization and growing economic prosperity lead to the change of the Italian diet. Growing prosperity lead to an increased consumption of pasta by those in the upper economic classes and those in urban centers. This prosperity ties to the ravioli, and meat stuffed pastas which are an exception to the rules of the traditional Italian meal structure, combining elements of the Primo and the Secondo. The proliferation of stuffed pasta could be associated with additional prosperity as consumers were able to afford pasta, and meat to fill their pasta, along with meat for the Secondo. Economic advancement and increased consumption of pasta are closely correlated in Italy’s history, beginning “with the economic boom that began in the early 1960s, pasta began to be made daily in rural homes, and these are the formats codified by tradition. At the same time, the emerging urban bourgeoisie were eating pasta every day. On Sunday, they served special pastas, perhaps stuffed, with even more special condiments” (Zanini De Vita 10). As pasta became industrialized and more accessible and affordable, pasta transformed from less of a delicacy to a staple, from handmade jewel to factory produced unit. We see the correlation between the increase of wealth and the ability to enjoy pasta daily, as the “ready supply of pasta was an urban, a Neopolitan, phenomenon,” but “throughout the region, the rural poor ate mostly “green” (Zanini De Vita 7).

The cycle of pasta being homemade by rural groups and factory-made in wealthier urban centers, has now turned to being factory-made for consumption for much of Italy with the wealthier using less factory-made pasta, shifting to homemade, handmade pasta. The factory-made pasta in Italy “was also generally without eggs” and is now “general among the less well-off classes of all Italy, while it is falling off among the wealthier” (Zanini De Vita 20). This change does not mean that pasta has not lost its place as the Primo among the less well-off classes of Italy, but rather the change to factory-made underscores the richness of handmade pasta and the value of the time and resources spent making it at home. Perhaps handmade pasta is still savored as part of the traditional Italian meal structure for the most significant feasts and celebrations.

The various regions, provinces, and economic groups of Italy have contributed significantly to traditional Italian meal structure. The rural and economically depressed provinces of Italy are responsible for the vast variety of pasta and noodle types, using their creativity to author pastas and recipes that have become part of Italian culture and cuisine:
“every little town, almost every family, called these pastas something different, and they served them on feast days enveloped in flavorful sauces of pork, lamb, or vegetables, all linked by the obligatory tomato and parmigiano” (Zanini De Vita 10).

Offering a counterpoint to the hypothesis that the traditional Italian meal structure was developed by rural, less prosperous groups, the traditional Italian meal structure may have its roots in Rome. During the economic prosperity and opulence of the wealthy during the Roman empire, the multicourse meal structure may have been developed for frequent feasts and dining parties of the wealthy. Modern day Rome is in the region of Lazio. According to Julia Della Croce in The Classic Italian Cookbook, “if anything, the cooking of Lazio is Etruscan in character: simple and earthy. The singular gastronomical legacy of Rome is not what is eaten but how. Romans still love lavish display of food and conviviality at the table” (Della Croce 11). Della Croce illustrates the scene of a dining experience in Rome, stating that “the air is filled with voices, all speaking at once, and the aromas of multitudinous dishes” (Della Croce 11).

Etruscan influence on Rome and Italian culture and cuisine may be the genesis for the traditional Italian meal structure. Rome began conquering the Etruscan civilization and ultimately absorbed the civilization into the Roman Republic. The Etruscan civilization encompassing modern day Tuscany, Umbria and parts of Lazio could be credited with the DNA for the traditional Italian meal structure. After the fall of Rome, subsequent invasions, and economic impoverishment, the meal structure may have laid dormant. With the growing wealth of Italy during the economic boom, the traditional Italian meal structure may have awakened, with pasta leading the way. Quite possibly, perhaps the roots of the traditional Italian meal structure are present today as a carryover of the Romans and the wealth that accompanied the group at the height of the empire.

It is possible that the present day traditional Italian meal structure traveled to Italy and was spread throughout the country similarly to how other foods and cuisine influences were brought to the country by groups invading various regions of Italy. Zanini De Vita notes that “by what mysterious channels the various homemade formats spread throughout Italy is difficult to say, though one thing is certain: conquest played a role” (Zanini De Vita 5). It seems that conquest and economic prosperity are a powerful combination for yielding new food culture.

The recipe for the genesis of the traditional Italian meal structure could be economic prosperity coupled with the love of and proliferation of pasta, with the industrialization of pasta making it more affordable and accessible. You cannot produce the traditional Italian meal structure without the noodle or pasta. If historically reserved for the economically prosperous, pastas surge in consumption is closely tied to the growth of the Italian meal structure, which is incomplete without pasta. 

Regardless of the traditional Italian meal structure’s actual birthplace, it has nurtured and encouraged Italy’s unification and present identity because the structure can be followed in every region, with local elements found in that region used for each course, compelting the essential requirements of the meal structure. Pasta and the traditional Italian meal structure may have served to facilitate Italian unification as food has unifying and community creating powers.

An orchestra of regional Italian food elements and ingredients, the traditional Italian meal structure is the crescendo of Italian cuisine, showcasing the flavors and food of all regions and provinces. Much like a symphony, all courses and their elements collaborate to create a masterpiece. Antiquity and modernity share the commonality of the feast, and the traditional Italian meal structure with pasta as the Primo is the living legacy of Italy’s past and present.















Works Cited

Della Croce, Julia. The Classic Italian Cookbook, Dorling Kindersley, 1996.  

Zanini De Vita, Oretta. Encyclopedia of Pasta, translated by Maureen Fant, University of            California Press, 2009.

Thomas Nguyen: The Development of Chinese Cuisine in the United States


Chinese food has a long history in the United States. Immigrants from China first came to the country for work and brought their recipes for food along with them. They focused on jobs in the service industry due to discrimination. As a result, Chinese restaurants had to adapt their recipes because of the lack of native ingredients and to accommodate the tastes of Americans. This resulted in a new American Chinese cuisine that had heavy influences of American cooking and ingredients. This also resulted in famous creations such as chop suey, chow mein, and General Tso’s chicken. While Americans have considered these creations to be prevalent in China, in reality they are American inventions that satisfy the desire of an exotic food conforming to the American palate. However, traditional Chinese cuisine remains in the United States within the homes of family immigrants, and these dishes often have a significance to them that is passed down throughout generations of the family. Chinese immigrant families do eventually become accustomed to Western diets due to assimilation to the once-foreign country. While American Chinese cuisine has diverged significantly from traditional Chinese cuisine, authenticity is more important than ever as these traditional dishes continue to hold special meaning to immigrant families.  

Thomas Nguyen

Professors Ristaino and Li

Italian/Chinese 370W

8 August 2019

The Development of Chinese Cuisine in the United States

            The United States is often known as a multicultural country with various ethnic groups that have immigrated for new opportunities and called the land as their home. While these ethnic groups would assimilate to American society, they would still attempt to maintain their culture and customs. One of the ways they would retain their culture is through cuisine, and in particular, the Chinese have brought their food to the United States. Today there are tens of thousands of Chinese restaurants that are commonplace in the United States (Lu 1995). However, these restaurants are not true representations of Chinese cuisine. Because of the difference of dietary preferences between the two cultures, American Chinese food is drastically different from traditional Chinese food, and it has emerged as its own distinct cuisine with its own ingredients and flavors that appeal to American tastes. While American Chinese cuisine continues to be popular in the United States, traditional Chinese cuisine still exists in select local restaurants and in the homes of Chinese immigrant families and Chinese-Americans maintaining their original culture.

            Chinese immigrants had first arrived in the United States in the early 1800s to work in low-income jobs such as mining and railroad construction (Zong 2017). Their labor had a profound effect on the growth of the United States as a country after the Civil War such as with the development of the transcontinental railroad. While setting into the relatively new country, the Chinese faced backlash among their white counterparts, becoming as extreme as the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to limit Chinese immigration into the United States. As a result of the discrimination, the Chinese immigrants would form enclave communities, resulting in Chinatowns in major cities like San Francisco. They also focused on jobs in the service industry such as laundromats and restaurants. To remember their culture in a foreign land, the immigrants would use recipes from home as a way to maintain their heritage. As part of their culture, food is essential to a healthy life and helps to strengthen family and community times as this was especially important in an ethnic enclave. Chinese restaurants would provide this sense of community while at the same time introducing Chinese food to the United States.

            However, traditional Chinese cuisine has flavors and ingredients that would otherwise be unfamiliar or unavailable in the United States. As a result, Chinese restaurants had to adapt with the available ingredients and create dishes that suited the typical American palate. Ingredients such as broccoli, carrots, and onions are familiar American vegetables used in cooking when they would otherwise be unfamiliar in China (Lu 1995). Savory flavors would be modified to sweeter flavors to satisfy American tastes. As more Chinese restaurants opened throughout the country, the foods served at these restaurants would greatly diverge from traditional cuisine to the point that they would be unrecognizable to Chinese people. This “Americanization” of Chinese food has resulted in variations of traditional dishes and even new creations such as General Tso’s chicken and fortune cookies (Lu 1995). As a result, a distinct American Chinese cuisine emerged, and it has since become incredibly popular in the country for its American take on a once-exotic cuisine.

            When making these foods, Chinese restaurants in America had to adapt to what was available for them. Not only was the palate of their customers different but also the resources they had. In modern times, the balance between cost and quality is essential to maintain a customer base (Lu 1995). American Chinese dishes would use American vegetables that were locally available such as broccoli and carrots to satisfy customer needs and save money. Restaurants would also sacrifice authentic Chinese vegetables such as bamboo shoots due to their relatively more expensive cost and distaste among American customers. Cooking methods are also different in preparing American Chinese food. Restaurants focus on efficiency to accommodate the fast-pace of American life with quicker cooking methods, fewer ingredients, and incredibly hot stoves (Lu 1995). As a result, these American Chinese dishes lose the “authenticity” of traditional Chinese dishes. Customers who value traditional Chinese food will attempt to find it, and the concept of “authenticity” is used to attract customers who are tired of the “Americanized” Chinese food and seeking for a more truthful version of it (Lu 1995).

One of the most popular American Chinese dishes that represents this process is chop suey. It is a dish with no specific recipe or set of ingredients; rather, it is a mixture of different vegetables and meat stir-fried together with a thick sauce served over rice or noodles. The word “chow” in Chinese means “to stir-fry,” and together as “chop suey,” it means “animal intestines” (Liu 2009). This seemingly unappealing name reveals a cultural value of traditional Chinese cuisine of not wasting meat as much as possible. However, to appeal to American tastes, Chinese cooks would instead use a mixture of ingredients that were acceptable to Americans such as chicken and mushrooms. Due to the adaptability of the dish, chop suey became famous throughout America as an accessible Chinese dish. This resulted in a wave of popularity for the dish, spreading to major cities in the United States starting from the Chinatown of New York and all the way to San Francisco (Liu 2009). However, Americans had eventually realized that the chop suey familiar to them is not truly authentic, and that it is a virtually unknown dish in China (Liu 2009). Chop suey had become so disconnected with traditional Chinese cuisine that it had essentially become an American dish with a foreign name.

            Noodle dishes of China have also undergone this process of “Americanization.” Chow mein and lo mein are both iconic dishes of American Chinese cuisine that have been modified from traditional Chinese noodles to appeal to the American taste. “Chow mein” means “stir-fried noodles” while lo mein means “tossed noodles.” Both of these dishes consist of egg noodles that are quickly cooked in a wok in a sauce with a mixture of meat and vegetables. However, the difference between the noodles is the method of cooking. Chow mein is made by stir-frying the noodles, resulting in crunchier noodles and highlighting the American preference for fried foods (Lu 1995). On the other hand, lo mein is pulled and tossed; this results in a softer texture to the noodle (Cappiello 2019). Lo mein usually has more vegetables and sauce compared to chow mein and has distinctive flavors rather than a blend that chow mein possesses. Interestingly, unlike most of American Chinese food, lo mein actually has an authentic counterpart in China. However, in China it is cooked with a thinner sauce with fewer ingredients and served with more vegetables such as bok choy and cabbage (Wilson 2018).

            General Tso’s chicken is a popular American Chinese dish that also had its origins purely in the United States. Inspired by a famous military general in China, General Tso’s chicken has become a symbol of American Chinese food perceived to be of Chinese origin. The dish is well-known for its tangy sauce and crunchy texture. A chef named Peng Chang-kuei invented the recipe based on his own influences from the Hunan province of China (Hosking 2006). Hunanese cuisine is typically savory with an emphasis on salty and sour, but in order to appeal to American taste buds, Peng had to modify his recipe by including plenty of sugar atypical of Hunanese cooking. He also deep-fried the chicken to appeal to American preference for fried foods despite the cooking technique being uncommon in Hunan. These changes resulted in what is now called General Tso’s chicken: a sweet and savory dish with a crispy texture iconic among Chinese restaurants in America. The dish also inspired imitations around the world, even in Hong Kong (Hosking 2006). However, Americans have become so accustomed to this seemingly exotic dish that they forget the questionable authenticity of it from its ingredients to even the origins of its name.  

            However, traditional Chinese dishes continue to exist in the United States within the homes of immigrant families. These families cater towards their own members and are not forced to adapt their recipes to American influences. For instance, ping an mien is a noodle dish that is not found in typical American Chinese restaurants. Susanna Chen recounts her experience with ping an mien and her family in the United States (Chen 2014). The noodle dish is a family tradition passed through multiple generations. At first, Chen did not care much of the dish until her boyfriend had to leave for his studies. The name ping an mien means “peaceful noodles” and is made when sending someone far away (Chen 2014). In order for Chen to make the noodles, she had to consult her mother for the recipe and go to the supermarket to obtain the necessary ingredients. Despite not making it perfectly according to her mother’s given instructions, Chen manages to recreate not just an authentic Chinese dish from her family, but also a meaningful one with a tradition that bonds loved ones together when they depart. These family recipes are the truly authentic dishes of Chinese cuisine in the United States. Unfortunately, Americans who are accustomed to American Chinese cuisine would most likely not recognize this as a traditional dish, especially one with such a special meaning to Chinese families.

            However, Chinese immigrant families in the United States are not completely immune to Western influences in their diet. Despite the immigrants’ maintaining their culinary traditions, assimilation gradually but eventually occurs as they are in a foreign land. According to a study conducted by Jessie Satia and colleagues in Seattle, many Chinese households who had not completely assimilated into American culture had Western foods such as butter and snack chips (Satia 2001). Families who have high-fat foods in their household “had higher-fat dietary behavior” indicative of Western diets (Satia 2001). Although assimilation occurs to ethnic groups in a foreign country, the Chinese families still attempt to maintain their traditions through food but have also adapted to the foods available to them in the new country.

Chinese food in America has adapted to its new culture through various changes resulting in American Chinese cuisine. This is reflected through new cooking styles and use of American ingredients to accommodate for American tastes. However, the dishes of American Chinese cuisine have lost their identity as truly Chinese dishes, making them American dishes with Chinese names to it. American Chinese restaurants have grown immensely popular over the years with successful restaurants such as Panda Express and P.F. Chang’s becoming iconic names in American fast food. The distinction between American Chinese and traditional Chinese cuisine has grown prominent over the years, and “authenticity” is valued more than ever. However, homes of Chinese immigrant families maintain traditional Chinese foods because of their familiarity and significance. A selection of restaurants also maintains certain traditions of Chinese food such as dim sum. Chinese cuisine in America is still evolving, taking influence from American cuisine, but traditional Chinese cuisine still maintains its standing within immigrant families. Perhaps someday American tastes will be more open to traditional Chinese cuisines, but in the meantime, American Chinese cuisine continues to serve as the link from an “Americanized” versions of Chinese food to truly authentic ones that still hold special meaning to immigrant families.


Works Cited

Cappiello, Emily. “What Is the Difference Between Chow Mein and Lo Mein?” Chowhound, Chowhound, 21 Mar. 2019, https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/222655/what-is-the-difference-between-chow-mein-and-lo-mein/.

Chen, Susannah. “Ping An Mien, a Chinese Family Noodle Story.” Chowhound, Chowhound, 7 July 2014, https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/152845/ping-an-mien-a-family-noodle-story/.

Hosking, Richard. Authenticity in the Kitchen: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2005. Prospect Books, 2006.

Liu, Haiming. “Chop Suey as Imagined Authentic Chinese Food: The Culinary Identity of Chinese Restaurants in the United States.” Journal of Transnational American Studies, 16 Feb. 2009, https://escholarship.org/content/qt2bc4k55r/qt2bc4k55r.pdf.

Liu, Junru. Chinese Food. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Lu, Shun, and Gary Alan Fine. “The Presentation of Ethnic Authenticity: Chinese Food as a Social Accomplishment.” The Sociological Quarterly, vol. 36, no. 3, 1995, pp. 535–553., doi:10.1111/j.1533-8525.1995.tb00452.x.

Newman, Jacqueline M. “Chow Mein.” Flavor & Fortune, pp. 25–27.

Satia, Jessie A, et al. “A Household Food Inventory for North American Chinese.” Public Health Nutrition, vol. 4, no. 2, 2001, pp. 241–247., doi:10.1079/phn200097.

Wilson, Laurie. “What Is the Difference Between Lo Mein in China and in Chinatown?” Chowhound, Chowhound, 5 Apr. 2018, https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/199152/what-is-the-difference-between-lo-mein-in-china-and-in-chinatown/.

Wilson, Laurie. “What Is the Difference Between Lo Mein in China and in Chinatown?” Chowhound, Chowhound, 2 Aug. 2019, https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/199152/what-is-the-difference-between-lo-mein-in-china-and-in-chinatown/.

Zong, Jie, et al. “Chinese Immigrants in the United States.” Migrationpolicy.org, 29 Sept. 2017, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/chinese-immigrants-united-states.

Art of Chinese Noodles and Preservation for Traditions (Haopeng Xue)

Haopeng Xue

CHN 370W

Dr. Li



            Noodles are treated as one of the most important food sources to sustain ourselves to perform those daily activities. For the past 2000 years, noodle has evolved from wheat, wheat flour to Bing and Tang Bing and it also diverged into hundreds of different kinds with various cooking methods and combinations of ingredients. From noodles’ physical form, the appearance did not transform much, but it was repeatedly produced and redefined until nowadays. Chinese people of different ethnicities all regard noodles not only as an important food source, but also an auspicious dish for best wishes. Although traditional noodles seem simple and ordinary, it can be decorated and served as a main course on a dining table. Producing and processing the noodles is definitely a combination of arts and science based on local residents artistically skill and experiences with the dough. In my research paper, I will be discussing the embodiment of traditional cultural values of Chinese noodles that contributes to its attractiveness.

Reasons for attractiveness

            There are thousands of stories and legends behind traditional Chinese noodles, which put pieces of mysterious veils on the noodles itself. During noodles’ evolution to perfections, the cultural exchange took place between China and Eastern Europe. Although the charm of Chinese noodle culture continues to spread, industrialization has taken place and erased the trace of traditional noodle making process. Even with large quantity of factory-made noodles, they lack essential nutrients and have varying level of quality. Producing noodles is one kind of science, requiring knowledge from an extensive field. Noodle makers not only need to know the history and stories behind each noodle, but also understand the cultural values. Noodles are parts of the “cultural encyclopedia” that is difficult to interpret, but it deserves to be cherished and is worth remembering.

            The earliest type of noodle is called “Tang Bing” from Han dynasty. According to Shuxi’s Rhapsody on Pasta, he described the noodles “as tender as spring floss, as white as autumn silk. Steam, swirling and swelling, wafts upward.” This is one of the most important compliment s for noodles because it includes not only the appreciation for noodles’ shapes, but also the smell of the finished products. Chinese cuisines emphasize strongly on the color, the smell and the taste. The unique smells from noodles are based solely on wheat and mixed with several different side dishes to form a complete meal. In order to fulfill that requirement, Chinese noodles must choose the best and most fresh ingredients, the balance of the tenderness of the dough and skillful ways of cooking methods.

            Choosing the right ingredients was the first requirement. Wheat flour, especially the whole wheat flour, must be fresh with the correct color, which has a brownish gold color. The quality of the noodles can decrease significantly if you use the flour that was chemically processed to make it look cleaner. The meat that is used for the sauce should come from naturally raised livestock in order to ensure its freshness and tenderness. The herbs for seasoning were classified based their functions on human bodies. Some were treated as to keep the body warm, while others can be used to cool the body down. Therefore, the combinations among these sides were determined by Yin and Yang of the food consumed by human body.

             All these ingredients are a reflection of Yin-Yang of Chinese philosophy. The concept of yin and yang means that everything that existed in the universe has two opposing but complementary forces. Things that are determined to have much Yang energy tend to be warm and bright, while yin energy is said to be cool and dark (Guo 94). Traditional Chinese medicine established that a deficiency or excess of yin or yang will disturb the internal balance of the body, which causes sickness for people, leading to bodily and spiritual ailments. As such, it is crucial to maintain a balanced diet and consume the right food at the right time of the year.

            Different ingredients also work together to achieve a balance in flavor (sour, sweet, bitter and spicy). A responsible chef will organize the meat, vegetables and starch (rice or noodles) with a proper proportion, which not only balance the nutritional need for yin and yang energy, but also fulfills the standards for color, smell and taste of the dish. According to a legend, during Sixteen Kingdoms period, one of the emperors, Yao Hong, ordered the chef to select particular ingredients from different regions to make Tang Bing since the quality of food sources and the yin-yang energy can vary depending on the regions. The wheat must come from An Ding county in Gan Su province; the green anions are selected from An Yang county in He Nan province; the beef is collected from Inner Mongolia; the chili pepper is also from Cheng county, Gan Su province. This recipe is a perfect demonstration of a harmonic diet by presenting the beef and pepper as yang and wheat and green onions as yin. With the advancement of technology, it is much more convenient to gather all the ingredients and make the traditional noodles starting from scratch.

            The second requirement is the tenderness and smoothness of the dough. The ratio between water and flour that are mixed together has to be precise in order to make the dough neither too hard nor too soft. Afterwards, the person who is kneading the dough need to exert his force evenly to squeeze out the air and flatten the flour sheet with the same thickness. The last step is cutting the noodles from the flour sheet. This task takes years of practice because every strand of noodles must be equal in width, and depending on the types of noodles, the width can also vary. People can also use the dough to make hand pulled noodles, which is another indication of harmony. To pull the dough into noodles of different thickness, a chef needs to have extraordinary strong arms and also exquisite skills in controlling his strength. It takes strength to pull two pieces of dough away from each other, but if you pull too hard, the noodles will break from the middle. Therefore, maintaining the balance of strength is crucial in the noodle making process, which is a reflection of philosophical Chinese cultures.

            The last requirement is ingenious cooking method. Balancing of the five tastes is the core of cooking Chinese food. By processing different ingredients under different temperatures to best capture its natural smell and taste, Chinese noodles retain the essence of food itself. The key to make the best noodles is by making sure that all the flavors from the spices can be stimulated and exploited to the max. Controlling the temperature of the vegetable oil and the time of stirring the scallions, gingers and garlics are two most important tasks for the chef. The chemical reaction that took place within the pot determines the quality of the noodles. An experienced Chinese chef will know exactly what the order is to add the ingredients and how long and how hot should the pot stay on. In addition, different cooking methods also have yin and yang associations. Frying the noodles is considered as yang, whereas boiling the noodles is yin. These characteristics shaped Chinese noodles’ complexity and contributed to its attractiveness for those who were just exposed to this noodle world.

Stories behind each Noodles

  1. Long Life Noodles

            Noodles becomes more than just a food to keep people away from starvation, but also a carrier of traditional cultural values. Longevity is one of the revered concepts based on ancient Chinese culture, along with fortune and happiness. In the past, noodles were consumed to pray for longer life span due to its shape as long and thin strands. Younger generations should prepare a bowl of longevity noodles for their parents at their birthday. Based on traditional virtues of Chinese nation, respecting one’s parents is regarded as one of the most important values. According to the class reading “Long Life Noodle Recipe”, when people turn fifty, sixty or even one hundred years old, longevity noodles will always be served at the end for its auspicious meaning of longevity. Longevity noodles originated from one of the Emperors of Han dynasty, Liu Che. One day, he was discussing with his ministers about each person’s life span, since it is considered as the ultimate blessing if a person can live longer. One of the ministers proposed that if the space between a person’s nose and upper lip is one centimeter long, then that person can live to one hundred years old. Everyone starts to laugh at his idea since it seemed silly to associate long face with long life. However, there is other ore flexible way to express the auspicious meaning for longevity. Therefore, his prime minister stepped up and explained, “the longer one’s face is, the longer the noodles should be(脸长就是面长)”, which only make sense in Chines phonetically. Both “lian” and “mian” means face, and “mian” also stands for noodles. In this way, people can yse long noodles as a blessing for longer life (Kim 111).

            Later, when people begin to make long life noodles, the kneading process will make a thin layer of flour sheet and the connotation of that is “Shou” (瘦), which is equivalent to the pronunciation of longevity in Chinese. The popularity of long-life noodles increased quickly since even the poor family is able to prepare the noodles and soup in order to pass on and spread this tradition. In addition to noodles’ function as blessing, it is also an indicator of Chinese traditional values for respecting your parents. Children try to demonstrate love and respect for their parents through the use of long-life noodles to share their blessing to their parents every year after they turned fifty years old. Later on, when they are gradually aging, the next generation of kids can continuously to pass on this tradition as a reminder of its philosophical value.

  1. San Fu Mian

            San Fu is the hottest time of the year. From ancient times till now, it is Chinese people’s tradition to have noodles at this day. In the past, at the first day of summer, people would hold sacrificial ceremony to pray for rainfall. As the flour that is produced within that year just entered the market, they would offer the flour to God. Another explanation is that the first day of summer is the longest day with sunlight, and peasants want the day-time to become shorter. By consuming the noodles, it feels as if people are shortening the day (Yu 112). When the first day of winter comes, they will eat dumplings instead to remind them of the day-time that will turn longer again (Kim 136). There are usually two kinds of noodles that were consumed: a bowl of hot noodles with soup or simply cold noodles. During those hot days, it is highly likely that one will lose his appetite, become easily irritated and catch some disease. If people consume warm noodles and drink the soup when the weather is hot, they will sweat quickly, which increases their metabolism and dampness within their body. Drinking the hot soup could also increase one’s memory and cognitive ability, which is scientifically proven. The noodle soup contains large amount of lecithin, which constitutes the somatic cell membranes and nervous system. Drinking noodle soups gives brain time to improve its cognitive ability the body’s vitality. The second way is rinsing the noodles with cold water and mix it with vinegar, garlic, mustard and sesame sauce. The refreshment from vinegar can increase appetite and the spiciness from the garlic can kill some of the germs in one’s mouth. This idea reflects the fact that Chinese people used to treat food as medicine, and by incorporate a variety of cooking methods, there can be different benefits for our health depending on the ingredients and the chef’s decisions. San Fu Mian showed not only the wisdom of our ancestors by marking the time of the day-light with food, but also showed their exploration over the medical use of food.


            After five thousand years of cultural accumulation, Chinese noodles has absorbed the knowledge and traditions that are passed down through generations. The noodles itself transformed from a lifeless starch-based food source into a dish with its own soul and values. Through the research that I conducted, it is evident that Chinese noodles demonstrates its attractiveness to the world not only because of its taste and smell, but also its function as “cultural encyclopedia” of the Chinese society.  
















Works Cited

Guo, Bisong, and Andrew Powell. Listen to Your Body: The Wisdom of the Dao. University of Hawai’i Press, 2002. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wqqmn.

Kim, Kwang Ok, editor. Re-Orienting Cuisine: East Asian Foodways in the Twenty-First Century. 1st ed., Berghahn Books, 2015. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qcwzq.

Yü, Ying-shih. Chinese History and Culture: Sixth Century B.C.E. to Seventeenth Century. Edited by Josephine Chiu-Duke and Michael S. Duke, Columbia University Press, 2016. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/yu–17858.

From Luxury to Low-cost: The Globalization of Instant Noodles


 Cultural norms and historical events have shaped and changed the way in which individuals have viewed and accessed their food. One food in particular that has impacted society and food consumption is instant noodles. Despite its popularity and inexpensive accessibility, few individuals know the historical context and impact that Ramen noodles have had across the globe. This paper explores the origin, history and evolution of Ramen noodles and how these noodles have impacted society as a whole.


            If you look in the pantry of nearly every household around the world, you will find a small rectangular packet of instant noodles. These twenty-five cent packages are now a cheap and easy way to fill hungry stomachs. However, ramen noodles were not always inexpensively available, these noodles were once considered a luxury item. People from many different socio-economic backgrounds have tried this dish and despite the low nutritional value and high amount of sodium, continue to consume it. Its versatility is something that is extremely valued around the world. Some people eat it as the package describes but others may decide to drain the broth, add egg, sausages, or spinach. Other people may throw away the seasoning packet and use the noodles in a stir fry or throw away the noodles and use the seasoning in another dish. People’s ability to be creative with this very simple and easy product is something that attracts consumers to throw in a couple of packs every time they run to their local grocery store. Although it originated in a single country, instant noodles have spread far and wide around the world and even into outer space. Ramen noodles have even become such a staple for poor college students. What made this revolutionary food the go-to for every college student all over the world?


            Originating in Northwest China, Ramen was introduced to Japan in the late 19th century. There are many speculations as to the true introduction of ramen to Japan. Some theories suggest that it was introduced by Chinese tradesmen at the Yokohama port in Japan and others say that it was presented to Japan during the 1660s by the Chinese scholar Zhu Shunsui who became a refuge in Japan to escape the Manchu rule in China. Regardless, the ramen noodle dish easily became a large staple of the

 Japanese cuisine. Until 1950, ramen was referred to as Shina Soba which translates directly to Chinese Soba. The word Shina now has a derogatory connotation that prompted the switch to the term Chüka soba or as we know it now, ramen. The Japanese word ramen came from the Chinese words for pull (la) and noodle (mian). This is because Chinese people were known to pull noodles by hand. In many countries, the name ramen and instant noodles are interchangeable but their creation and ingredients differ greatly.


It is important to point out the difference between ramen and instant noodles. Ramen is usually made of hand-pulled wheat noodles in pork, chicken or miso broth topped with meat, scallions and many other types of vegetables. There are many variations of ramen which include egg, edamame, bamboo shoots and more. The noodles are made out of wheat flour, salt, water and kansui, a sodium-carbonate-infused alkaline mineral water. Eggs are often used as a substitute for the kansui. They are created and served fresh with little to no preservatives involved. Instant noodles, on the other hand, are dried and not known to come with any type of meat or vegetables. Today, instant noodles are sold at a much cheaper price than ramen and require less work to create.


In 1958, instant noodles were invented by Momofuku Ando as a dehydrated version of the typical ramen called “Chikin Ramen” as a way to combat starvation caused by World War II. Japan experienced its worst rice harvest recorded in 42 years after their defeat in World War II and the American military occupied the country. This harsh decline of such a filling staple of Japanese cuisine caused a drastic food shortage. The United States then flooded Japan with cheap wheat flour to combat the food shortage.

 The wheat was made into bread along with ramen noodles. After tirelessly working on this idea to revolutionize ramen, he found that dehydrating the noodles and then flash-frying them in palm oil allowed for them to stay on the shelves for longer and be quickly reheated. Instant noodles were first created with the noodles being pre-seasoned but due to the high demand for a better taste, the flavoring powder was put in a separate packet. The instant noodles were sold at a slightly higher price than ramen which is why it was at one time considered a luxury food item. Opposed to traditional ramen, the instant ramen is now manufactured with a vast amount of additives such as viscosity stabilizers, preservatives, emulsifiers, antioxidants, color, and fortifier dietary supplements. Then in 1971, “Cup Noodles” were created as an easy way to eat without the need for cookware and tableware. The Styrofoam cup served as the packaging material, the cooker, and the bowl.  The instant noodles do contain the traditional

 kansui seasoning that allows for the unique flavor that people value so much but as far as added vegetables and meat, only the cup noodles contain freeze-dried garnishes.


In 1970, Nissin Foods, run by Momofuku Ando, brought instant noodles to the United States of America. From the beginning, instant ramen has been sold in local stores for twenty-five cents and comes in bulk for even cheaper. This is particularly appealing to low-income families and cost-conscious college students. Ramen is also used in food aid packages and is donated to disaster-stricken places around the world due to its low price and ability to satisfy hunger. The low price isn’t purely found in the United States but also many countries all over the world. Each with their own rendition of the flavor of the noodle and the company that it sold from. In Thailand, MAMA noodles are the most popular type of instant noodles and it is tailored to the Thai culture by the flavors sold, such as Tom Yum (a traditional Thai lemongrass soup) and green curry flavor. In Mexico, Maruchan is the top brand of instant noodles and their flavors of lime and chili are the most popular as it created to appeal

 to the audience.


            The popularity of Top Ramen brought forth many imitators who also wished to reap the success of such a booming food source. These brands include Maruchan, MAMA, Hao Hao, Samyang Ramen and more. Understanding business and fear of quality issues from other manufacturers, Momofuku Ando created the International Ramen Manufacturers Association (IRMA) as a platform for global food safety of the instant noodles. The association created an index in which all instant noodle manufacturers and manufacturers of similar items must follow in order to continue making and distributing instant noodles. The company is now known as the World Instant Noodles Association (WINA).  There are many variations of the original Top Ramen brand and along with the increased health focus of the general population, instant noodles that have less sodium or no MSG were created. These healthy alternatives, although more expensive than the expected twenty-five cents, provide the same noodle for better health benefits.


Today, ramen is one of Japan’s most popular foods with more than 24,000 ramen restaurants across Japan. However, despite the popularity in the instant noodles’ place of origin, Japan is ranked number four by the World Instant Noodles Association in its consumption of instant noodles following, China, Indonesia, and India. The World Instant Noodles Association was created to combat the ever-growing awareness of the unhealthiness of instant noodles. Each serving of instant noodles contain nearly 200

 calories per serving and 861 mg of sodium, and each packet contains two servings. Although the number of calories may not be too concerning, the amount of sodium that is ingested in one packet of instant noodles may cause an increase in blood pressure which can increase the risk of obtaining cardiovascular diseases and events. Historically, African Americans have developed a high sodium diet through their generational low-socioeconomic backgrounds. Higher amounts of seasonings were used to make low-cost items taste better. It is a known fact that African-Americans are genetically more prone to high cholesterol and hypertension. There are also more African-American low socio-economic households, which are primarily located in food deserts. The easy access of instant noodles and fast preparation is something that is cherished in low-socioeconomic homes and its harmfulness to health is something that would primarily affect African-American people. Frequent consumption is linked to increased risk of metabolic syndrome, heart disease and decreased diet quality. Despite its constant negative connotation with health, instant noodles have been sent to cities all over the world to help lack of food from environmental disasters. The World Instant Noodles Association has sent emergency food aid to Indonesia after the 2018 tsunamis and earthquakes, the Philippines after Typhoon “Mangkhut”, and even to North Carolina after Hurricane Florence. It’s ability to be created into hunger-satiating

 meals with just the addition of water is a quality that not many other foods have. Instant noodles are also able to be transported with little to no effort as it is lightweight and has a long shelf life, which makes it an ideal meal for people that need filling food quickly.


            Instant ramen even made their way into space. In 2005, instant noodles combined their effort with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to create ramen that could be eaten in space. Three small noodle cakes, broth, and condiments were put into soft airtight bags and loaded onto a space shuttle. The noodles were designed to be cooked without being boiled and the broth was designed to be thick enough to keep it dispersing in the gravity-free environment. The technological advancements that led to such an innovation is further proof of instant noodles’ success has expanded across the globe and even into the atmosphere.



The simplistic nature of instant noodles is something that is cherished by people all over the world. From the healthier and fresher roots of ramen, instant noodles have become revolutionized to become easier by compromising its nutritional values.  It is also an important resource for people who do not have food readily available or do not have the time to dedicate to more complicated meals. Although it is not an item that many would pick first and more often seen as a back-up to a meal or a snack,

 for some, it is all that they have to survive. Having traveled to space and back, it can be seen that instant noodles are more than just starch in a bright flavored packaging. It has fed millions of people experiencing trauma that others may never begin to imagine.

Works Cited

Timeline_Now. “How Ramen Took over the World.” Medium, Timeline, 29 Nov. 2016, timeline.com/ramen-path-global-domination-b4d9831dbce.

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Societal Influences on Our Views of Noodles and Health – Adrienne Liou


This paper will demonstrate how noodle culture through Italian immigration has become a staple in American diets. As decades go by, the noodle has gone from beloved to an outcast as messages about nutrition have gotten mixed up with the American fascination of fad diets. The fad diets have affected the way we see our macronutrients and have influenced us to replace the noodle with healthier alternatives that do not contain as many carbohydrates. The phases of noodles in and out in our history has proven that these fad diets are not created for our wellbeing, but are influenced by the health and wellness industries in their efforts to feed off goals of looking and feeling better. 

Final Paper:

As Regina George once asked, “Is butter a carb” (Mean Girls)? Regina George is one of the main characters from the movie Mean Girls, a satire of American teen culture in 2004. She was in the middle of her high fat, low carb diet in an attempt to lose weight. This movie illustrated one of the biggest fad diets of the late 20th and early 21st century and how society was impacting the ways we thought about food and our health. This fat-free diet came about in the mid 1970s and stuck around for decades. It was hypothesized that this diet would promote weight loss and better health overall. This was later proved to be incorrect and was replaced by a number of new fad diets.

There are three macronutrients humans need to have in their daily diets that are essential to survival: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins (Van De Walle). While Regina’s beloved butter is not a carbohydrate, it does contain mostly fats with some protein. Each person has their own view on which macronutrients are considered healthy, but all of them are necessary for our health and normal development. Foods also have varying levels of each macronutrient. For example, meats have a high content of proteins while breads and noodles are loaded with carbohydrates. All three macronutrients have distinct benefits and drawbacks to our bodies and health.

Noodles, a carbohydrate, were not always a common or popular food found on grocery shelves in the United States. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that noodles were introduced due to a large population of Italians immigrating to the United States. Pasta has shaped what and how Americans eat, and the noodle has greatly impacted our culture, our diet, and our search for the alternative.

Italians immigrated to the United States to avoid oppression, poverty, and violence. In the late 19th century, Italy was united, but the people within each province were not. Rural south Italy and Sicily were struck with disease, and the government provided little support. The chaos and violence in Southern Italy initiated this large migration of millions of people. Between the 1880s and the 1920s, over four million Italians immigrated to America (The Great Arrival). They came over to start a new, better life when they first arrived at Ellis Island. 

To begin their lives, they settled down in lower Manhattan, what is now known as Little Italy. Little Italy has some of America’s best Italian food and one of the highest Italian populations. This community allows them to preserve their language and their culture. Little Italy has continued to grow, and it is one of the few places in America that you can “get a taste of the areas once-bustling immigrant community” (McGovern). The immigrants brought their noodles with them and shared their style of food with the Americans. Noodles have now become one of the world’s most accessible foods, and almost every culture has their own version of this prevalent, beloved dish.

While noodles have many different ways of being prepared, they all share similar backgrounds and histories, whether they are formed in the shape of long noodles, dumplings, or ravioli.

 Each country has different cultures and traditions when it comes to food and diets. In Italy, it is common to eat a large portion of carbohydrates, including noodles, breads, rice, and others during their meals. Italians follow a Mediterranean diet, which includes lots of fruits and vegetables with some grainy carbohydrates. The Chinese also eat larger portions of carbohydrates, specifically rice and noodles, and less proteins. Protein is not as important in these cultures as it is in American culture. In America, carbohydrates are looked down upon, and Americans are told by the health and wellness industries to only eat lean proteins and healthy fats; however, this has not always been the case. There has been an “ever-proliferating number of diet fads” (Lavin) which have influenced the way Americans think about these three main food categories.

Over the past 60 years, there have been a tremendous amount of new popular diets. In the 1950s, people were encouraged to pray their weight away, while in the 1970s, the grapefruit diet emerged (Rocketto). People believed that eating a grapefruit with every meal would facilitate weight loss thanks to a specific enzyme in the fruit that burns fat. This is a diet that Americans have continued even now. 

The cabbage soup diet was also another popularized eating plan that included nothing but cabbage soup for a week. This diet promoted weight loss due to the low-calorie intake, but these effects are not long lasting, nor do they have much effect on body fat. Later, the cookie diet, the Scarsdale diet, and the Beverly Hills diet became popular. Eventually in the 1990s, people were encouraged to eat low-fat diets to decrease their overall body fat percentage. Fats were seen as the unhealthy macronutrient, and Americans began to cut it out of their diets. Over the years, this message has changed, and now Americans have turned on carbohydrates. This war against carbohydrates has begun a chain of fad “low-carb” or “carb-free” diets, and initiated social changes in our culture about the way we eat think about food today.

The fat-free food boom began in the 1970s when a significant number of senators were dying of heart disease, and soon researchers connected the dots between diets and diseases (Why We Got Fatter During the Fat-Free Boom). Eight United States senators died of heart disease within a period of 20 years. These senators were eating plenty of buttered foods and fatty desserts like cheesecake. Highly saturated fats raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, and this could create blockages in the bloodstream and major arteries. The theory was that fats were causing heart disease, so many people were “replacing milk and cheese and fatty meat with carbohydrates, with pasta and potatoes and rice” (Why We Got Fatter During the Fat-Free Boom). These researchers were not trying to promote unhealthy, processed carbohydrates; instead they were encouraging whole grains, fruits and vegetables as opposed to saturated fats. However, this message got lost in translation. 

Americans determined that all carbohydrates are good, and all fats are bad. Due to this mindset, the greater population turned to eating noodles and other carbohydrates, and, as a result, noodles were perceived in a different way. No more pasta with alfredo sauce because it contained too much fat, no more macaroni and cheese, and no more cream sauces. These were mainly American conventions, as Italians still followed a Mediterranean diet of “lots of fresh vegetables, salads and pulses, along with serious bread, pasta, a good deal of fresh fish and fresh and dried fruit. Meat and dairy were not absent from their diets but were treats rather than staples” (Levy). Italians have lower rates of heart disease and diabetes, and it is due to their diet. Having a balance of healthy fats such as olive oil and carbohydrates from noodles can allow us to look at feel our best. 

Americans followed suit by including more and more noodles in their diet, but they turned to tomato sauces and vegetable sauces, as these did not contain as much fat. Due to the low-fat diet, Americans began having pasta that contained more proteins and carbohydrates. Some examples are pasta bolognese and spaghetti and meatballs. Bolognese sauce is made with ground beef and tomatoes. This sauce originates in Bologna, Italy, and it has become very popular throughout the United States.

When Americans began to implement these low-fat foods into their diets, fat free and low-fat pasta sauces hit the supermarket shelves. These alternatives caught consumers’ attention thanks to marketing campaigns promoting healthier lifestyles and weight loss as a result of eating less fat. While these new products contained less fat, manufacturers increased levels of carbohydrates in order to imitate the flavors of the real thing. During this time, Americans were consuming more and more sugar and they were also getting fatter and fatter (Why We Got Fatter during the Fat Free Boom). There were also more people diagnosed as diabetic or pre-diabetic in America. Scientists realized that by addressing the heart disease problem by cutting out fats, other problems like obesity and diabetes were fueled. During this period, it became clear that cutting all fats out of our diets was not the key to staying healthy and losing weight; there had to be a different way.

Eventually, as this fat-free diet phased out, new meal plans were phased in. Carbohydrate-free and low-carbohydrate diets emerged, changing the markets in terms of foods and noodles. People began focusing on low carb foods such as lean meats and healthy fats. Trans fats were banned, saturated fats avoided at all costs, but many people began no carb diets as well. This diet can make people lethargic due to the lack of energy that they would normally get from carbohydrates. Noodles were now coming out that were multigrain or lower in carbs. This was the next phase of the changes in society that influenced the noodle industry.

Eventually, people began making alternatives for noodles that did not contain as many carbohydrates. Some options were the Japanese Miracle Noodles, spaghetti squash, and spiralized vegetables. The Japanese miracle noodles were a low-calorie substitute for the usual flour pastas. These noodles are gelatinous and contain konjac yams. Because this was a low-calorie option, it has been very popular; however, the consistency of these noodles differs greatly from traditional white flour pastas. 

Others went a step further and turned to vegetable noodle alternatives. Spaghetti squash was a common substitution to normal noodles. Spaghetti squash is a type of gourd with a stringy flesh. When cooked, the flesh resembles noodles that you would see in a classic Italian restaurant, but these noodles are also differently flavored and textured. The last option was spiralized vegetables. This was an easy option because the noodles could be made out of almost any kind of vegetable. Using a handy kitchen device called a spiralizer, transforming vegetables into long strands of noodles became not just possible, but popular. Zucchini noodles, called zoodles, are the most common, but sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets also make great noodle alternatives as well.

Not only were the noodles themselves changing on the shelves, but the pasta sauces were as well. Brands like Trader Joes and Prego came out with carbohydrate free or sugar free pasta sauces to cater to their consumers. By eating less carbohydrates, our bodies are not able to function at the highest level. The manufacturers of these products understand the benefits and drawbacks to reducing carbohydrates in their products, and they know that this is what draws the consumers in. Americans strive to have the perfect body and good health, but are low-carb diets really the way to achieve that? Maybe the noodles themselves are not the issue, but what the manufacturers do to our food. The processed fats and sugars prevent us from being at our healthiest. These capitalistic motives of the health and wellness industries are what is causing Americans to change their lifestyles to be “healthier.” In balance and moderation, we can achieve this healthy lifestyle. We no longer need to turn against our noodles to reach our goals. Instead of binging on our foods and restricting ourselves, we can see noodles as a treat. 


Works Cited

“The Great Arrival.” Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/immigration/italian3.html.

Lavin, Chad. “Diet and American Ideology.” Eating Anxiety: The Perils of Food Politics, 2013, pp. 1-22. JSTOR, www-jstor-org.proxy.library.emory.edu/stable/10.5749/j.ctt32bcnz.5?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents.

Levy, Paul. “The Rise and Fall of the No-Fat Fad.” The Telegraph, 26 May 2015, www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/healthyeating/11631554/The-rise-and-fall-of-the-no-fat-fad.html.

McGovern, Kyle. “How to Find Old New York in Manhattan’s Vanishing Little Italy.” Thrillist, 26 Feb. 2019, www.thrillist.com/lifestyle/new-york/things-to-do-in-little-italy-nyc.

Mean Girls. Produced by Mark Waters, 2004.

Rocketto, Leah. “The Most Popular Diet Trends over the Last 100 Years.” Insider, 17 Jan. 2019.

Van De Walle, Gavin. “The Best Macronutrient Ratio for Weight Loss.” Healthline, 2 Sept. 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-macronutrient-ratio.

Why We Got Fatter During The Fat-Free Food Boom, 28 Mar. 2014, www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/03/28/295332576/why-we-got-fatter-during-the-fat-free-food-boom.