The Identity of the Noodle: Bringing together flavors from around the world

The Identity of the Noodle: Bringing together flavors from around the world

Rama Bikkina

The noodle is an integral part of cuisine around the world. No matter where you are, there is a good chance that you can find a Chinese or Italian restaurant and subsequently have a chance to enjoy some noodles. I remember once when my family visited Alaska on vacation and we spent one night in the small town that was only accessible by boat. Despite this isolation, there was still one Chinese restaurant and one Italian restaurant. This reach of the Chinese and Italian noodles is what makes them such an integral part of their cultures. Around the world, those cultures can be defined from one food item, the noodle.

The reason this item is associated so strongly with Chinese and Italian cultures is because of how strongly it is tied into the history of these great cultures. In Chinese culture the noodle can be traced far back to the Han Dynasty when they were originally classified as “cake”, as detailed in the “Noodles Traditionally and Today” article. The article goes on to detail how the Wei, Jin, Southern, and Northern dynasties created new noodle shapes from the original called Shui yin and bo tuo styles. The shui yin style for example now looked like, “flat noodles shaped like a leek leaf cooking in a pot with boiling water” (Zhang, 2016). This was just the first of many new variations of the noodle which has led to all the different kinds of noodles that exist today. The differences can often be classified by region as the same article details how East China features “Shanghai Noodle in Superior soup”, Southern China features, “Guangzhou Wonton Noodles”, and Central China features “Wuhan hot noodles with sesame paste”. These are just a fraction of the different kinds of noodle that exist within China. Each region has a different environment and thus different resources which illustrates why these noodles are indicative of different regions and the people who cook them. Noodles however reflect more than just regional differences, they also illustrate the cultural background that ties them so tightly into society. One example are the Quishan minced noodles which have also been called sister-in law noodles and ashamed son noodles. These unorthodox names have a story behind them which carries the value of these noodles. The story goes that there was an orphan scholar who was raised by his brother and sister-in law. She was a great cook and made special noodles which “helped him read for fame”. The orphan was successful and as a result the noodles became famous for prosperity as “sister-in law noodles”. Attempting to mimic this success, parents began cooking these noodles for their kids to encourage the same success, however the same results were not achieved and the noodles took on a second name as, “ashamed son noodles”. These stories and names illustrate how the noodles are reflective of the culture and people who cook them. This is just one of many stories as there are many that cover all sorts of topics including friendship, business, weather, and many more. What they all have in common is that they directly reflect the people and history behind the dish.

This reflection of the noodle on region, culture, and people is not unique to China. Italy is another country that is undeniably linked to the dish. Pasta has become such a household item across the world now that it is hard not to find someone who at least knows of a type of pasta. Pasta/ noodles can be dated back to the Etrusco-Roman times where dry pasta was a staple. It was later rediscovered by Marco Polo. Italy is a much smaller country than China but still it has vast regional differences in the dish. The biggest difference is between the north and the south. In the “History of Pasta” article, the author details how Arabic invasions during the middle ages resulted in a heavy Mediterranean influence that is still present to this day. That influence is particularly noticeable in Sicily with ingredients such as cinnamon and raisins. Given its shape as a peninsula, southern Italy has been a strong recipient of various Mediterranean influences from all sides. Meanwhile, in the north the pasta has a very different style. Northern Italy draws from French and German influences which highlights the different resources that are present in the area. These regional differences help to illustrate how pasta reflects on the region and people who cook them. It highlights the rich history of the Italian peninsula and how so many different forces have come together to shape what we know as pasta today. This historical implication is one reason why pasta is so tightly engrained in Italian culture. While pasta can be traced all the way back to the Etrusco-Roman times, one reason that allowed it to become popular all over the world was the age of exploration. The “History of Pasta” article detailed how the high nutritious value and ability to stay good for so long made it the perfect dish for voyagers on long journeys. This dry pasta made its way around the world through these voyagers and helped spread the dish to its high level. Another type of pasta, fresh pasta, soon made its debut and brought a whole new type of noodle to the table. With the introduction of the fresh pasta with sauces, the need for new noodles to hold onto these sauces became apparent. This need was met by all sorts of new noodle shapes featuring ridges, twists, and ribbons to hold the new flavors. In northern Italy, these dishes were typically prepared using eggs and flour while in southern Italy semolina and water were used. Despite these differences the best tasting pasta came from regions that used “fresh local ingredients”. This is what keeps pasta relevant in Italian culture today. In the modern age of mass-produced pasta dishes, it is sometimes difficult to find dishes that reflect the true history behind the dish, with painstaking effort and precision applied to it. This is Italian culture and how the noodle reflects on the people who make it.

Overall through this process I have learned about many different types of noodle and pasta dishes and more importantly the reasoning behind the variations. All these differences make it very difficult to narrow down just one definition of noodles but one that I feel does a good job encompassing all facets of the noodle would be: a food item primarily made of a flour that is used to draw together flavors from around the world so that whatever resources are available can be enjoyed together. I could definitely go on and add more sentences to cover more aspects of the noodle, but I feel that this definition does a good job of expanding beyond the clinical and technical aspect and really embracing this dish as one that brings together flavors and people from all over the world to encourage unity among all. I chose the picture below because I feel that it really illustrates the different types of pasta while showing that they can bring together so many different types of flavors to make the dish unique to the person who is making it. Eating is a social activity and noodles are a social tool that allow people to share dishes and flavors that are unique to them to encourage a more wholesome and holistic view of global cuisine.

Blog 2 – The Identity of the Noodle

The True Meaning of Noodles 

By Maya Aravapalli

A meal that my best-friend and I shared early first semester of my first year at Emory

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a noodle is defined as “a food paste made usually with egg and shaped typically in ribbon form;” however, the noodle comes to represent much more than food for many cultures – especially Chinese and Italian cultures. Last semester, my best-friend and I went to Ponce City Market where we tried ramen noodles for the first time. Once the food was at our table, we indulged in both food and conversation without paying attention to stress from school. It was just us and the two bowls of hot, tasty noodle soup. I didn’t think much about this dinner until now, but it has made me realize how sharing a meal with someone is an experience that the meal comes to represent. The noodle is much more complex and layered than it’s dictionary definition expresses . It comes to represent family, memories, and experiences that will live in one’s hearts and minds forever. In a way, it comes to mean love itself because it brings people together and creates allows for experiences that provide a deep connection with others.

The noodle is ever-evolving and is a food that is available worldwide. It plays a great role in many cultures that have individualized noodle dishes to fit their taste. An example of this is Indo-Chinese cuisine that is so popular in India that it’s even available as street food. The noodle has changed a lot, especially due to changing ideas of health, such as the gluten free moment; however, the importance it has in the world never changes. There is such variety in noodles and its cooking methods that the clinical definition of the noodle doesn’t encompass everything a noodle means.  Differences in cooking methods, shapes, and presentation contribute to the wide variety of noodles available. Even Chinese steamed buns fall under the noodle category . Noodles play an integral role in Chinese and Italian cultures and has come to mean much more than food consumed for these people.

Steamed Buns

Although noodles are eaten all around the world now, they hold a special place in Chinese culture.  Noodles emerged in China thousands years ago during the reign of the Han Dynasty. The different types of noodles not only vary in shapes, sizes and cooking methods, but also by region. In China, noodles are part of old traditions and customs. Many noodle dishes, such as the “Longevity noodles”, “Dragon Whiskers Noodles”, and “Sister in Law Noodles”,  have stories behind them that rooted deep within the culture. Certain types of noodles are consumed on special days of the lunar calendar, and others are consumed for prosperity and good fortune. Therefore, the identity of noodles is formed by the rich cultural and personal connection it provides to the Chinese culture and people.

Tagliatelle Pasta

Noodles have been present in Italy for thousands of years. Although the origin of noodles in Italy is debated on, there is no dispute about the importance of noodles in the Italian culture. While some argue that Marco Polo brought noodles from China to Italy, evidence shows that noodles’ presence in Italy dates back to the Roman Age. Like noodles in China, Italian noodles, called pasta, come in different shapes and sizes that are influenced by regional differences. Pasta is a staple food in Italy and it provides great nutritious value to meals. Whether pasta is tossed into a salad, cooked into a soup, or mixed into one of the many kinds of sauces, it provides substance and variety into the meal. Many of pasta dishes are made in large portions that allow for sharing. This tradition of shared dining provides an atmosphere that encourages people to form deeper connections with others at the dining table. Pasta is a food that is common all around the world, but it is a salient part of Italian culture. While different regions are known for different styles of noodle dishes , the love of pasta unites the culture of Italy.

In addition to noodles playing a vital role in Chinese and Italian cultures, they also come to symbolize hard work, family, experiences, and comfort. The show, “A Bite of China,” shows the hard work that fresh noodle production requires from the cook. The episode shows people of different parts of China, what they eat, and how the food is produced. The first item that is introduced is Chinese steamed buns. It is an arduous process to create these buns, and the vendor has to make them fresh for the next day’s sale. It made me realize that for these cooks and vendors, preparing noodles is a strenuous process that requires dedication and concentration. No wonder the value of not wasting food is present in many of the world’s cultures. In this sense, noodles represent something much greater than the finished product. It represents the great care needed to make the noodles.

Shared dining during a family gathering

The documentary also showed a clip of a family gathering that only happens a few times a year. In the gathering, the family bonds over the plethora of food, and the environment is very intimate.  Young children dig into their food, and it becomes clear that the children will forever remember the delicious meals and strong family connection present in the room.  Therefore noodles, or any food shared in a family environment, comes to represent cherished memories and connection with other family members.  Shared dining is big part of many cultures, especially Chinese and Italian cultures. While the family gathering only lasts for a short period of time, the memory and experience is engraved into one’s mind for far longer.  Finally, noodles also represent comfort because it is a standard food and is available almost everywhere in the world. Italians consume about sixty pounds of pasta per year. It is easy to find many varieties of noodles in many parts of the world due to improvements in production and technology that led to instant and dry noodles.  There is nothing better than a warm bowl of noodle soup when you are sick. Hence, noodles could also  come to represent comfort in a time of distress. 

Noodles reflect different cultures, regions, and cities by providing a form of identity. For example, the Italian city of Bologna is known for its fresh pasta – especially tagliatelle. Naples is known for Spaghetti. The Chinese “Long Life Noodles” is a prime example of how noodles represent the Chinese culture. It is a specialty dish served on birthdays, and it is a celebration that will be remembered forever by family members. Without the noodles, the birthday wouldn’t be as special because it is a Chinese tradition that has been around for many years. The idea of “longer the noodle, longer the life” has deep symbolic meaning within the Chinese culture. These are only a few examples of how noodles have shaped the identity of Italian and Chinese cultures. 

Dictionary definitions of the noodle are succinct and technical; however, the noodle is far more complex and symbolic. It has a deep history, takes on a vast number of forms, comes in many shapes and sizes, and represents the rich identity of many cultures, regions, cities. While one could write pages while attempting to provide an all encompassing definition of the noodle, I designed an image that I hope exposes the depth of the definition of the noodle. 

“A picture if worth a thousand words” – Fred Barnard  The True Meaning of Noodles

My drawing represents the symbolic meaning of noodles and what it contributes to our lives. Through depicting a bowl of pasta with chopsticks, I include both the countries that this paper is centered on – China and Italy. The bowl has panels that show the symbolic meaning of a bowl of noodles. Finally, I chose the color of the bowl to be red because it represents warmth. The drawing was inspired by “Crossing the Bridge,”  where a boy is locked in a room to prepare for the Imperial Exam and he does not eat anything the cook brings  him. Finally, the chef brings a soup that the boy had when he was three years old, and he eats the soup and passes the exam. This bowl of food represents the different forms noodles can take, what noodles symbolize, and the history behind noodles in the Chinese and Italian cultures. Although the form of the noodle is ever-evolving, and has evolved from fresh pasta to dried pasta to and instant noodles,  they will always represent deeper meaning of many cultures.   All of these aspects combined forms the true meaning of noodles.

P.S:

If you would like to visit the Ramen Noodle restaurant in Ponce, here is a link to their website 🙂

Sources

“Noodle.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-                                                webster.com/dictionary/noodle. 

The Identity of The Noodle (Qiulun Li)

The noodle is a food with profound history, which can be traced to Han Dynasty in China and 13thcentury in Italy. The noodle is always viewed as a staple food and is made from durum wheat semolina or from the flour of certain other rains, mixed with water and eggs to make a dough. The dough is then kneaded and formed into various shapes; thus, the shape of the noodle in either China or Italy is not only limited to a thin string.

Noodles in different regions can reflect the local culture, especially in China. China is such a huge country and consists of 56 ethnic groups. With such geographical and ethical variations, it is not surprising for China to have significantly different culture and cooking styles across the country. Noodles, therefore, as a staple food all across the country, can best represent culture where it comes. Noodles from different regions in China have very different cooking styles, contingent on the local cuisine. The noodles from a certain region is not only unique in its taste, but also carries the local trait. For example, Dandan noodles (担担面) is the local noodle dish from Sichuan Province. It is spicy, embracing the local cooking style in Sichuan Province. The name also represents the local culture. It comes from the fact that Dandan noodles was sold along the street by people carrying burdens on their shoulders. In the ancient time, businessmen in Sichuan Province carried burdens with them all along the street to sell their products. People who sell Dandan noodles put ingredients for the noodle, sauce and stove in their burdens. Once anyone come to them, they can immediately cook Dandan noodles and it only takes a little bit of time. In a word, Dandan noodles reflect the local cuisine, culture and unique life style. From my perspective, the noodle can reflect the culture and regions through its cooking style and even its name or shape. Since noodles embrace the culture and have unique tastes in different regions, it means the taste of home and a linkage to home to Chinese and Italian people. When people eat noodles that are unique to their hometown, they will have a feeling of staying at home and noodles can relieve their homesick. Thus, noodles play a significant role in the food culture. In my opinion, the reason why noodles play such an integral role is that noodles are the staple and most common food in China and Italy. Compared to other dishes, noodles are easier to cook, and it is really convenient to make noodles at home. Therefore, people have noodles very often and can have it everywhere, and they easily integrate local culture into noodles. As a result, the ubiquitous trait of noodles bestows it a documentary function to reflect the local culture and later function as a linkage to the hometown.

Noodles have various shapes and can be cooked in various ways. Therefore, it is really hard to come up a comprehensive definition of the noodle. If I were to create a definition of the noodle, I will define the noodle as a type of food easy to make and can be consumed immediately or stored for later consumption. It can be made from wheat semolina or from the flour of other rains, mixed with water and eggs to make a dough. The dough, then, is shaped into whatever shape people intend to make, and cooked with certain recipe. The ways of cooking noodles vary depending on the local cuisine. The noodle is so complicated that it is really hard to define in words but the noodle can be described in its very basic traits. In my opinion, the real noodle is any food made from the mixture of flour and water. It can be any shape and cooked in any way.

Noodles, cultures, and traditions_Jeeyoung Kim

Noodles, cultures, and traditions

Jeeyoung Kim

Noodle is loved in every culture around the world. Including the past and present days, noodle was evolved in different cultures in numerous ways. Especially in China and Italy, noodles serve as a staple food typically served on daily bases. Noodles are cooked in various ways to reflect the society that the noodle initially created.  For example, Dan Dan Noodles are the dish that represent the culture of Chengdu, China. The name Dan Dan Noodles comes from a word ‘dan,’ which means to carry on a shoulder pole. In the past, the street food merchant used to unload kitchen wear, chopsticks and boil from a shoulder pole to serve Dan Dan Noodles. The old citizens of Chengdu still remember the street vendors serving Dan Dan Noodles. Not only the noodle itself, but such street foods were a significant culture of Chengdu and China. Dan Dan Noodles was the central part of the street food culture. It is a nostalgic memory for the elders as well as the tasty traditions for people in Chengdu. Moreover, pasta is symbolic dish to Italians. The shapes and method of cooking was evolved with the history of Italy. The typical configuration of the noodle that first comes into the mind is a long thin stick-like shape. However, Italians developed various forms of pasta such as Anelli, a small ring-shaped pasta, rigatoni, a tube-shaped pasta, and orecchiette, a small ear-shaped pasta.  Such multiple developments of pasta show the affections and considerations of Italians towards pasta. Pasta is not only loved by Italians but also esteemed by the people from every part of the world. Pasta became an ordinary daily meal in the United States. Also, in Korea, traditional Italian is served as well as the Korean fusion pasta.

The noodles represent the traditions and meaning of life.  It is also commonly served in celebratory events. In Chinese culture, noodles are the symbol of longevity because of its typical long thin shape. Therefore, in China, there is a noodle called Long Life Noodles. This noodle is prepared on birthdays and many other celebratory events. There is a myth in China that one will live as long as the length of the noodle that is served. The noodles are strongly associated with the cultures and customs because noodles had a long history and were always around people.

Moreover, noodles reflect the lifestyle of the society. The current society desires for a healthy lifestyle and nutritious food, and pasta is one of the food that the people aspire. Though people try to avoid carbohydrates, our body still requires healthy carbohydrates.  Pasta contains nutritious carbohydrates.  Also, pasta is usually served with vegetables, meats, or seafood, which makes the meal even more nourishing. With only one plate of pasta, people can obtain balanced protein, carbohydrates, and fat which is crucial nutrition to operate one’s body. Pasta is indeed can be considered as one of the superfoods.

Defining noodles including different aspects of every culture is hard. However, personally, noodles are a staple food cooked with various methods, usually boiled or fired, that represents the culture and traditions of societies. Every noodle is different in shape, texture, and taste. It is typically served with soup or sauce and made with wheat, egg, water, or flour. It also reflects the lifestyle and history of a culture. Especially as a Korean, noodle also has special meaning to me because of the Korean traditional Cold Noodle served in the recent successful inter-Korean summit. After two leaders of North and South Korea sharing Cold Noodle, it became a new symbol of peace to Koreans because the most recent inter-Korean summit resulted in promise for the peace in the Korean peninsula.


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

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

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

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

Here shows the unique variety of pasta in many shapes and forms.

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

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

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

This is a drawing for an example of a typical Dan Dan Noodle vendor

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

The Muslim influence is seen in Lanzhou’s unique hand-pulled noodles through its colors and many aspects ranging from the color and production of the dish.

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

Speaking of college dorm rooms and instant ramen, I have experienced first hand how noodles have brought others together. As a timid high schooler, I was terrified to meet new people in college. However, in the first few weeks of the school year,

I ate noodles on a date with my boyfriend ^-^

my roommates and I had a ramen night and invited the entire floor.  In this situation, the ramen literally brought together my floormates and we all ate together and chatted (The video is provided below). The noodles literally began my time at Emory and have since played a vital role in the development of my friendships. From late night pho runs to going out on dates eating noodles, noodles signify plenty of memories and unforgettable moments for me that I cannot sum into any amount of words. Likewise, I believe the definition of the noodle cannot be easily defined. Yes, it can be defined as a tube of pasta or typically made with egg and usually eaten with a sauce or in a soup, however, this does not give the many connotations of noodles. Noodles carry tradition from generation to generation and is a comfort food that is loaded with a history different from each country and individual person. This noodle cannot be so easily defined or captured in a picture. However, I choose to represent noodles in the video provided below of my time in the college dorm room. Noodles here represent a bridge to meet new friends, it has brought together many different people together to enjoy a meal, and the instant ramen is instrumental to a typical college diet. The noodles below show some of the many aspects of the noodle.

After a long day, my friends and I decided to grab some Pho in Buford around 1am.

The Everlasting, Ever-Evolving Noodle

Inarguably, the noodle spans several thousand years, being a natural phenomenon in the lives of many individuals across the globe. What is it about the noodle that is so special? So magnificent? So persistent, that its legacy lives on and comes to fruition in many distinct, yet powerful ways. How can we define the noodle from a cultural perspective? How is the noodle intertwined with history, culture, identity, among other things? Come on this journey and let’s find out!

Antonio Latini writes “alimentary traditions never remain the same but change with time, becoming modified as they come into contact with traditions” (Latini 157).  He also characterizes the difference between identities and roots and how a “typical” Italian dish, spaghetti and tomato sauce, has really interesting roots that are not necessarily Italian–a prardox indeed! Pasta in Italy serves as a :metaphor for the unity and variety of Italian alimentary styles” (Latini 160). While pasta is singular, it comes in all shapes and sizes and each one has a specific function, or purpose. Thus, pasta is Italy because it encapsulates a “gastronomic identity” that is simultaneously one and multiple… wow, this is powerful (Latini 160). Pasta as an Italian entity allows for this special duality of expressing differences, given the uniqueness of Italian cities and regional cultures/traditions, while also umbrealla-ing Italy into one fundamental branch.

“In the aspect of noodles, Chinese people have lots of customers, which essentially mean ‘human culture’ and ‘worldly common sense’ materialized in the noodles” (Zhang and Ma 210). The important beyond compelling traditions of the Chinese are significantly connected to noodles: longevity noodles, noodles with gravy, dragon whiskers noodles. These are all living examples of the multi-faceted nature of the noodles, which serve one broad purpose: to connect. Noodles in China are so closely associated with life and its biggest milestones that it certainly serves as an extension of the Chinese identity. The endless classifications of noodles and local characteristics within the neighborhoods of a massive country allow us to understand just how integral the noodle is to the conception of Chinese culture: a true foundation that allows for a rich blossoming of other Chinese traditions, like birthday’s, for instance, which are inherently characterized by longevity noodles or the day of Lunar that is comprised of eating dragon whiskers noodles. Thus, the noodle in China represents connection, purpose and tradition that will always live on.

Now, I will shift gears to what I would define the noodle as. Today in class, we came across two interesting definitions, one from the Oxford Dictionary and the other from the Cambridge Dictionary. One cannot help but notice the emphasis on the tangible in these definitions. It is simply describing the noun in such a straightforward manner, yet it leaves out the most integral qualities of the noodle that revolve around not what it is, because it clearly “a lot,” but what is has done and will continue to do historically and culturally. Hence, I would supplement these definitions by honing in on the complexity of the noodle and its ambiguous roots, yet the way its manifested distinct cultures so beautifully within both the eastern and western hemispheres. I would also include a tidbit about the important role the noodle plays in tradition and most importantly, connection. It serves as a perfect example of nations coming together under their love for the noodle, groups of people celebrating important events using the noodle as a medium, and lastly, it shows how identities can come to life with certain types, shapes, nuances of an overarching noodle at the local level. These are some of the intricacies of the noodle I’d hope to convey in a robust definition, which clearly goes beyond the tactile and transitions over more to the abstract.

I have chosen this art piece as a perfect representation of what the noodle means to me because it arranges pasta types, all different shapes, sizes, types into one cohesive unit that functions on its own, a train. This entity is what I believe models the underlying power of the pasta: its multi-faceted nature, its unifying tendencies, its interconnection with culture, tradition and identity, which ultimately equate to one holistic universal concept that transcends boundaries, the noodle from a global perspective.

Must be worth a pretty penne: Mr Pakhomoff, from Perm, Russia, mostly creates motor vehicles such as trucks, cars and bikes
An intricate “pasta piece”

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2250021/Art-thats-good-eat-The-intricate-models-entirely-pasta.html

Lastly,  I wanted to close out by touching on the fact that the noodle has evidently become more vastly incorporated globally and has evolved into many debatable nuances–take for example, gluten free pasta, zucchini noodles, among other more modernized inventions. These two examples in and of themselves showcase just how important pasta has become in western culture that food restrictions have paved their way into making ulterior means of engaging in consumption of “noodle-like” food item, which essentially have been looped into the grand definition of noodle. This is simply one finding I wanted to bring up, but there are many, many more vivid examples of just how widespread noodles have become and how different their function has been in coming to fruition recently. It’s a never-ending rollercoaster that only goes up, in my opinion, so I encourage all humans to closely follow the trajectory of the noodle. 

The Journey to Defining the Noodle

Michelle Boamah

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

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

Noodles also serve as a way to pass tradition down through generations in order to maintain certain aspects of identity and culture.  Noodle traditions serve as a way to connect with those who came before us, as well as  promoting a long and fruitful lives while also celebrating loved ones. A custom in China is for people to eat longevity noodles during birthdays as a way of attaining long life and prosperity. This tradition allows for everyone involved to be able to attain long life while celebrating the birthday honoree. Another custom is for people at the time of marriage moving into their new home to eat noodles with gravy symbolizing a flavored life. Another Chinese custom pertaining to noodles is eating dragon whisker noodles on the day of lunar February 2nd to look forward to good weather. An Italian tradition that is still implemented today and is the way a meal is structured. A traditional Italian dinner contains five courses including the antipasto, the primo, the secondo, the cortono and the dolce. Noodles are usually enjoyed during the primo and served as an appetizer and not the main event. These traditions showcase the role noodles play in our day to day lives.

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

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

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

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

Noodles + Friends – Jenna Grace Cooper

The main activity that my friends and I do together is eat. We go out to dinner, order in or get coffee and pastries while working. Hardly anyone says no to food– it’s even harder to say no to good plate of pasta. In terms of this week’s readings, food, particularly the noodle, is defined a necessity and also a luxury.

Despite the narrative which credits Marco Polo for bringing the noodle to Italy from China, the noodle was rediscovered then. Historical research attributes the Sicilians with the production of noodles in the early 12thcentury (The Truth About Pasta, p.14). Yet, the country of origin of the noodle is far from its limit in which cultures enjoy the pasta. The noodle has been able to transcend the boundaries of rich, poor, traditional, modern, eastern and western societies. The dishes have become adapted to every flavor imagined and shared across languages.

For the Italian culture, the Mediterranean diet is an integral part of their lifestyle, health and traditions rooted in history. As discussed in The Truth About Pasta reading, the integral meaning of the noodle is three-fold. The Mediterranean diet is comprised of tiers of: meats and sweets; poultry, egg, cheese and yogurts; fish and seafood; fruits, veggies, grains, olive oil, beans, seeds, herbs and spices; and physical activity and enjoyment of meals with others (The Truth about Pasta, p. 24). Because Italy is a peninsula, it allows its residents to have a diet of lean protein such as fish, its warm climate is hospitable to harvesting hearty fruits and vegetables and olive-based oils and proteins. The Mediterranean diet includes the lifestyle for a healthy mind and body with the image in the food pyramid. Differing from many food pyramids such as the American, the Italians incorporate the importance of being social, sharing food together and even making food together as an integral part of their society much like the Chinese who focus on holistic wellness. In addition to the qualitative benefits, the Mediterranean diet focuses on the chemical and physiological effects which allow everything in moderation. To counter the idea that pasta makes one fat, The Truth About Pasta reading explains the importance of wheat and grains in the pyramid which are stressed for their ability to be digested over a longer period of time causing a fuller longer feeling and energy to last longer (The Truth About Pasta,p. 4). In fact, the benefits to the hypoglycemic index and response to insulin, particularly in overweight or obese people. Called by Italian scientists “the gold standard,” pasta can be enjoyed in moderation with the mix of nutritional fruits, vegetables, tomato sauce and meats which can be incorporated to the “canvas” of pasta. Its third meaning is tied to its historical value. As pasta was invented in Sicily, rediscovered by Marco Polo and enjoyed in modern day, it becomes a translator of history over time. Homemade pasta carries history through families, through its shape and name which could be based on anything from a battle, a historical event or its regional flavor, and the influence of the foreign conquests. The Mediterranean diet is mirrored all over the world and pasta variations found in the Italian culture mark similarities to many others across the world, showcasing the global nature of food production.

For the Chinese culture, the noodles have created its originality based on its location and resources available. The meaning of noodles has become an ingrained cultural symbol, a sustainable and rich dietary addition for the rural and poorer population of Asia and again, the rich history of Chinese culture. Ramen, udon and soba are made from locally available resources which have been adapted to the Chinese diet, making an original flavor that is more receptive to the other agriculture present in that region. The long-life noodles of China are original to their location and culture. In the reading, it tells the story of how small children and the elderly enjoy noodles on their birthdays which are only celebrated at milestone ages rather than annually (Durack, 88). The act of eating noodles at the old age symbolizes a long life full of family, joy and success, an indicator of their cultural values. Much like the Italians, the focus on the social aspect of eating becomes integral to the meaning of the noodles. Though in ancient times pasta was only enjoyed by the elite, the ability of it being dried, packaged, having a long shelf-life and quick preparation has spread pasta to the ends of the globe, providing nutrition and carbs for energy in a cost-sustainable way. In Asia, this has helped both low and middle-class populations have a healthy access to food. Despite its commercialization, pasta in China, like Italy, is deeply rooted in history and heritage. From the story of Confucius discussing his ideology and his family’s preparation of noodles, the stories based on noodles are ingrained in the history and philosophies of the people.

For my personal experience in American culture, noodles are one of the first things I learned how to cook and a comfort food to me. Broadly in American culture, the definition of pasta becomes a combination of Chinese and Italian symbols. Because so many people have access to pasta to for a very low cost, it becomes a staple to the diet. While Americans embrace variations such as whole wheat, gluten-free and vegetable-infused pasta, the typical white flour is the most common among lower and middle classes. It continues to provide the nutrients and health benefits. Yet pasta can be a necessity and a luxury with variations on the spectrum much like the American economic system. In the American sense, almost everyone in America has tasted pasta at least once, so like the Italian culture, it becomes a staple for our emotional health. Comfort food for Americans usually consists of many carb-loaded, rich, cheesy or decadent food which can be made of pasta. A dish that I feel embodies this ideal is dessert pasta made of chocolate noodles with chocolate sauce and fruit ingredients. It embodies Americans’ love for pasta and the luxury of the excess— something not typically seen in the readings for Italian or Chinese cultures.

I chose this image, because it is representative of the most important aspect of noodles for both Chinese, American and Italian cultures– to be shared with everyone.

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