View Full Version : corn and Claudius
10-28-2002, 05:40 PM
In an old column about the nature of the word "corn" (http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_102.html) Cecil states that "Claudius...was really expanding the harbor to accommodate more wheat, thus upping the pasta supply." As an aficionado of both pasta and Roman history, I'm pretty sure that there was no pasta in the Western world before, oh, Marco Polo, at least.
But other than that, I like these columns.
And General Mills doesn't make corn flakes.
I've also been told that Marco Polo's introduction of pasta to the West is a myth, but "I heard it somewhere" isn't a valid cite...
10-28-2002, 08:21 PM
We had a thread in this forum not long ago, wherein I posted something about lasagne in ancient Rome. Let's see if I can find it...
Here it is: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?s&threadid=136445 Colibri cites evidence of pasta in Italy as early as 400 B.C.
10-28-2002, 09:24 PM
To summarize, the evidence is as follows:
Etruscan carving of table, pastry wheel, and flour bin. While those may be necessary for the production of pasta, I'd hardly count them as sufficient.
Why anyone would request macaroni in their will is beyond me; still, I'm willing to believe that Marco Polo did not bring back pasta to Italy. (In fact, the ancient Romans did know of China and presumably had some trade, though probably indirect--they called it Serica.) However, moving the date back 12 years and moving it back 1500 are two different things.
Question: when do you think the Chinese invented pasta?
While the absence of pasta in Apicius does not necessarily imply that pasta was absent in Rome, the lack of mention of it does make it sound as though, even if it WAS there, it would probably not have been high on Claudius's mind. He was a mushroom man, after all. ;)
11-07-2002, 06:43 PM
In Australia, we have a product called "cornflour" which is fine ground refined wheat flour used in cooking
this name obviously reflects the usage of "corn' for grain.
Recently a company has come out with a product called 'genuine' 'cornflour' made from maize.
Is this the only example of product development based on a linguistic confusion. (the product is useful for cooking purposes)
PS the German word for wheat is "korn", as in the musical group.
11-13-2002, 11:38 AM
The "pasta trivia" on the I love pasta website hardly constitutes a reliable cite. According to the online translators that I used, macarone is not even a word in Italian, let alone one that is synonymous with macaroni. The Italian for macaroni is maccheroni. Any speakers of medieval Italian or latin that can weigh in as to what that will was specifying was in that basket?
I think if there was any significant amount of pasta being eaten, it would show up in recipe books of the time before it showed up in any wills.
11-13-2002, 11:56 AM
And of course, I should have completed my research before posting.
Here (http://www.cliffordawright.com/history/mac_print.html), you will find a very long and detailed history of the evidence for the origins of macaroni. The short version is that it appears that macaroni was known by Marco Polo before his trip to the Far East, as he refers to the macaronis he finds by Italian names for similar foodstuffs. Details on this can be found in the 12th paragraph down on the link above.
As for the evidence of the Etruscan invention of pasta, however:The Italian culinary authority Massimo Alberiniís claim that the Etruscans knew pasta secca, repeated by many authors, is now known to be false. He claimed that the painted stucco reliefs in the Tomba dei Rilievi at Cerveteri (Caere) show a table used to make the pasta dough, known as the spianatora (rolling out table) in Roman dialect, a rolling pin, knives, and even a little indented pasta wheel that cut crinkly-edged lasagne. Archeologists say that nothing of the sort is shown.
The article seems to conclude that the invention of macaroni is another one we owe to the Arabs.
11-13-2002, 12:01 PM
Doh! Forgot to tie this in to the OP. Based on the current evidence, I would say Claudius' subjects had a pasta supply of zero.
Which is good, because they would have had to wait 1500 years for marinara sauce anyway.
11-19-2002, 01:35 PM
But they still could have had fettucini alfredo.
05-16-2006, 08:58 PM
In Australia, we have a product called "cornflour" which is fine ground refined wheat flour used in cooking this name obviously reflects the usage of "corn' for grain.
Not really. Cornflour/cornstarch is not simply refined wheat flour, it is an extract of wheat flour with identical properties to actual corn flour, notably the thixotropic and gelling properties and lack of gluten. It is manufactured as a corn flour substitute.
I couldn't say for certain whether cornflour existed before flour made form corn but the simple fact of the naming proves nothing since modern wheaten cornflour is a deliberately manufactured substitute for maize flour.
05-16-2006, 09:40 PM
Blake, don't wake the zombie, man!
05-17-2006, 05:30 PM
Naw, Marco Polo brought back General Tso's chicken. Not the dish; he stole a chicken from General Tso!
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