I find it interesting in this column that someone insisted on noting that tomatoes came from the “new world”, but further mentioned cornstarch without a similar disclaimer.

Huh? In the version I just read, it says (after “cornstarch”), “probably the grossest culinary sin committed upon spaghetti sauce in Los Angeles today.” Sounds disclaimed to me. Besides, both tomato and cornstarch are in a letter, not the column per se.

I am well-versed in Roman culture, and have read several Roman cookbooks, and I have never seen a reference to Roman pasta, let alone to a tradition that Cicero was fond of it. There was a dish called laganum (Gk. laganon) that was some sort of roasted dough that might be layered with meat or other items, but nothing I would call pasta. Perhaps that is the source of the claim.

As to the letter-column distinction, unless you’re opening a “comments on responses to Cecil’s columns published in later columns” forum…

Now, to the heart of the matter: I said a similar disclaimer. Of course Italians wouldn’t have used cornstarch any more than they would have used tomatoes, and for the exact same reason.

the Great One never answered the Q in the “reply”… What DID the Italians (and/or Romans) put ON the pasta before they knew about tamatos?


olive oil


One might note that “octave” suggests music only in English. A boy named “Octave” could easily be an eighth son (or an eighth child), or, perhaps, named after someone else, such as Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus, the first emperor.

Why does it suggest music only in English? ‘Octave’ in musical terma simply means ‘eighth’ and has a Romance origin. The word for octave in all such languages is related to the word for eighth.

Perhaps you meant to say that only in English is its meaning primarily musical?

I guess Cecil’s not a Saturday Night Live fan - nobody noticed that the column was written by one “Emily Litella.”

Never mind.