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Spaghetti Code


hathor
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BTW, also my child will be a son of immigrants, with the only difference that his/her first languages are going to be italian and chinese. So, myself I am immigrant  :smile:

And my goodness, Franci, the foods your child carries forth from childhood and family, into the world will be interesting, though undoubtedly the names of what they are called will be contested at times. :wink::smile:

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I think that Kim S stumbles badly in her second paragraph when she writes "I had driven through the Italian mountains with an interpreter to find Ateleta...", as if Italy has only one mountainous region. I distrusted her from that point, although she eventually got me back with some of the details about her family & its history.

But I don't get the bit about not being able to duplicate her mother's sauce because mom can't or won't tell her how she does it. Why would she even expect that to work? Seems obvious that she should be watching what her mom does, again & again, if she really wants to learn. So why isn't she doing that?

An intermittently charming & goofy piece, though it has a good deal of heart.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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Read the article with interest (after reading this thread) - I enjoyed it for what it is but can see it is possible to draw argument from it (not what the author intended I am sure). If we were all of the same view it would be a less interesting world.

My wife and I find ourselves in a sort of reverse incarnation of the story, as we have moved our lives to rural Italy, work the land by hand and are adapting our lifestyle, kitchen and routines to match. Truly a wonderful experience.

Phil

visit our vineyard in Italy - Vecchio Podere Santa Cristiana

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I think that Kim S stumbles badly in her second paragraph when she writes "I had driven through the Italian mountains with an interpreter to find Ateleta...", as if Italy has only one mountainous region. 

The sentence does not state or imply that Italy has only one mountainous region. It simply means that she drove through the mountains, Italian ones. Whether or not to provide greater specificity is the kind of judgment call writers (and editors) make in just about every sentence. Since this article is not directed at people planning to recreate the trip, the names of the particular mountains are not necessarily relevant. Often, authors include too many details and editors, trying to improve flow and space efficiency, remove the ones that don't need to be there. For all we know the writer included three sentences about the trip through the mountains, naming every individual mountain, and an editor crossed it all out and said "the Italian mountains." Happens all the time, for good reason.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Interesting article. I think that it is a common theme for immigrant families, the food of home is not possible to replicate in the new country and due to the abundance of meat, dishes that were once for special occassions become everyday dishes.

One thing that I am curious about is spaghetti with meatballs. OK it is an Italian-American dish, but I'm surprised by how quitely it is adopted by Italian families in America. The authors mother was 1st/2nd generation and yet this seems to be a standard family dish.

Also, I know that spaghetti and meatballs is called an American dish, but in many european cuisines, forcemeat balls where a very common garnish for grander dishes. Is this the case here, a festive ragu etc has been transformed into an everyday dish and in the process lost all the addional ingredients, except the meatballs?

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But I don't get the bit about not being able to duplicate her mother's sauce because mom can't or won't tell her how she does it.  Why would she even expect that to work?  Seems obvious that she should be watching what her mom does, again & again, if she really wants to learn.  So why isn't she doing that?

the part i don't get is why does she think her sauce will taste the same as her mother's, when she doesn't use the same ingredients?

I use fresh basil and fresh bread crumbs instead of Progresso in my meatballs, but I still stick to dried basil and oregano in the sauce. My canned tomatoes come from Italy, even though my mother thinks Contadina or Hunt’s is just fine.

It never tastes just like hers, but I keep trying. And maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps I’m too fixated on my fancy-pants ingredients. Or perhaps it’s just a psychological quirk of the kitchen. The one that makes you think nothing ever tastes as good as your mother’s.

that's like saying, the recipe says to use beef, but i used pork, and also it puts in carrot but i used parsnip because it's nicer... i mean, if you change the recipe, it's not going to taste the same....

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One thing that I am curious about is spaghetti with meatballs. OK it is an Italian-American dish, but I'm surprised by how quitely it is adopted by Italian families in America. The authors mother was 1st/2nd generation and yet this seems to be a standard family dish.

Also, I know that spaghetti and meatballs is called an American dish, but in many european cuisines, forcemeat balls where a very common garnish for grander dishes. Is this the case here, a festive ragu etc has been transformed into an everyday dish and in the process lost all the addional ingredients, except the meatballs?

Was just reading something that might apply to these questions, in Aguecheek's Beef, Belch's Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections .

[. . .] foodways operate in flux. A well-known article of food habits* among Italian-Americans in Philadelphia shows how, in order to accommodate cultural pressures felt from both their Italian heritage and their American experience, homemakers alternated the styles of their meals. On some days they served a "platter," an American-style meal with meat and potatoes and vegetables all on one plate; on other days they served a "gravy," and Italian-style meal, centered on tomato sauce ("gravy") and pasta including several courses served in succession.

[. . .]The Italian-American "platter," as it were, makes a subtantive out our meat, adjectives and adverbs out of its condiments and vegetables, a sentence out of the assembly of the individual platter, choosing its "words" from an Anglo-American lexicon. The Italian-American "gravy," speaking a different sort of language, seems rather to make a substantive out of a sauce, a verb out of its pasta, and adjectives out of items like meatballs and grated cheese, choosing most of its vocabulary from a southern Italian or Sicilian lexicon.

There's about another full page of this in this book, but I would guess that a closer answer might be found within the article cited. :wink:

Personally I am exhausted just having read eleven pages of this book and am definitely beginning to talk funny. :smile:

*Judith Goode, Janet Theophano, and Karen Curtis, "A Framework for the Analysis of Continuity and Change in Shared Sociocultural Rules for Food Use: The Italian-American Pattern," in Ethnic and Regional Foodways in the United States.

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I think that Kim S stumbles badly in her second paragraph when she writes "I had driven through the Italian mountains with an interpreter to find Ateleta...", as if Italy has only one mountainous region. 

The sentence does not state or imply that Italy has only one mountainous region. It simply means that she drove through the mountains, Italian ones. Whether or not to provide greater specificity is the kind of judgment call writers (and editors) make in just about every sentence. Since this article is not directed at people planning to recreate the trip, the names of the particular mountains are not necessarily relevant. Often, authors include too many details and editors, trying to improve flow and space efficiency, remove the ones that don't need to be there. For all we know the writer included three sentences about the trip through the mountains, naming every individual mountain, and an editor crossed it all out and said "the Italian mountains." Happens all the time, for good reason.

Sorry, but I disagree on the implication of the phrase. It's like calling the Adirondacks "the American mountains," as if the Rockies etc. don't exist. It's an inclusive phrase.

I suppose one can use that and not be totally wrong but my immediate thought, in both cases, is that the writer doesn't know very much about where he or she is. If an editor was responsible for the phrase, then he or she is putting the writer in a bad light. Either way, it makes me question why I'm spending my time with her.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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The sentence does not state or imply that Italy has only one mountainous region. It simply means that she drove through the mountains, Italian ones. Whether or not to provide greater specificity is the kind of judgment call writers (and editors) make in just about every sentence. Since this article is not directed at people planning to recreate the trip, the names of the particular mountains are not necessarily relevant. Often, authors include too many details and editors, trying to improve flow and space efficiency, remove the ones that don't need to be there. For all we know the writer included three sentences about the trip through the mountains, naming every individual mountain, and an editor crossed it all out and said "the Italian mountains." Happens all the time, for good reason.

Sorry, but I disagree on the implication of the phrase. It's like calling the Adirondacks "the American mountains," as if the Rockies etc. don't exist. It's an inclusive phrase.

I suppose one can use that and not be totally wrong but my immediate thought, in both cases, is that the writer doesn't know very much about where he or she is. If an editor was responsible for the phrase, then he or she is putting the writer in a bad light. Either way, it makes me question why I'm spending my time with her.

Were I to explain this to my students, I would tell them that "I had driven through Italian mountains..." implies one of any possible mountain ranges in Italy. "...the Italian mountains..." implies there is only one Italian mountain range. Articles are difficult things.

I read the article, and wasn't offended much. I think however, that if she had written about the food history of a Thai family, and then published their recipe for pad thai which included ketchup, I'd have been offended.

It's all about frame of reference...

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I read the article, and wasn't offended much.  I think however, that if she had written about the food history of a Thai family, and then published their recipe for pad thai which included ketchup, I'd have been offended. 

It's all about frame of reference...

Oddly I have a few bilingual SE-Asina cookbooks published in Singapore or Malaysia, where tomato ketchup seems to be a relatively common ingredient in noodle dishes. Its use in pad thai is something I don't know about however.

I don't use dried basil (I don't like the anise flavour that it has), but have been in Italy and Spain often enough to know that somebody is using it quite a bit as it is pretty common to see it on sale, ranging from supermarkets to little peasant ladies selling it in old jam jars.

I can't see that much to offend me (and I am easy to offend), but interestingly it pushes some people's buttons. Italian mountains? "Driving though the Scottish moors" doesn't imply that there is only one moor in Scotland, so I don't see that fault in the article. Maybe it would be better to say 'Driving though mountains in Italy', but really this seems like looking for a fault to me.

I'm liked the article well enough. My personal preference is for more data and personal story line, but that isn't nature of this article I would have thought.

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From the Italian Government Tourist Board:

"The Italian mountains are for everyone - a marvelous place in all the seasons of the year."

http://www.italiantourism.com/alps.html

From a UN Food and Agriculture Organization report titled "The Italian mountains"

"The fauna of the Italian mountains is characterized by a large component of endemic species."

http://www.fao.org/docrep/004/y3549e/y3549e16.htm

From a USA Today article titled "Car of Pope John Paul II up for auction in Las Vegas"

"Kruse likes to imagine Cardinal Karol Wojtyla driving around Poland before he became pope in 1978, and later dressing in commoners' clothing to head into the Italian mountains for rest, relaxation and reflection."

http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2005...ar_x.htm?csp=34

From a CNN story, "Three die in Italy earthquake"

"At least three tourists were injured by falling rocks in the Italian mountains, ANSA reported."

http://archives.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/europe/...uake/index.html

Time magazine, "Eye on the Oval Office"

"He joked so much then that people did not think he was serious, as if anyone scorched by the Dust Bowl and shattered by an explosive shell in the Italian mountains in World War II could be truly frivolous."

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/...1074734,00.html

From a New York Times article titled "A Grandchild of Italy Cracks the Spaghetti Code"

"I had driven through the Italian mountains with an interpreter to find Ateleta, the village where my grandmother Floriana Ranallo Zappa grew up."

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/21/dining/21sauce.html

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I could dissect each of those usages & explain why I think they're variously lazy, inaccurate or inappropriate, but it seems a pointless exercise. Different things irk different people, that's just the way it is.

I will add that the first citation uses "mountains" synonymously with "Alps", which is what the phrase normally conjures for me. The first paragraph of Severson's piece has us in the Abruzzi, the second has me wondering how we got there. I expect more precision from the Times. Perhaps I should expect less.

Edited by ghostrider (log)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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I have no issue with you being irked -- lots of things irk me that irk nobody else -- however if everyone from Time to the UN to the Italian Government Tourist Board to more than 10,000 other Google results is using this construction, it can hardly be said to be an indictment of any particular journalist, editor or story.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I have no issue with you being irked -- lots of things irk me that irk nobody else -- however if everyone from Time to the UN to the Italian Government Tourist Board to more than 10,000 other Google results is using this construction, it can hardly be said to be an indictment of any particular journalist, editor or story.

But reading through all the examples that you've posted, I have no idea where any of these mountains are; no anchor to figure out the location, other than the NY Times article.

This has been an interesting discussion, and conducted in a very Italian manner. All that's missing is a long table, late afternoon sunshine, some unlabeled bottles of wine and a hunk of cheese.

I originally posted the article, and my rant, to see if I was becoming a self-righteous Ital-ophile (??). Seems that I am, and I'm ok with that.

Now Adam has me wondering about spaghetti and meatballs....good questions, Adam. :hmmm:

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Interesting article. I think that it is a common theme for immigrant families, the food of home is not possible to replicate in the new country and due to the abundance of meat, dishes that were once for special occassions become everyday dishes.

One thing that I am curious about is spaghetti with meatballs. OK it is an Italian-American dish, but I'm surprised by how quitely it is adopted by Italian families in America. The authors mother was 1st/2nd generation and yet this seems to be a standard family dish.

Also, I know that spaghetti and meatballs is called an American dish, but in many european cuisines, forcemeat balls where a very common garnish for grander dishes. Is this the case here, a festive ragu etc has been transformed into an everyday dish and in the process lost all the addional ingredients, except the meatballs?

Interesting angle. That is, I hadn't thought of the dish as potentially evolving from a more complex dish in which some elements were dropped.

Thanks, Adam!

edited to add: I like the imagery that you have pictured for our discussion, hathor!

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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From a UN Food and Agriculture Organization report titled "The Italian mountains"

"The fauna of the Italian mountains is characterized by a large component of endemic species."

http://www.fao.org/docrep/004/y3549e/y3549e16.htm

Now that I've had time to look at more of these links, I should amend my earlier comments to say that I consider the usage above to be correct. The report deals pretty comprehensively with all of the Italian mountains, from the Alps to Mt. Etna, making its title quite appropriate.

The report also mentions that 35% of Italy is mountainous.

If only Ms. Severson (or her editor), havng already located us in the Abruzzi, had simply said, "I had driven through the mountains with an interpreter to find Ateleta", none of this tangential discussion would have occurred. Maybe that's why she did it. :wink: Or maybe she was going for the notion that she was in those singularly Italian mountains, the Apennines, as opposed to the Alps which Italy shares with five other countries, and an editor cut something key and botched the concept.

In any event, I'm a bit envious of her heritage, chicken thighs or not. Now let's get back to those meatballs.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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I just popped in for a second after reading email, so I'll be brief now--with more to say later.

However, if folk are really, really interested in American spaghetti and meatballs, two things:

1) Don't overlook Karen Resta's important post. The woman actually did genuine research in a library for the love of Pete! I for one find the excerpts interesting and wish to thank her for drawing her findings to our attention. Mrbigjas and others from Philly, perhaps you have connections for collecting anecdotal information?

2) "Yankee Doodle went to town aridin' on a pony..." There was macaroni in these here parts for quite some time long before Ellis Island gained significance. There might be some intersections to explore regarding the kinds of dishes that were prepared before large waves of Italian immigrants arrived in the United States.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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2) "Yankee Doodle went to town aridin' on a pony..."  There was macaroni in these here parts for quite some time long before Ellis Island gained significance.  There might be some intersections to explore regarding the kinds of dishes that were prepared before large waves of Italian immigrants arrived in the United States.

In the song, "macaroni" has nothing to do with pasta. It was a reference to a club of dandies in London. http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_..._18/ai_95150309

Edited by SuzySushi (log)

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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:cool: I didn't know that!

Thank you!!!

According to the article, these English dandies were called "macaroni" because of a taste of foreign foods as well as Italian fashion in the 18th century. I would assume that gradually led to the adaption of a number of dishes that included that foreign noodle. Too tired to even walk over to the bookcase to look, but in his pioneering book on American cookery James Beard cites all these wonderful ladies's cookbooks from the 19th century in which one boils noodles endlessly and then...okay, here, I've looked it up:

Macaroni--also spelled maccaroni in early books--seems to have been one great pasta dish know in earlier times aside from noodles.  Mrs. Randolph in The Virginia Housewife gives this rule for macaroni pudding.

'Simmer half a pound of maccaroni in plenty of water, with a tablespoon of salt, till tender, but not broke--strain it, beat five yoks, two whites of eggs, half a pint of cream.  Mince white meat (of chicken) and boiled ham very fine, add three spoonfuls of grated chees, pepper and salt.  Mix these with the maccaroni, butter the mold, put in and steam it in a pint of boiling water for an hour--serve with a rich gravy.'

The book he cites dates to 1836 (Baltimore).

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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2) "Yankee Doodle went to town aridin' on a pony..."  There was macaroni in these here parts for quite some time long before Ellis Island gained significance.  There might be some intersections to explore regarding the kinds of dishes that were prepared before large waves of Italian immigrants arrived in the United States.

In the song, "macaroni" has nothing to do with pasta. It was a reference to a club of dandies in London. http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_..._18/ai_95150309

The Dandy part is correct, but there is a pasta connection.

This chap was quite American wasn't he?

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My take on "the Italian mountains."

We already know we're in the Abruzzi, right? So I can't agree with those who think that, in this case, "the Italian mountains" is synonymous with "all the Italian mountains." The context has already eliminated that possibility.

But there is a definite vagueness about the construction. And this is exactly as it should be. The author, despite her roots, has a tenuous grasp of what exactly Italy is (and what exactly Italian food is.) This is part of the whole point.

To me, the opening of the article suggests someone who has gotten off a plane, ventured into uncharted territory, drives through some mountains in Italy, which might as well be any mountains in Italy--she knows she's in the Abruzzi but is nonetheless sort of geographically overwhelmed. So, I think "the Italian mountains" is exactly the right phrase. The contrast between the vagueness of the mountains in the beginning, and the specificity of the table at the end, tells us all we need to know.

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The woman actually did genuine research in a library for the love of Pete! 

Please don't allow this fact to interfere with my hard-earned reputation for silliness, though. :wink:

It was just pure luck that *that * particular book was in my hands at this moment. But I might see if I can hunt up the book that includes the cited article, as it seems to be mentioned in many places as a reference.

On the other hand, last night I was thinking about Adam's proposal that the meatballs on top of the spaghetti are a remainder from a "larger scope" dish that included more meats and it came to me that when my MIL (born in Italy, emigrated to US as a young woman) made meatballs, they were never solo, or the solo meat. They were cooked in a "ragu" (say "urrurru" and you'll have the sound of it :smile: ) a tomato sauce that always included pork spareribs and sausage. The meatballs usually ended up on top of the "spaghetti" with the sauce, the spareribs and sausage on a side platter when served. To use the thinking of the author of the book I cited, this sentence or phrase would not be complete with only meatballs. The other meats were a vital part of correct phraseology.

( :laugh: )

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2) "Yankee Doodle went to town aridin' on a pony..."  There was macaroni in these here parts for quite some time long before Ellis Island gained significance.  There might be some intersections to explore regarding the kinds of dishes that were prepared before large waves of Italian immigrants arrived in the United States.

In the song, "macaroni" has nothing to do with pasta. It was a reference to a club of dandies in London. http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_..._18/ai_95150309

The Dandy part is correct, but there is a pasta connection.

This chap was quite American wasn't he?

Cool...that's a torchio, and it's just what they need over on the Veneto thread for making bigoli.

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Apparently, one of the most frequently cited sources on the popularity of spaghetti & meatballs in the US is an article on pasta that Corby Kummer published in The Atlantic in July 1986. Since contributions to culinary history and histories of Italian-Americans have increased in the past two decades, I'm sure there is something more current. Good place to start, nonetheless.

This may not prove completely reliable since we date Latini's tomato recipes in Naples to 1692 (sauces :unsure: ?), more than a century and a half after the fruit had been introduced to Europe, however after tracing the early history of pasta, meatballs & sauces, the Timeline for Food History observes that recipes for spaghetti and meatballs appear in American cookbooks around the time of WWII. Earlier publications refer to tomato-meat sauces to go with spaghetti.

I have to wonder how the history of the hamburger and sale of store-bought ground beef relate to the American dish of spaghetti and meatballs.

While it doesn't answer the M & S question, here's the Prince company's autobiography, including a brief history of an influential commercial thought to have inspired the popularity of spaghetti for Americans without Italian roots.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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