The Early History of Pasta

Post-Modern Myth and Medieval Reality
Presented by
Dr. Anthony F. Buccini
Author, Scholar

Pasta, now a near-ubiquitous food throughout the world, has achieved global status after a long, complex history, involving multiple points of origin and several periods of rapid expansion of its popularity regionally.  In the West one such period occurred in the late Middle Ages in the western Mediterranean.  Given the paucity of early evidence for pasta consumption, many questions arise concerning where this food first became important in local diets and exactly who diffused it.  Although the popular myth that Marco Polo brought noodles to Italy from China has been debunked, recent scholarship has asserted that Arabs played the central rôle in this development, crucially invoking linguistic evidence as support.  In particular, most of the earliest attested names for forms of pasta — lasagna, fideos/fidei, maccherone — have all been claimed to be of Arab origin.  In this talk, I demonstrate that the interpretation of the evidence has been superficial and gravely flawed and propose an account of the late medeval diffusion of pasta based on a new interpretation of the textual and linguistic evidence in full harmony with the broader socio-economic history of the medieval western Mediterranean.

Anthony F. Buccini received his undergraduate education at Columbia University in the City of New York (B.A.) and his graduate education at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. (Ph.D.); he also studied and later conducted research as a Fulbright Scholar at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. He has published and taught extensively in his primary fields of historical linguistics and sociolinguistics, especially in connection with the Germanic, Romance and Celtic languages. He recently contributed the chapter on linguistics to the Routledge International Handbook of Food Studies (to appear, August, 2012) and is currently working on a monograph, From Green to Gold, on the history of Mediterranean foodways with particular reference to the history of olive oil (to appear, Columbia University Press).

Dr. Buccini’s talk will be based in part on his recent papers “The Etymology of fidê/fideus and Its Historical Context” (presented at the ASFS Global Gateways Conference, New York, June, 2012) and “Lasagna: A Layered History” (presented at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, Oxford, July, 2012).

Saturday, August 4, 2012 at 10:00 AM
Kendall College, School of Culinary Arts
900 N. North Branch Street, Chicago
(West of Halsted Street, North of Chicago Avenue)
Free Parking
Cost: $3,
Free to Kendall students and faculty with ID.

This program is hosted by the Chicago Foodways Roundtable. To reserve, please call (847) 432-8255(847) 432-8255 or, then leave your name, telephone number and how many people in your party or e-mail: