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101490.  Tue Oct 10, 2006 4:30 am Reply with quote

Just wondered if it might be fun to put a bowl of spaghetti in front of each pannellist with a whole host of paraphanelia (chopsticks, knifes, forks, spoons, pasta forks, sporks, foons, etc) the question being:

What is the correct way to eat this meal?

"We know from paintings and early photographs of spaghetti-eaters in nineteenth century Naples (where the modern version of spaghetti comes from) that their way of eating pasta was with their hands - not that the dish was likely to appear at a formal dinner.

You had to raise the strings in your right hand, throw back your head, then lower the strings, dextrously with dispatch, and without slurping into your open mouth. The spaghetti in the pictures does not seem to have sauce on it"

s: The Rituals of Dinner - Margaret Visser

102414.  Thu Oct 12, 2006 9:11 am Reply with quote

Very good.

I also found out the other day that Minestrone is technically not a soup.

102440.  Thu Oct 12, 2006 9:59 am Reply with quote

On Japanese food etiquette:

One of chopsticks etiquettes is not to directly pass food from your chopsticks to somebody else's chopsticks or vice versa. The reason this is taboo is that the bones of the cremated body are passed in that way from person to person in Japanese funerals.

102690.  Fri Oct 13, 2006 3:12 am Reply with quote

We have a lot of stuff on chopstick ettiquette from the C-series. From here onwards.

Minestrone is technically not a soup

Surely you can't just say something as groundbreaking as this without backing it up!

102932.  Fri Oct 13, 2006 1:46 pm Reply with quote

Great stuff, men. That Visser book is the dbs.

As is everything the late, great Alan Davidson wrote (eg North Atlantic Seafood). I love the story of how he lost his job as Ambassador to Laos over a fish.

But not just any fish. It was a pa beuk, a form of giant catfish (at least 8 feet long) found only in the Mekong River and its tributaries. It is the largest freshwater fish in the world with flesh of 'admirable texture and unmatched flavour which some have compared to veal'. The Laotians have hedged the fishing itself - and the season is only four to five weeks a year - with a huge number of magical restrictions making the catching of any of its rapidly declining numbers a rarity. Once underway, writes Davidson 'the Laotian fishermen were further distracted by the requirement that they should hurl abuse at each other throughout the fishing. They had to call each other 'bald-headed fool' and other even more uncomplimentary names; and they exchanged sexual insults in the most liberal manner.'

Despite these obstacles, in early 1973 Davidson took the call at his residence in Vientiane confirming that one medium sized specimen had at last been caught. He immediately cancelled a major diplomatic reception and flew up the next morning to the Golden Triangle, retrieved the head, froze it and shipped back to the British Museum accompanied by his brief containing the nine mysteries that he felt continued to surround the fish. It was the first substantial bit of pa beuk to reach the West. What happened to it, or the mysteries that attended it, is not recorded.

Davidson was replaced as Ambassador shortly afterwards. The Diplomatic Service’s loss was gastronomy’s gain.

103631.  Mon Oct 16, 2006 9:01 am Reply with quote

Mitch - does Davidson's book explain why Minestrone is not a soup?

I seem to remember it is technically called a 'Minestra', which is similar to a French 'potage'.

While the end result is what we know as 'soupy', the Italians preferred to place fresh vegetables in a bowl and then add a ladle or two of stock to the dish.

It's much more like a 'pasta sauce' than the liquid we know as soup.

Unlike soups, 'minestre' were intended as main courses rather than starters.

So - for us to call 'Minestrone' a soup...would be like Italians calling Roast Lamb and Veg doused in gravy a soup.

103635.  Mon Oct 16, 2006 9:10 am Reply with quote

mmmmm roast lamb soup.

On the subject of diplomacy and etiquette. The order one sits at the table if one is a foreign diplomat depends on when one first became a diplomat.

It is not, however as simple as the first to get the job sits at the top of the table. Rather, irrespective of year, whoever got the job closest to January 1st sits at the top of the table, while if you got the job on December 31st, you're down at the bottom with the sprouts.

<snip - grammar correction>

Last edited by eggshaped on Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:20 am; edited 1 time in total

103972.  Tue Oct 17, 2006 1:36 pm Reply with quote

Come off it! That's hilarious. Sources please...

104062.  Tue Oct 17, 2006 5:50 pm Reply with quote

I don't think the 'minestrone isn't soup' line is going to stand, Bunts.

You are right, it is the emphatic form of minestra, one of the two Italian words for soup (the other being zuppa). Zuppa is generally regarded as a light soup - consomme or tomato soup; minestra is thicker and more substantial and minestrone (literally 'big minestra'), is practically a meal in itself. But, despite this, it is primarily a vegetable broth (it very rarely contains meat) similar to our own Scotch Broth, itself a substantial main course and semi-solid in texture ( which sometimes appears to be exactly like boiled beef and two veg with stock poured over them).

There's also the question of what is a soup? Like the Italians we have different words to describe 'liquid' food - broth, consomme, potage, bisque - all of them qualify generically as soup.

The etymology of the word is worthing considering. It comes from the same Germanic root as 'sup', 'supper' and 'sop'. Its meaning evolved to cover both 'bread soaked in liquid', and 'broth poured on bread'. This latter meaning dates from the 17th century when Davidson suggests 'soups' were, for the first time, served without their bread 'sops' (cf 'milksop' - bread soaked in milk). So the idea of the soup as 'first-course only' is a relatively recent development. For most of our history, and in most peasant cuisines across the world (including Italian) the soup and the stew are almost interchangeable. (What's bouillabaisse, for example?)

And, come to think of it, what's zuppa inglese?

104092.  Wed Oct 18, 2006 3:10 am Reply with quote

Bunter, that diplomacy fact is also from Visser's book I believe, but I'll check it out this weekend with a family member who spent many years at the foreign office.

I almost said custard for zuppa inglesi, getting it mixed up with creme anglaise. Of course, as any quiz buff knows, it's the italian version of trifle.

104181.  Wed Oct 18, 2006 10:59 am Reply with quote

Visser claims that the diplomacy postitioning is a consequence of the congress of vienna (pg 128) - but that was the one which followed the Napoleonic war wasn't it? I'd have thought they'd have much more important stuff to talk about, like "who gets Switzerland?"

Anyway, I have it on the authority that this is complete tosh. The gist of what I have been told is as follows:

Certain Ambassadors (eg US) would always expect to take precedence over the Heads of Mission of less important countries, but I do seem to remember that with Hds of Mission of equal ranking countries, the person who has been in post longest takes precedence. The longest serving Hd of Mission in a capital is known at the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, and even if his country is minuscule and very unimportant the fact that he's the Dean gives him a good seat at the table.

104295.  Thu Oct 19, 2006 3:47 am Reply with quote

Spot on about the trifle, Egg. Spookily, the great Davidson also wrote a book on this subject - the best of several. Here's the amazon link


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