Wednesday, May 17, 2006

salami taxonomy

2 amazing italian food etymology items. my heart is heavy with excitement:

1: From that genius of cooking, both haute cuisine and weeknight dinner, Sara Moulton:

In one way or another, lasagne seems to derive from the classical Latin laganum. But what was laganum? Something made of flour and oil, a cake. The word itself derived from a Greek work for chamber pot, which was humorously applied to cooking pots. And like many other, better-known cases of synecdochical food names, the container came to stand for the thing it contained. And eventually, by a process no one knows with any certainly, laganum emerged as a word for a flat noodle in very early modern, southern Italy. If you are persuaded by all the evidence collected by Clifford A. Wright, you will be ready to believe that in Sicily, an Arab noodle cuisine collided with the Italian kitchen vocabulary and co-opted laganum and its variant lasanon to describe the new "cakes" coming in from North Africa. Would you be happier about this theory if you had evidence of a survival of an "oriental" Arab pasta in Sicily? Mary Taylor Simeti provides one in Pomp and Sustenance, Twenty-Five Centuries of Sicilian Food. Sciabbo, a Christmas noodle dish eaten in Enna in central Sicily, combines ruffled lasagna (sciabbo-jabot, French for a ruffled shirtfront) with cinnamon and sugar, typical Near Eastern spices then and now.

Greek and Arabic connections to lasagna? Wow! And cinnamony lasagna? YUM! Sounds like my middle eastern mother's spaghetti sauce recipe. Here's the foodtv page this came from (with lasagna al forno recipe).

2: This one is from a somewhat sad New York Times article about dry-cured salami, and how restrictive Health Department guidelines are sending this millenia-old artisanal specialty to extinction:

The process of curing meat has been refined over thousands of years by people who are on intimate terms with their handiwork. Food historians believe that the Romans picked up the craft from the Lucanians, a tribe that for almost 1,000 years ruled part of what is now Basilicata in southern Italy, developing a reputation for sausages while fending off imperial conquerors. The Greek sausage loukanika and its Mediterranean cousins the longaniza (Spain), luganega (Italy), and linguiça (Portugal) are all descendants of the ancient lucanicus.

I would never have discerned a connection between loukanika and linguiça. Here's the article (you'll probably need to register.. but you know about, right?).

Ahh food etymology, you never fail me.

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