Cover Image: A Short History of Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

A Short History of Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

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Member Reviews

The cover of this book, coupled with the interesting title, is delightful. Based on this and the summary provided, I was under the impression the content would be a bit different. As I imagined it, this book would have been a bit less academic in the sense of its depth and detailed nature. I wasn't really gripped from the get go, so it was a difficult choice to continue the read. I think however despite this opinion, the book was well researched and has an interesting premise. I do not discount the book's contents due to my interest level in them.
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This is an interesting little book filled with a lot of historical details regarding pasta. And while it was interesting to read, it felt more like I was reading someone’s thesis on food or language history than reading a book.
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I was hoping it would be a little more fun. Instead it was a bunch of very dry, very short chapters. Too choppy.
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*This book was received as an Advanced Reviewer's Copy from NetGalley.

So this really was a short history of spaghetti and tomato sauce, and some various things that go along with such a dish.  I wouldn't call this "light" reading, despite being short though.  In fact, I'd say this was written more to an academic standard (which makes sense, the author is a professor), than for a casual reader.

With that tone in mind, the book delves into various parts and histories of the makeup of a plate of spaghetti and tomato sauce.  The shaping of the ingredients; ancient noodle making, cooking methods for those noodles, the advent of dropping it into salted water.  It touches on the utensils used to eat the dish (very brief telling of the origin of the fork).  And of course the evolution from what used to be put on noodles, to how tomatoes became the ingredient of choice.

It was interesting, albeit brief, and that academic spin did make it a bit more intense to read than some of the other food histories I've read out there.  But because of that briefness it was approachable from that regard.  Care was given to the histories and the ingredients and my favorite part was learning about lasagna and some of the origins that overlapped there.  

If you're deep into the studies of food history, this is one you're not going to want to miss!

Review by M. Reynard 2021
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I always enjoy learning about the origins of food and drinks that are usually taken for granted. In my childhood, spaghetti and tomato sauce was served once a week, without fail. It was one of those 'budget stretcher' dinners that most mid-century American middle-class families relied on. To this day, it's a comfort meal that I enjoy very much. My knowledge of the origins of this dish were limited to "Marco Polo discovered pasta" and "People thought tomatoes were poisonous until some brave person ate one and then everyone did."

This book debunks both those notions, and many more. They are replaced with an elegantly told, richly embellished, thoroughly researched history lesson that will open your eyes about the origins of pasta, and how tomatoes finally lost their bad reputation.

Don't be put off when I say that author Massimo Montanari untangles the strands of spaghetti's history in an academic research paper style, complete with the required abundance of footnotes. Hard-core history buffs will appreciate that he's cited his references, but the more casual, curious reader shouldn't feel compelled to scrutinize them. Just read, and enjoy all the historical details and trivia bits as they reveal themselves. Plus, there's the bonus of knowing there will be no final exam when you're done!

My thanks to author Massimo Montanari, Europa Editions, and NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital advance review copy of this book. This review is my honest and unbiased opinion.
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Montanari has crafted a clear and frankly quite fun encapsulation of how identities do not occur in a vacuum, and rather are the results of usually a complex blend of different origination points and influences. However, if such wider discussions aren’t at all up one’s alley, then you need not fear. I admittedly often forgot about the author's wider point unless he explicitly mentioned it because I was honestly just so happily caught up in learning about the history of a pasta dish that today is often thought of as one of the most quintessential and purely Italian of foods, but wouldn't even be were it not for a wide assortment of complex cross-cultural exchanges and international connections.
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This was a fun read, once it got going! It's not an exact origin story of Spaghetti with tomato sauce, but an interesting tale none the less, It traces the history of the ingredients, more than the actual meal itself, which I found amusing as it went along. Foodie will enjoy this book,
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Date reviewed/posted:  June 2, 2021
Publication date: November 16, 2021

When life for the entire galaxy and planet has turned on its end, you are continuing to #maskup and #lockdown to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #thirdwave ( #fourthwave #fifthwave?) is upon us, superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. Plus it is hot as all heck and nothing is more appealing than sitting in front of a fan with a kindle.!

I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review.  

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

Italian cuisine and national identity is the product of centuries of encounters, dialogue, and exchange.

Is it possible to identify a starting point in history from which everything else unfolds--a single moment that can explain the present and reveal the essence of our identities? According to Massimo Montanari, this is just a myth: by themselves, origins explain very little and historical phenomena can only be understood dynamically--by looking at how events and identities develop and change as a result of encounters and combinations that are often unexpected.

As Montanari shows in this lively, brilliant, and surprising essay, all you need to debunk the "origins myth" is a plate of spaghetti. By tracing the history of one of Italy's "national dishes"--from Asia to America, from Africa to Europe; from the beginning of agriculture to the Middle Ages and up to the 20th century--he shows that in order to understand who we are (our identity) we almost always need to look beyond ourselves to other cultures, peoples, and traditions.

There is little that hubby loves more than Spaghetti and Meat Balls ... he would eat it 365 days a year if he could!  I am the chef in the family and he has astonished to find out at our Italian cooking class that the meatballs were big and on the side of the plate of pasta,... mini meatballs in the sauce mixed with the spaghetti are a North American thing as is garlic bread.  Since he retired he has forgotten how to cook ... and I have made more spaghetti than I ever dreamt I ever would. I liked the stories in here and it is a cute little book about a subject near and dear to many. Just not me as I hate spaghetti: I can name the number of times we had it growing up on one hand. 

(Why??? I am a blonde northern Italian... Italy’s a compact country about the length of California, but the culinary differences between northern Italian food and southern Italian dishes are tremendous. While northern Italians love their rich cream sauces, polenta and stuffed meats, people in the south embrace flavours such as tangy tomato sauces, olive oil and freshly steamed seafood. Both north and south have contributed their share to classic Italian cuisine, but each region has its own distinct set of flavours.)

As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I simply adore emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube  Millionaires/snowflakes / literally-like-overusers etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it 🍜🍜🍜🍜🍜
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