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Lecture: the disputed issue of the origin of noodles

Shared Taste Events
28-30 June 2018: Conference: Shared Taste: food and exchange in Asia and Europe, keynote Françoise Sabban

25-29 Sept 2017: Summer School: Asian Food: History, Anthropology, Sociology, hosted by IIAS, LeidenAsiaCentre and Shared Taste

11 April 2017: Symposium: Global Jars, with Anna Grasskamp. Venue: Leiden University

28 Nov 2016: Symposium: Global Food History, joint collaboration of Leiden and Warwick. Venue: Leiden University

29 Nov 2016: Symposium: Chinese export paintings: studies and interpretations. At Volkenkunde Leiden, with support of Hulsewe-Wazniewski Foundation

29 Aug- 4 Sept 2016: IEHCA summer university in Tours, France, participating in the 2016 Summer University on Food and Drink Studies

22 April 2016: Lecture Françoise Sabban "The disputed issue of the origin of noodles", Sieboldhuis Leiden

9 November 2015: Asia in Amsterdam Symposium, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

1 May 2015: Dr. Ines Prodöhl (German Historical Institute, Washington DC), ''High diplomacy and a humble bean', University of Leiden

March 2015: 'ideas lunch', to share and exchange ideas on Asia foodways and food culture, Leiden

13 Feb 2015: ''De vroege wereldreizen van een theekopje''. [In Dutch] At Princessehof Leeuwarden, accompanying the exhibition 'Time for Tea'

12 Dec 2014: Inaugural lecture of 'Kikkoman Chair' professor Anne Gerritsen, Academiegebouw, Leiden University, 16:00 hrs

19 Sep 2014: Launch of website 'Shared Taste' and announcement of 'Shared Taste Lecture Series'. Venue: cafe 'Grote Beer', Rembrandtstraat, Leiden, 17:00 - 18:30 hrs.
Dough kneading: mural from Zhao Dejun tomb
‘Dough kneading’: mural from Zhao Dejun tomb, near Beijing (China, 10th century)


Lecture: The disputed issue of the origin of noodles: a new comparative approach
Francoise Sabban / Friday April 22, 2016

In this ‘Shared Taste’ lecture, Professor Françoise Sabban (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris) will try to dig deeper into an issue that has puzzled food historians for some time: who invented the noodle first? Were the Italians first with their invention of pasta, or was it the Chinese, with their invention of noodles?

Evidence suggests that making noodles from wheat occurred  earlier in Northern China than in the Mediterranean basin. But why is that the case, when wheat was the most significant cereal of the Mediterranean world?

A first hypothesis in answer to that question, is that pasta was unnecessary in the Greco-Roman world where everyone had his share: a very frugal diet of gruels for ordinary people, and refined breads for the patricians.

A second hypothesis is that this food model was reinforced by some prescriptions of the Judeo-Christian religion. Whereas in China wheat flour as a new cereal product was considered a very interesting material, because of its elasticity when mixed with water, compared to millet flour.

Therefore the ancient Chinese developed an exceptional sensitivity to practical uses of a food artifact through the spontaneous analysis of the physics of materials, and created the first wheat noodle products in Eurasia.

Venue: SieboldHuis (Rapenburg 19, Leiden)
Date: Friday April 22, 2016
Time: 15:00-16:00 hours, followed by discussion, then reception and drinks.

You are most welcome to attend! Lecture is free, please register through alice [at]

'Pasta making' from a Tacuinum sanitatis
‘Pasta making’ from the Tacuinum sanitatis (Italy, late 14th century)

About Françoise Sabban:
Françoise Sabban is a Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and member of the Centre for Modern and Contemporary China Studies. She has published widely on the history and anthropology of food.

Her publications include Le temps de manger. Alimentation, emploi du temps et rythmes sociaux (with M. Aymard and C. Grignon, 1993; partial translation in Food & Foodways, 1996, vol. 6 (3-4)); The Medieval Kitchen, Recipes from France and Italy (with O. Redon et S. Serventi, 2002); Atlante dell’alimentazione e della gastronomia, vol. 1; Risorse, scambi, consumi, Vol. 2; Cucine, pasti, convivialità (with M. Montanari, 2004); Un aliment sain dans un corps sain, perspectives historiques, Collection « À boire et à manger », n°1 (ed. with F. Audouin-Rouzeau).

Francoise Sabban is one of the founding members and Advisory Editors of Food & Foodways and Co-chief editor of The Journal of Chinese Dietary Culture (2005-2010).

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Why this project?
Why 'Shared Taste'? There is so much to know on Asia, Europe and the role of food between us! We would like to start exploring texts, tastes and textures on this tantalizing subject, not only in the present day cultures, but also in the history of food, foodways and commodities.

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