By Rossana Gudani
We all love spaghetti, but who would think it has a national celebration? Well, it does! January 4 is National Spaghetti Day. Spaghetti Day is more than just a clever marketing gimmick. For those of us who dig the twirly stuff, it's a day to reflect on the history, evolution and universal appeal of spaghetti and other lengthy pastas.
We normally think of spaghetti as an Italian dish, and the name is definitely from that part of the world. Who doesn't love a traditional Italian restaurant, complete with a heaping plate of this semolina treat? As Disney's Lady and the Tramp reminds us, there are few dishes more romantic.
Courtesy of the Disney Food Blog (click here for the spaghetti and meatballs recipe!)
But history reveals that long before spaghetti became a staple in Italian cuisine, families in central Asia were sitting down to similar noodle dishes. As early as the 5th century, nomadic Arabs likely brought the meal westward. The Italians revolutionized the dish, and invented a wide variety of pasta shapes. The word spaghetti literally means "little lines". And today, it is enjoyed worldwide as a dinner tradition!
Just as Canadian families relish spaghetti for dinner on a cold night, families in China enjoy noodles as a comfort food. In that part of Asia, the earliest written record of noodles is from a book dated way back to the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD).
A favorite meal in the Philippines is Pancit or "noodles". Click here for a recipe! Stock photo.
Noodles for comfort
When I think about noodles, there's an immediate feeling of comfort. Growing up, it was definitely a staple food in our household.
I remember the good ol' days when my mom made Pancit -- a Filipino Chow Mein -- to celebrate birthdays. Filipinos prepare Pancit in many ways: sautéed, with broth, deep-fried or double-cooked, and then mixed with vegetables or meat such as chicken liver or pork bits.
Noodles aren't just for special occasions, as anyone who has nursed a cold will know. The long, comforting strands can lift spirits and satisfy bellies in all kinds of circumstances. What better medication than a bowl of chicken noodle soup? Some Asian families even have a belief that noodles will give you long life!
Noodles for life
For the past few years, Canadians have helped bring the goodness of noodles to children in North Korea, where malnutrition is chronic. Through World Vision, we've been helping support two noodle factories in the country.
Three-year-old Pok enjoys her noodle soup at a nursery school in North Korea, thanks to support from Canadians through World Vision. World Vision Photo
Last year alone, the noodle factories helped nourish 42,146 children in kindergartens and nursery schools. The pictures seem cute, but it's so much more than that. A steady food supply can improve children's health, preventing many long and short-term health problems.
World Vision Photo
Being a mom of three wonderful children who all have an appetite for practically anything, it is important that I choose meals that are easy to make and fill their hungry bellies. Spaghetti is definitely one of their favourite dishes. I love seeing them twirl the noodles with their forks and slurp the last strand. Sometimes they snack on just the noodles while watching TV. Slurp, slurp, burp!
So tonight my friends, spaghetti is on the menu!
In Colombia, Brayan looks through the donation box of food that he and his mother just received from World Vision staff and happily finds what he likes the most: Spaghetti! Photo: World Vision
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