The disputed issue of the origin of noodles

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

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]

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).

Last Modified: 14-03-2016