surinenglish

Is there spaghetti in Bologna?

To what extent should we respect procedures for preparing foreign dishes? Is the chef who cooks a duck à l'orange or a beef Wellington obliged to copy the original recipe, ingredient for ingredient, or are variations allowable?

When Jamie Oliver made a paella on British TV and added chorizo, there was an outcry from purists on account of his assumed manipulation of a classical Spanish dish. But the critics were wrong. Originally paella was a dish for the poor and was intended to include any food that was available, even leftovers. Snails and rabbit, harvested from the countryside, were rudimentary ingredients. As it happens there are arroces ('rice dishes') that contain anything from pig's trotters to salted cod and clams. There are no 'correct' ingredients. So if we cook a Greek moussaka, can we use pork or beef instead of the usual lamb?

Supposing the original dish never even existed in its country of origin, like chop suey, chicken korma, or spaghetti bolognese? Amazingly, this last dish is so popular worldwide that even though it is unknown in its invented origin, in 1982 the Italian Academy of Italian Cookery made the unusual exception of acknowledging the name. Admittedly the decision was three years in the making, but serious matters need plenty of time...

So why is it impossible that spaghetti Bolognese could have ever come from Italy? Firstly, because in the Bologna area they never eat spaghetti, rather the shorter pasta shapes such as tortellini and lasagne. Secondly, because pasta is invariably served as a first course, but adding meat, even if only in the sauce, converts it inexcusably into a main course - which it can never technically be, as pasta is simply not eaten as a main course! Convoluted as it may be, this shows the term to be an oxymoron (that's enough meat - Ed). Further evidence, if required, is that in the Bologna region pasta sauces are made with milk and white wine, never meat and tomato.

So, incredibly, the Italian dish that has popularised its country's cuisine worldwide is a total fraud. Rather like a paella vasca would be, or a solomillo esteponero.