Thursday, August 20, 2015

Spaghetti & Meatballs, 1920s-Style

Pasta has been around for centuries, and the long, thin noodles that we call spaghetti are believed to date back to the 12th century in Sicily. Until the 19th century, everyone had to make spaghetti by hand, but Italian spaghetti factories began springing up in the Industrial Age, making pasta more convenient.

Like all foods that originated in other countries, spaghetti has its own history in America. In the late 1800s, Italian immigrants were offering spaghetti in their restaurants here. It was often called Spaghetti Italienne, and it was served with a tomato sauce seasoned with cloves, garlic, and bay leaves rather than the basil and oregano we use today.

Eventually, in the early 20th century, some Italian-American restaurants began serving spaghetti with meatballs, a dish that originated in the States. The National Pasta Association, a U.S. organization, is said to be the first to print a recipe for the meatballs dish in the 1920s. But since it's not really authentic, spaghetti with meatballs was (and likely still is) mocked for not being a traditional Italian dish.

I love that kind of stuff! Sure, the American palette led to the bastardization of so many traditional and authentic dishes from other cultures. But at the same time, these new dishes were being created, these uniquely American dishes. Other than say, burgers and barbecue, Americans don't really have a cuisine all our own. But we do have this amazing array of dishes tweaked from other cultures, and since we're a melting pot, that seems appropriate.

Anyway, all that is to say that of course I developed a Spaghetti & Meatballs dish for my retro vegan cookbook! I served it with steamed kale peppered with cherry tomatoes from my garden.

I went with a sort of 19th century fusion here — a tomato-clove sauce (no herbs) from the 1900s and meatballs from the 1920s. The balls recipe is still a work in progress though. These came out perfectly. But I used one kind of vegan burger crumble (Beyond Meat), and I want to make sure this recipe will work with multiple brands, as well as TVP. My goal is to always have my recipes be as accessible as possible.

So there will be much meatball testing in my future! Life is hard.


KathyD said...

I think we have our own American cuisine, but it gets overlooked or lost in the shuffle. Soul Food/Southern food, Southwestern and New England cuisines are American: corn bread, grits, Boston brown bread, chili, posole, pancakes (called American pancakes in Britain?) & muffins, mashed potatoes, pumpkin everything, sweet potato everything, blueberry everything...

Everything Nickk said...


Anonymous said...

I'd disagree with the mashed potatoes (more British/Scottish-tatties are their thing) and the anything with blueberry, sweet potato,or pumpkin notion.