Britain lays claim to lasagne

Joined Jul 24, 2001
Oh dear!

Italy may be a land of lazy lunches and sun-kissed siestas, but challenge its reputation for home-grown cuisine at your peril.

With the Battle of Parma Ham not two months over the nation is facing an even more audacious claim.

Lasagne is British.

It's so British the court of Richard II was making it in the 14th Century and most likely serving it up to ravenous knights in oak-panelled banqueting halls.

The claim has been made by researchers studying a medieval cookbook, The Forme of Cury, in the British Museum.

A spokesman for the Berkeley Castle medieval festival, with whom the experts were working, said: "I defy anyone to disprove it because it appeared in the first cookery book ever written."

Recipe for disaster

It is not known whether he has dared put the claim to outspoken Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

But the Italian embassy in London reportedly responded: "Whatever this old dish was called, it was not lasagne as we make it."

And Bristol restaurateur Antonio Piscopo fired an emphatic warning shot.

"I think it's rubbish. I think it must have been the Romans who brought it over. It is definitely Italian."

The recipe does not mention meat - a staple of a good lasagne.

And such an early use of tomatoes in food would have had medieval cooks spluttering into their espressos.

But it does describe making a base of pasta and laying cheese over the top.

It calls this "loseyns", which is apparently pronounced "lasan", although it fails to mention whether it should be followed with a sweet tiramasu and a glass of Amaretto.

Pasta faded from the British diet when potatoes arrived, according to the researchers. The hearty roast dinner soon swept all before it.
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Ah those Brits,

So I guess it's not the ancestor of laganon? (Greek I believe).

What woul Horace or Cicero think?
Joined Aug 29, 2000
The politic reply might be, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," without saying who is imitating whom! :p
Joined May 18, 2001
The Forme of Curry was written about 1390 — long after Pliney's book of Roman cookery — not to mention at least 5 manuscripts available about 1300. I haven't had a chance to look through the Roman cookbook this evening to see if there's a lasagna recipe there, but I will. You can read a later printed version of the "lasanga" recipe in The Forme of Curry by clicking here. There's a transcription and translation of the recipe here. I think the unnamed researchers are stretching things a bit to call losyns lasagna.
Joined Jan 24, 2003
But its true, we invented everything ...........

Seriously, I think its a case of there are only so many ways to play six chords. When there were medieval cooks toiling away wherever in the world, with the same base ingredients & methods
which were primitive there had to have been synchrinicity (profound eh)

Anyway, with the trade & travel of the middle ages whats to say that an italian didnt come to england with the formula for lasagna,

what we can be sure of is that the chinese invented pasta.

Joined May 18, 2001
Except when that Italian came to England he was called a Roman and the English weren't English, yet.
Actually, pasta existed in Roman times — long before Marco Polo — and there's evidence of pasta products in some of the Egyptian tombs. Most grain producing cultures have also produced some form of food items that we would recognize as pasta.
Joined Jan 24, 2003
We were here long before the romans. If you deduce that the english evolved from the angles of northern europe then your wrong. The original english came from an assortment of tribes
of which the dumoni were my ancestors, never conquered by rome.
Although I guess they got there when Uk was attatched to continental europe, before it split away, so you could have a point.
Ancient records tell of a "purveyor of fplendid flat dow wiv ye assortement of ye fine thingf on ye top, tis named a pisa"
this is from Chaucers travels.

Joined Jan 11, 2002
As we have already stated many times, any discussion about the "true" origin of a dish is likely to be academic...but, just for fun:

1)In the Etruscan "Tomba dei Rilievi" in Cerveteri many kitchen devices are depicted, including a rolling pin and a pasta wheel which were used, as far as we know, to make "Laganae" with Farro (a cereal which English name I don't know);

2)Orazio, in his "Satire" (35 B.C.) tells that he loves "coming back home and having a bowl of Laganae with leaks and chickpeas";

3) In the 4th book of "De Re Coquinaria" by Apicius a very rich dish is described, made with many layers of boiled laganae and minced meat and fish, seasoned with a spicy sauce;

4)Fra Jacopone da Todi (XIII century) says "Granel di pepe vince/per virtù le lasagne":

5)Fra Salimbene da Parma (XIII century) in his Cronica mentions a monk called Giovanni da Ravenna and says "I never saw anyone else stuffing himself so much with lasagne with cheese"!

Of course there was no pummarola those times, but "cheese, pepper, cinnamon and saffron"


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