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July 21, 2008 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Why the long noodle?

So a quick Google tells me that long noodles represent long life in Chinese tradition. But there had to be some point to eating long noodles before the tradition was established. And long noodle varieties, though difficult to eat courteously, seem to be common to many cultures who make noodles. Why? Is there some gastronomic benefit to not cutting the pasta into more manageable lengths before drying? Some practical pasta preparation consideration that's escaping me? Or is slurping up an endless mouthful of noodly-appendage simply an odd Freudian universal pleasure, an excuse for even the most adult among us to play with our food?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
> Is there some gastronomic benefit to not cutting the pasta into more manageable lengths before drying?

You can hang lots of long noodles on a string by folding near midpoint, to dry, but you'd need a lot more strings to hang short noodles, and they would more easily fall off.
posted by Listener at 1:20 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


And, long noodles are much easier to eat with chopsticks than short noodles are -- so it makes sense from a practical standpoint.
posted by kate blank at 1:22 PM on July 21, 2008


It's easier to eat long noodles. Ever tried eating spaghetti with chopsticks?
posted by wongcorgi at 1:23 PM on July 21, 2008


You know how noodlemakers stretch noodles into long strands and it looks like yarn before it's been made into a ball? Speaking from (a one time only) experience, holding noodles around your hands is a lot easier than trying to grab them in your hands. Plus they are so delicate, I think the noodles would have lost some integrity either from heat from the palms or from possibly being crushed.
posted by spec80 at 1:24 PM on July 21, 2008


Long noodles take up the same amount of drying space as short noodles but you dry twice as much pasta. When I make egg noodles and lasagna noodles I make them about 3' long, 18" when hanging, and then break them into 4 pieces once they are dry. Also, IMO, a container for long spaghetti noodles is more convenient to store than would be two containers for short noodles.
posted by Mitheral at 1:25 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


You can hang lots of long noodles on a string by folding near midpoint, to dry, but you'd need a lot more strings to hang short noodles, and they would more easily fall off.

I thought about that, but then why not simply cut or break them before cooking?

long noodles are much easier to eat with chopsticks than short noodles are

I wondered about that, too, but that doesn't explain spaghetti.

Of course, I suppose it's also possible that there is no one single reason, and that long noodles were formed through Parallel evolution.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:29 PM on July 21, 2008


Long noodles have every practical production advantage. They're faster to make uniformly by hand, don't require multiple cuttings, dry faster, don't stick to each other (with cut pasta you have to use a lot of flour to keep it from sticking to itself), cook faster, and are more space-efficient for storage.

why not simply cut or break them before cooking?
Why bother if they can be eaten as is? Don't fix it if it ain't broke.
posted by junesix at 1:33 PM on July 21, 2008


Long noodles take up the same amount of drying space as short noodles but you dry twice as much pasta. When I make egg noodles and lasagna noodles I make them about 3' long, 18" when hanging, and then break them into 4 pieces once they are dry.

Me, too. I make and dry my pasta long, but then I cut or break it before cooking, because I find cooking long pasta more difficult.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:33 PM on July 21, 2008


Personally I think it's a lot easier to get a big, satisfying bite of noodles if I can wind spaghetti around my fork, rather than try to catch several small pasta bits on the tines. Scooping up tiny segments of broken spaghetti is the worst, it all falls off the fork.
posted by vytae at 1:39 PM on July 21, 2008


why not simply cut or break them before cooking?

Small datapoint: My Italian-American family does precisely that.
posted by dame at 1:39 PM on July 21, 2008


Spaghetti can hold more goodies. As it twists around the fork, good things can be caught between the layers of spaghetti, so you get a mouthful of spaghetti combined with bits of meat, or shrimp, or vegetables, or whatever else you put in there. If you had inch-long spaghetti, it wouldn't twirl around and trap goodies.

Also, why do they make radiatore, or campanelle, or gemelli? Does the difference between fusilli and rotini really matter? Different pasta shapes are fun to eat.
posted by booksandlibretti at 2:22 PM on July 21, 2008



why not simply cut or break them before cooking?

Small datapoint: My Italian-American family does precisely that.


Likewise, though we're not Italian-American.

It is also easy to eat them courteously, as etiquette allows for slurping when necessay.
posted by sondrialiac at 3:28 PM on July 21, 2008


When necessary, as well.
posted by sondrialiac at 3:29 PM on July 21, 2008


Most noodles are shaped for fun of eating and exciting mouth feel. Bow ties? Tubes? Spirals? It's fun food! Some noodles also have surface area considerations, orzo for one, or structural features, like lasagna or manicotti, but of course, that's for making food fun, too. You could just pile the cheese and meat on the noodles, stuffing them instead is just an interesting trick! If we didn't shape pasta all wackylike, it'd be dumplings!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:13 PM on July 21, 2008


"I wondered about that, too, but that doesn't explain spaghetti."

It does, if you remember Marco Polo.
posted by klangklangston at 5:19 PM on July 21, 2008


> I find cooking long pasta more difficult.

Why? Getting it into the water? Was a long time before I learned the trick of just sticking it in the pot and when it bends pushing the sticking-out ends down with a wooden spoon. (I did not grow up eating pasta, ever.)
posted by Listener at 7:07 PM on July 21, 2008


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