Between 1870 and 1910, when nearly five million Italians came to America, spaghetti was considered a particularly alien dish. Here, in an 1899 cartoon, artist Hy Mayer pokes fun at Italians for their food and physicality. Mayer implies that Italians could not eat and talk at the same sitting. "Spaghetti and Gesticulations A Tale of an Italian Dinner Table," from A History of American Graphic Humor, 1747-1938.
Some cultures pay more attention to food than do others. Of course, people the world over like to eat, but some cultures have remarkably varied cuisines, put tremendous time and effort into cooking, use all sorts of spices, and prepare special foods to mark seasonal changes, holy days, and rites of passage. For others, food is a necessity, often a pleasant one, but hardly worth a lot of fuss. They may depend on a few staples and a functional, no-frills diet.
|Silent film star Buster Keaton tries spaghetti for the first time in the 1918 film, "The Cook."|
Keaton wielded scissors to eat spaghetti. This scene opened with a caption describing spaghetti as “the Italian national food…or tapeworm a la carte.” Audiences laughed as Keaton and Fatty Arbuckle subjected pasta to multiple food gags, snipping the strands, knitting with them, and otherwise making a mess. Spaghetti was still an alien dish, and Italians were thought crazy to eat it.
|Several years after "The Cook", Hollywood was still using spaghetti for laughs. In this scene from Charlie Chaplin's, "The Kid," (1921) child actor Jackie Coogan does no better than Keaton in figuring out how to eat pasta. America had yet to learn. Pasta and pizza would not become popular for decades to come.|
Courtesy of Movie Stills.com.