Did Marco Polo Really Bring Noodles back to Italy from China?
So the story. Marco Polo, the great Venetian explorer / merchant is said to have been brought back with him from his fairytale visit to China, noodles, which became the pasta that Italy is famous for today. To be more specific, the legend is that he brought back macaroni, which is the day of the general term for all dry digestive pastes made from hard wheat (which the Chinese do not process or consume). Basically, the idea is that it brings back dried "filament" pasta or noodles.
If this is a legend not a fact, why did such a legend have been made? The answer is actually very simple. There are only two regions in the world where noodles, in the time after Polo, are staple foods. China and its Far East neighbors, and Italy. Everything in the great land of Eurasia ... no noodles. It stands to reason, therefore, that there must be some connection between Asian noodles and Italian noodles. And the only relationship that is clear is Marco Polo. In case you don't already know, Italy really doesn't embrace the legend of Marco Polo and its pasta.
Marco Polo traveled to China around 1271 and returned around 1292. He was a big problem in China, or so he claimed. He even served as an adviser to Yuan Emperor Kubilai Khan and visited other parts of the country as the official emperor, having his own penthouse apartment in the palace, complete with a large screen TV and an indoor pool.
After his journey he became a prisoner of war in Genoa, where he wrote a book called "Description of the World" (Divasament dou Monde), which we know today in The Travels of Marco Polo. In the book he mentions noodles and some have used this as proof that he brought them back with him from China, after discovering this new type of food there. But, in fact, the actual parts seem to suggest that he is already well familiar with this type of food, and describes Chinese noodles based on pasta he already knows from home.
He wrote from the grains used in China at the time, saying that rice, Panicum, and millet were far more efficient sources of food, wheat had no yield from other grains. Bread, he said, was not used, and wheat "was only eaten in the form of vermicelli or cakes. Other possible translations, such as vermicelli and pasta from the description, macaroni and other food ingredients made from dough, or noodles and other pale foods.
Whatever the correct translation, it seems that Polo is describing something that he already has a ready name for, and something that is nothing new to him at all. But this was translated from the Italian edition of the work by Ramusio, and a reference to 'Vermicelli' might be a freedom. Pasta and noodles are not the same, because most people assume. So the question is, is Polo supposed to have brought back noodles, or pasta? It seems from his writings, actually, that he was not a special case about noodles, but mentioned eating some pasta dishes. He seems to have been more fascinated by the so-called 'tree bread' which gives birth to fruit from which China makes food similar to Barley, from which pasta is made. He was reported as being very good, and brought the sample back to Venice, but that didn't take it from there.
Whether Polo's new noodles are unclear, but he doesn't seem to make any particular mention of stringy noodles, he also doesn't find the idea of this type of dough to be anything new.