Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to cuisine (chefs, dishes, etc.) and whether they are true or false.
CUISINE URBAN LEGEND: Lasagna was invented in England.
Lasagna (spelled lasagne in many countries) is a popular food that consists of flat pasta layered on top of each other, with cheese and some sort of sauce (typically either tomato/meat sauce or just plain tomato sauce) mixed in each layer. Really, though, you could put anything you want in those layers (eggplant, etc.).
Lasagna has always been associated with Italian cuisine, but a few years back, an interesting discovery was made that led a historian to claim that lasagna was actually a British creation!
The historian Maurice Bacon and his team of researchers discovered the first “published” recipe for lasagna, and it was in a British cookbook!
Forme of Cury, the oldest surviving cookbook, was created in 1390, about four decades before the printing press was invented!
In any event, in Forme of Curry (which was written in Middle English), there is a recipe for a dish called loseyns, pronounced “lasan” and it describes lasagna pretty perfectly, although without tomatoes involved (tomatoes were not used in England at the time).
That’s pretty darn cool, in and of itself, but Bacon claims that this is proof that lasagna was created in England, and I…well, I am more than a little dubious.
I am not even saying that lasagna was definitely an Italian invention, but it certainly seems to be of either Greek or Italian origin.
The term for the dish most likely comes from the Greek word lasana, meaning pot (an alternate theory is that it comes from the Greek word laganon, meaning flat pasta dough cut into strips).
The Romans adopted the word and began referring to the pot that lasagna is served in as lasanum, and eventually, that term became used for the dish itself.
There are numerous references and records which talk of lasagne in Italy in the early 1300s, including city records from Genoa.
It’s certainly POSSIBLE that the dish was invented in England and it just happened to match a Greek word perfectly and it was then brought to Italy, but it seems so much more likely that loseyns was based on hearing about lasagne in Italy, especially as the references of lasagne being in Italy predate Forme of Cury AND the term lasagne has a clear basis in the language of Greece and Italy. I think it is so likely that I am willing to give a false to the notion that Britain invented lasagna.
The legend is…
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