Marco Polo Some Common Myths Thought to be True - Myth 8
Myth 8: Marco Polo Imported Pasta from China

There is a legend that Marco Polo imported pasta from China which originated with the Macaroni Journal, published by an association of food industries with the goal of promoting the use of pasta in the United States. Marco Polo describes a food similar to "lasagna" in his Travels, but he uses a term with which he was already familiar. Durum wheat, and thus pasta as it is known today, was introduced by Arabs from Libya, during their conquest of Sicily in the late 7th century

Marco Polo was an Italian merchant traveler from the Republic of Venice] whose travels are recorded in Livres des merveilles du monde, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned the mercantile trade from his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, who traveled through Asia, and apparently met Kublai Khan.

Marco Polo

In 1269, they returned to Venice to meet Marco for the first time. The three of them embarked on an epic journey to Asia, returning after 24 years to find Venice at war with Genoa; Marco was imprisoned, and dictated his stories to a cellmate. He was released in 1299, became a wealthy merchant, married and had three children. He died in 1324, and was buried in San Lorenzo.

Skeptics have wondered if Marco Polo actually went to China or if he perhaps wrote his book based on hearsay. While Polo describes paper money and the burning of coal, he fails to mention the Great Wall of China, Chinese characters, chopsticks, or foot binding. Yet, if the purpose of Polo's tales was to impress others with tales of his high esteem for an advanced civilization, then it is possible that Polo shrewdly would omit those details that would cause his listeners to scoff at the Chinese with a sense of European superiority. Besides, Marco lived among the Mongol elite. Foot binding was rare even among Chinese during Polo's time and almost unknown among the Mongols. The Great Walls were built to keep out northern invaders, whereas the ruling dynasty during Marco Polo's visit were those very northern invaders. Researchers note that the Great Wall familiar to us today is a Ming structure built some two centuries after Marco Polo's travels.

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