Thursday, March 23, 2006


Well, going through the pantry, we've found our next source of chametz: itriyot איטריות - noodles or pasta. This term goes back to the Jerusalem Talmud (Hallah 57d, Beitza 60d), which according to food historian Charles Perry, is the first clear Western reference to boiled noodles. The word itriya (or itrija) is not unique to Hebrew. It is also found in Arabic, and from Arabic it made its way into Italian (trii or tria) and Spanish (aletria). Perry also notes that:

By the tenth century, it appears, itriyah in many Arabic sources referred to dried noodles bought from a vendor, as opposed to fresh ones made at home. Other Arabic sources of the time refer to fresh noodles as lakhsha, a Persian word that was the basis for words in Russian, Hungarian, and Yiddish. (By comparison with these words, noodle, which dates from sixteenth-century German, originated yesterday.)

What's the origin of itriya? There are a few theories.

The most common is that it comes from the Greek word itrion, meaning a thin cake of sesame and honey. (The development of the word is discussed here.) Both Stahl and Klein accept this origin.

Another theory is that it comes from a Persian word meaning "shoe laces" or "string in quantities". I have not found anything to confirm or deny this.

Jastrow's approach is the most interesting in terms of Hebrew etymology, although I fear it may be the least likely. He says the word literally means "something preserved", "dough preserved" from the root נטר - to guard, to preserve.

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