After a well-earned Christmas break, Eatosi is back with hopefully more fun stories to tell. Today is Epiphany in the religious calendar and in Italy they traditionally mark this with the story of La Befana; a witch who, gives you coal if you’ve been a naughty boy or girl. For the dinner table however, there is no escaping a bowl of wonderful lasagna.
John Chandler makes the world’s best lasagna, apparently. This “overnight” sensation had garnered many a raised eyebrow in the food world, Italians are still picking themselves off the floor.
In the era of TV chefs, social media and even now, food talent shows, one man has defied the natural pecking order, his lasagna dish is credited as the best home made variety you can prepare.
According to the Washington Post, Chandler is a “self proclaimed Southern boy who lives outside Dallas and grew up on college football and barbecue.” The praise continues with “online, Chandler’s fans know him differently: He is the creator of the World’s Best Lasagna, an artery-clogging tower of sweet Italian sausage, ground beef and ricotta cheese that has reigned as the most popular recipe on AllRecipes.com for more than a decade.”
In the dawn of the internet, Chandler had posted the original recipe in 2001 and since then has received over ten thousand ratings; in the last five years alone, 12 million people have viewed it. So how could it be that a dish which costs over $40 (£27) to make be considered the best lasagna dish going?
Popularity it seems, is the key. In fact, it is how AllRecipes and the Post classified the story. “Given the wild popularity of AllRecipes.com — it averages 20 million visits each month, according to analytics firm SimilarWeb — it’s entirely possible that Chandler’s lasagna is the most popular recipe on the English-speaking Internet.”
Popularity, the thing that in today’s context would make people believe that Justin Bieber is a better musician than John Lennon, that Rhianna is a better role model than Mother Teresa and, Joey Barton a better philosopher than Confucius.
The first written records of lasagna can be found in “De re coquinaria libri” by the Roman gastronome, Apicio. His recount of the pasta is the clearest indication of its original use. Lagana as it was know meant “container”, and in virtue of its etymology, it was in fact utilised to close of timbali (another oved baked pasta dish). The pasta then evolved to being used separately and served with cheese and other seasonal vegetables.
Over time, these large sheets became smaller, postcard in size and prepared with semolina. It was approximately the 1300’s that the pasta sheets made their way into the UK and France and from there, into other territories. In Italy they are a more traditional northern dish, in fact Lasagna alla bolognese, stemming from the region of Emilia Romagna are considered the most utilised variety across the country and abroad.
Felicity Cloake for the Guardian sets out on the perfect lasagne recipe dish. Using inspiration from Locatelli, Hartnett and Contaldo she may just have achieved it. If Jamie is however more your cup of tea/oven baked perfection then this may be just the key to getting started with the dish. And what the heck, here is apparently “the best lasagna dish in the world” by John Chandler.
As for Chandler and his world famous recipe, the man is humble, “I’m definitely not a foodie. I don’t have aspirations to be on ‘MasterChef’ or anything but I love to cook”. Spoken like a true foodie…