07 May 2010

Let's Make Lasagna!

So in French there's this great term: les faux amis, the false friends.  What it refers to are the words that exist in both English and French, but have different meanings.  Par example: deception.  In English it means "deception", as in trickery . . . but en français it translates as "disappointment."  Another good one is preferer, which, the verb in English to prefer connotes the better of two choices as per one's own taste, but en français it refers to one's favorite.

I'm finding, living in an international community comme ça that even in English we find les faux amis between Anglophones who hail from England and the US (and I'm sure from Oz too, just haven't found any yet).  For example, Lasagna.

We have a "help yourself" shelf in our kitchen, with random staples from students who have already left the school.  A box of lasagna noodles has been sitting there for several months.  Finally we decided to have a meal together and use the noodles.  Everyone was supposed to contribute something, so one of my British friends offered to make the cheese sauce.  I didn't know what that meant, but I just assumed she was referring to something like mozzarella and ricotta . . . you know, Italian cheeses, as we were, after all, making lasagna.

So last night H was getting ready to make something in kitchen.  There, on the counter, I saw milk, flour, some sort of random spices, and emmental cheese.
"Normally I'd use cheddar, but I can't get it here." 
I was a bit confused.  Cheddar??  "What are you making?" I asked her.  
"The cheese sauce for the lasagna" she answered.  (Keep in mind this whole dialogue was en français so each step of the way I kept asking for clarification, because it just didn't make sense in my head . . . I mean, really, CHEDDAR . . . IN LASAGNA!  So surely it was a French language/communication issue.)  
"Cheese sauce?  What do you do with that?" 
"Put it in the lasagna."
"In the lasagna." 
"Yeah, I got that, but why?" 
"Cause it's lasagna!" 
"But I don't understand." 
We went in circles for a while . . . I asked where she intended to put the tomato sauce -- it mixes with the veggies.  And what about the mozzarella -- what mozzarella?!?  (But today I had the same conversation with H about the ricotta, she didn't understand what on earth I was planning to do with it!)

Another British friend came in and was equally surprised by my misunderstanding.  "You don't make lasagna with cheese sauce?!?!  How is it lasagna without it?" (and I was thinking, "how is it lasagna with it???")   We finally both gave up and I went to my friend's house for dinner.  My American friends.  I asked them if they had ever heard of such a thing . . . cheddar cheese in lasagna! (the husband had even spent some of his growing up in the UK, and this was news to him.)

Turns out we're having more come than we originally expected, so after going around in circles again today, H made one lasagna her way, and I made another my way.  But while I was assembling mine, three French women who work at the school came by and asked what we were making:

Deb.: Lasagna.
Femme1: But where is the fromage blanc (it's like a cross between yogurt and sour cream)?
Deb.: What fromage blanc?
Femme1: I always use fromage blanc, and why are there vegetables?  And what's that? (she pointed to the ricotta.)
Deb.: It's ricotta cheese . . . it's Italian.
Femme1: Italian cheese??  In lasagna?!?!

Femme2: What are you making?
Deb.: Lasagna.
H from the UK: How do you (à femme 2) make lasagna?
Femme2:  Not like that.  We always make it with meat and white sauce.

Femme3: What are you making?
Deb.: Lasagna.
Femme3: But what kind of cheese is that?
Deb.: Mozzarella.
Femme3: Mozzerella??  I always use gruyère!  Nothing but gruyère!

So there you have it.   Within one hour, five different ways of making lasagna . . . I always thought mine was the proper way, being an Italian-American and all . . . and considering that lasagna is an Italian dish . . . and my grandmother was fresh-off-the-boat . . .hmmm.  But today I found out there's the British way, the French way (actually, two different French ways so far) and a Swiss way ("nothing but gruyère").

So this is what I'd like to do, I want to know how YOU make lasagna.  Feel free to post your family recipe or tradition in the comments section (you can even do it anonymously if you'd like . . . preferably in English or French, but there's always google translator for those that come in Italian, Germany, or any other language you, the reader, may speak).  Let's see how many we can come up with.

**Just an extra little comment . . . H from the UK put mustard and marmite in her sauce!  (and I have to admit, it was yummy!)


Sarah said...

My mom has always made lasagna with meat sauce and a blend of cheddar, jack and cottage cheese.
When we were in China, some American friends used tofu in place of the ricotta.

Anonymous said...

DJB---don't fall for the deceptions! Lasagna is Italian...I asked your dad and he said he knows the guy who invented it!!! So, that settles that! The Great Oz has spoken!!!

M.S. said...

I use pre-made pasta sauce for the red sauce, a parmesan-based cheese sauce, and mix the ricotta with my meat/sausage for another layer. It's Mmm-mmmm good! Oh, and then top it with Italian shredded cheese :). All cheeses represented.

John said...

H tricked me into eating Marmite! That was low-down nasty of her.

...but it was really good :-)

Deborah said...

Oui, John, c'est vrai!

Anonymous said...

DJB---don't fall for the deceptions! Lasagna is Italian...I asked your dad and he said he knows the guy who invented it!!! So, that settles that! The Great Oz has spoken!!!