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Talk:Dumpling

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Definition please

The article should start with a simple, pithy definition. Do all boiled pasta count as dumplings? That's not how I learned to use the word "dumpling." --Larry Sanger 14:50, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

Pithy? "I luff you, my sveet little dumpling?"
Yes, at least to a cook, all boiled pasta meet the culinary definition of dumpling. I recognize that, say, spaghetti might not seem a dumpling, but it really does meet the characteristics of one dumpling type: relatively bland absorber of the cooking liquid or sauce Howard C. Berkowitz 14:57, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
Hey, did we ever decide on a workgroup for food and recipes? As I understand, food science is gone. I'd do subpages if I knew the group to use. As it is, I'll probably do a free-standing related articles subpage.
Who wrote the above? Please sign all your comments!
Well, you learn something new every day, I guess. Outside of Asian food restaurants, nobody I knew ever seemed to use "dumpling" to mean anything other than chicken and dumplings and apple dumplings. --Larry Sanger 16:25, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
Howard, you are simply wrong about this. If you're going to make such a preposterous statement, please give some sources for it. I myself have before me the absolutely magisterial On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by the acknowledged master in the field, Harold McGee, and although he puts pasta, noodles, and dumplings into the same general chapter, he clearly distinguishes between them. To call pasta dumplings in the main article is like defining human being as a "torus", ie, a doughnut-shape surface with a hole through it, like a coffee cup with a handle. (I saw this example in Scientific American once, I think.) It's possible to do so, but it flies in the face of common sense and common usage. If you argue about this issue, sigh, I will have to go downstairs and start going through my 100 or so other books about food and cooking to refute you. Plus do dictionary searches. Hayford Peirce 16:38, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
Cooking is sufficiently art as well as science that there can be multiple interpretations, and I'm not aware of any single acknowledged master. Indeed, I can pull out the CIA book (Culinary Institute of America), although I also know someone who is a CIA graduate who is also a retired field officer of the other CIA, and uses knives in both disciplines.
If you look at what we know of the historical development of pasta, noodles, and dumplings, they all have a common origin of some sort of starchy binder, usually boiled. Almost certainly, the first versions were not especially shaped, as, for example, fufu. Spaetzle and gnocchi are only slightly shaped. The extruded and rolled forms presumably came much later, although there is an amazing Chinese technique where thin strands come from a block, simply from folding and pulling. Filled dumplings logically are a later development since the other techniques to create the wrapper for the filling.
What does McGee call the general chapter?
There is, anyway, a distinct similarity between humans and coffee cups. Both are only temporary containers of coffee. One never owns coffee, but only leases it.Howard C. Berkowitz 16:46, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
Aha! So I wasn't just entirely ignorant! Anyway, Howard, in your as usual voluminous reply, you don't actually answer Hayford's objection. What is your source that the term in fact usually means what you say it means? Not your argument that the term should mean what you say it does. Your source for the generally accepted or expert usage. --Larry Sanger 17:04, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
Should? Well, 50 years or so of cooking experience and classes, and a variety of opinions among cookbooks. I claim there is no universal definition. I can go dig up some sources, but this is just not important enough to me to get into a major research effort. That would be voluminous, so, thinking about it, I have no intention of getting into the hassle over what I consider an essentially hobby article.
If that's called for, either delete the article, or just let me know that someone else will take it over,so I'll drop out and go cook some dumplings. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:23, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
Thank you, Larry. The header on the top of pages 571 through 579 is Pasta, Noodles, and Dumplings, and within those pages he has voluminous comments of the history of each of them, variations with the field, the science of cooking them, etc. He begins with a lot about "pasta". Then he comes to a section called "Couscous, Dumplings, Spatzle, Gnocchi". I'm not going to copy out the whole thing, but what he basically is saying is the opposite of your own statement: that dumplings are simply a form of pasta, NOT THE CONTRARY. "Unlike pasta doughs, dumpling doughs are minimally kneaded to maximize tenderness, and benefit from the inclusion of tiny air pockets, which provide lightness." Hayford Peirce 17:26, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
I disagree, starting with the point that dumplings are necessarily light. Quite a few ethnic ones, such as my grandmother's matzo balls were dense, chewy, and probably could do serious damage if catapulted...if you didn't eat them first, and they were damn good. I can think of a fair number of dumpling types, from a number of cultures, that are maximally kneaded to maximize the texture.
This is not, however, a place I really want to go. My words are in the public domain, and do with them as you will. I'm just not going to get into the middle of a culinary argument, in which there are no universal definitions but a lot of different traditions and tastes. I'm not suicidal enough, for example, to say there is a definitive best way of making barbecue; I'm defiant enough to say that Texan is well down my list of preferences. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:58, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
Howard, I detect an inconsistency between what you say in the article and what you say here on the talk page. On the talk page, you say that "dumpling" has many meanings, implicitly conceding that Hayford is correct that, on some usages of "dumpling," pastas are not dumplings. But the article you wrote seems to imply that all pastas are dumplings. Shouldn't you change the article so that it reflects your more broad-minded view, at least? --Larry Sanger 18:09, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
Howard, you're a lumper, not a splitter, aren't you? Cf. [1] -- note that the expert here is Chinese. --Larry Sanger 18:25, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
Money quote from the just-linked interview: "The basic misconception about dumplings is that people have a limited view of dumplings. In our book we’ve researched over 800 different kinds of dumplings. I tested hundreds and hundreds of dumplings. We came to conclusion that dumplings are any kind of dough or batter or starchy plant fare that’s cooked through wet heat. That really differentiates our book from a lot of other books that see dumplings as a party food, or one limited thing like raviolis. People don’t know what makes a dumpling a dumpling. We have dumplings from all over the world, from Ethiopia to Japan to England." This both supports and undermines Howard's view. On the one hand, here's the man who wrote the book about dumplings, and he says that dumplings are "any kind of dough or batter or starchy plant fare that’s cooked through wet heat." (Definately a lumper, he.) On the other hand, he presents himself as bucking a common view, which many undefined "people" hold and which "a lot of other books" hold, that dumplings are some more specific thing. This means that CZ must not endorse his definition uncritically, even if he's the world's greatest dumpling expert, because the same expert implicitly concedes that there are many dumplological views. --Larry Sanger 18:31, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

More definition (and retreat to the left margin)

Alan Davidson, in The Oxford Companion to Food, takes care of the "spaghetti == dumpling" problem by defining dumpling as "a small and usually globular mass of boiled or steamed dough [etc.]"

Davidson distinguishes -- quite vehemently -- between European dumplings on the one hand, and Asian preparations such as wontons, jiaozi, pel'meni, and momo, which he classifies alongside "filled pasta" such as ravioli and kreplach.

Although Davidson seems to go along reluctantly with using the word "dumpling" to describe such things as apple dumplings (which have stuff inside them) and Leberknödel (which have substantial non-dough ingredients mixed in with them), he appears to wish that a more purist definition would take hold, in which "dumpling" would be primarily a dough item used as an accompaniment to another dish, rather than as a stand-alone dish.

Still, if we're going to be descriptive rather than prescriptive, we have to report that English-speaking people typically translate words like "jiaozi" as "dumpling". And I don't think that's too far off the mark. Despite the fact that jiaozi are filled with large quantities of meat and/or vegetables, they are treated, in Chinese meal planning, as a starch. If you go into a restaurant in Beijing and order only a pound (!) of jiaozi, without any vegetable or meat items on the side, the waiter will ask you, quite reproachfully, "What? Aren't you going to order any dishes?" Bruce M.Tindall 18:10, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

Is it helpful to point out that this definition is put in terms of "dough"? What is dough, anyway? I propose dough. Isn't the dough that goes in dumplings properly so called usually unsweetened bread dough? Doughnuts aren't dumplings (he said, confidently). But then there are apple dumplings. What's the difference between an apple dumpling and an apple fritter? Apple fritters aren't dumplings, are they?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Davidson's point is supposed to be that there is a clear distinction, based on some difference between uncooked pasta and "dough," between the Asian usage which includes what we call pasta, and the European usage which specifically excludes pasta.

I find it hilarious that it is possible to argue at length about dumplings. --Larry Sanger 18:16, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

Answering myself here...duh, the relevant difference between apple dumplings and apple fritters is that the former are boiled in water and the latter are boiled in oil. All this arguing is making me hungry. --Larry Sanger 18:36, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

Well, I guess non-North-Carolinians have to find something to argue about; we Tar Heels have got the problem taken care of with our eternal internecine sqabbles over whether real barbecue sauce contains tomatoes, and whether real cole slaw contains mayonnaise. (The Truth® in both cases, of course, is "no.") Bruce M.Tindall 18:25, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

McGee's book, or "Humans Are Mammals", yes; but would we have an article that stated "Mammals are Humans"? 'Nuff said....

Chapter 10 is called "Cereal Doughs and Batters: Bread, Cakes, Pastry, Pasta"

Then there are various headings such as "The Evolution of Bread". Lots of science technobabble about molecules and stuff through all the sections. The last section, after "Cookies" is the one called "Pasta, Noodles, and Dumplings"

Section two is called "The Basic Structure of Doughs, Batters, and Their Products", with subsections called "Gluten", "Starch", "Gas Bubbles" (why breads rise), and "Fats: Shortening"

There are other sections about the chemistry of Leavenings etc.

Without going into it any deeper, I think I can say that Howard's article could simply be re-written somewhat. I know that we're, in a sense, just arguing about the meaning of a couple of words, but I think my example is valid: will anyone argue that mammals are humans, and not the contrary? That's how I feel about Pasta and Dumplings (and McGee does indeed make lengthy comments about the Chinese vs. Italian development of doughs, noodles, and dumplings....)

Maybe for the next Writ-a-Thon I'll do an article about McGee.... Hayford Peirce 18:37, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

An encyclopedia article is supposed to go in depth into the various acceptances of the use of a term like "dumpling."

I'd like to look into the possibility that the universalist view of dumplinghood is mainly a product of the far East, while the particularist view of dumplingocity is more of a Western conception. If that's right, then the article should say so. But I could just be misunderstanding the situation. --Larry Sanger 18:43, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

Thus spake the Philosopher. As a Foodie, however, all I can say is that I like to eat all of them, both Eastern and Western. And even the heavy Czech ones the Howard mentions, which I recall are cut by sawing them with a piece of thread. Hayford Peirce 18:50, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

East is East and West is West

That is a good point, Larry -- I am probably more of an Eastern cook by inclination.

Bruce, what do you mean, non-North-Carolinians? I am an advocate of Eastern North Carolinian, and can't understand that Western mustard. Tomatoes are SC. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:48, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
I must beg to differ, suh. According to Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue by John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed, published by UNC Press, p. 105 and passim, tomato is W.N.C., while mustard is generally S.C., although on p. 113 they do admit that the use of mustard does cross the state line to some extent, and he lists a couple of N.C. restaurants that do use mustard in their sauce, but they are treated as oddities. Darn, now I'm hungry, and there's no real barbecue within about 2,300 miles of me. Fortunately, we do have dumplings here. Bruce M.Tindall 19:07, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
As to filled dumplings, I have a convenient gadget called a ravioli maker. After I make the dough by hand, I put a sheet on the bottom part of the maker, which supports the filling. I then roll a second sheet on top; the instructions (in a very strange language which tells me to make dough from flower and water) say it's then finished, but at that point I start the hand work again.
One of the preferred fillings is what I consider a pierogi recipe of mostly cabbage and potatoes, with other things. So what do you call a square boiled thingee that's filled with what traditionally is an Eastern European handmade boiled, or boiled and fried, crescent? Further, my housemate insists that pierogies have cheddar cheese in them, because that's the way his (English) mother made them. Do they have cheddar in Poland? Howard C. Berkowitz 18:48, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
That would be a vareniki (in Russia anyway). Yum! --Larry Sanger 19:21, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
I too have a ravioli maker and it's the most useless thing I own. I ought to throw it away, I suppose. It turns a one-hour job into a two-hour job.... Hayford Peirce 18:53, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

One more comment and then I must get onto some, um, more consequential things. This whole dispute reminds me of disputes in taxonomy--lumpers and splitters--which ultimately come down to pre-theoretical assumptions about metaphysics or the philosophy of language. Some people, who we might say are of a linguistically conservative cast of mind, go with usage as their primary guide. If no one you've ever met called macaroni "dumplings," then it's just a mistake to call macaroni "dumplings," for that reason--and no further reason needs to be given. Other people, more linguistically liberal, want to revise usage so that it is more "logical" or "consistent." They look for the best model, the best description of the necessary and sufficient conditions for dumplinghood, and if that includes some things not traditionally called dumplings, while it excludes things traditionally called dumplings, then so much the worse for tradition.

This is bad enough except that it appears we are dealing with at least two traditions of the use of the word "dumpling"--the older English one and the newer Asian-food-translated-into-English. The latter one includes Asian pastas, so it is natural to include European pastas as well.

The approach the article ought to take is to try to explain this whole confusing linguistic situation. It would be a huge mistake to write the article from the lumper or the splitter view, or a European or Asian view, exclusively. --Larry Sanger 18:56, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

All of that makes sense. I wish my old nanny was around -- I grew up eating chicken and dumplings that she made. Does anyone still do that (under the age of 60, that is?) Hayford Peirce 18:59, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

I miss chicken and dumplings. My mom made it and would make it again on request I'm sure...but she's over 60.

OK, I have to make one last comment. Actually, two...the first is to invite people to do a Google Images Search for "dumpling." Second, I think it is part of the core meaning that there be a reasonably big lump of dough in order for there to be a real dumpling, at least on the European usage that I'm familiar with. This would be why, on that usage/conception, it would be a mistake to call pasta, even if pressed together into a roundish shape with fillings in it (like ravioli), "dumplings." Eastern European food traditions make this confusing, perhaps, because they eat both bready-type things, like piroshkis, as well as boiled filled pasta-type things, like vareniki, which are different but similar enough to be confused by, e.g., this Wikipedia article.

I find it confusing, though, that piroshkis should be called dumplings at all, because they are baked. If baked dough can be called dumplings, why aren't bread and rolls called dumplings?

OK, now I'm really going. --Larry Sanger 19:18, 9 December 2008 (UTC)