1. The meatball is not only an Italian food. Many nations and many cultures have laid claim on the meatball (in actuality, a diminutive form of meatloaf). In so doing, the meatball has been varied to accommodate different tastes, available ingredients, and even religious traditions.

  1. No one knows for sure where the first meatball came from, however, recipes for meatballs from the time of the Romans exist as evidence in an ancient recipe book written by Marcus Gavius Apicus (aka Apicius), who was born in 25 AD. His book is called "De re coquinaria libri decem (Cuisine in Ten Books)". Book II is devoted to "minces", or mixtures of meat and other ingredients.

  1. The meatball has also been found in other parts of the world. Acquiring the name kofta (possibly from the Persian word koffteh, meaning pounded meat),

  1. Meatballs are known in Asian, Middle Eastern and North African cooking.

  1. During the dark time of the Spanish Inquisition, meatballs, or albondigas, were made with pork and other ground meats, then served to Jews who were secretly trying to pass as Christian converts. When the host announced the true contents of the non-Kosher meatballs, if any guests refused to eat those meatballs, or spit them out, they were immediately arrested and prosecuted (or worse).

  1. Meatballs even made it into Sweden, noted in a 1754 cookbook by Cajsa Warg. They were served with a cream-based gravy and lingonberry preserves. Buttered noodles also became a popular side item, and nowadays are thought of as the expected accompaniment for Swedish meatballs.

  1. Interestingly, the northern Scandinavian countries, as well as northern Sweden, would've considered meatballs a luxury item, since beef and other meats were (and still are) scarce in those regions. Furthermore, until the invention of the meat grinder, preparation of meatballs was too laborious of a process for common folk. Thus, Swedish meatballs were served mainly at festive occasions/holidays.

  1. Eventually, Swedish meatballs were "imported" to America, along with the Swedish immigrants themselves. Many of those immigrants settled in America's northern and Midwestern states, which helps explain the popularity of meatballs in America's Great Midwest.

  1. Italian immigrants also brought along their own meatball  recipes, many of which had evolved according to family tradition. They were not initially served with spaghetti, but alone. Likewise, spaghetti was also served alone. The two forces came together in order to appease American clients, who frequented Italian restaurants and wanted meat served alongside their pasta dishes.

  1. Why would so many different countries take to making meatballs? The answers most likely stem from the nature of meat itself, as well as its initial scarcity.

  1. By mixing meat with starches and vegetables, meat gains mass and becomes "more" than what it had originally started out as. As a result, more people can be fed on less meat.

  1. Meat becomes tough after long storage periods. Mixing meat with vinegar, salts, and softer materials such as bread effectively tenderized it.

  1. Making old and leftover scraps of meat into meatloaf was an economical and inventive way of conserving resources

  1. Some countries have found inventive ways for preparing/serving meatballs. In Afghanistan, meatballs are now grilled and placed on top of pizza.

  1. Japan makes a hamburger steak, called hanbâgu, that is basically a larger, flatter, meatball.

  1. Grecian meatballs are fried, and usually include finely diced onion and mint leaf within the meat.

  1. Indonesian meatballs are served in a bowl, with noodles, beancurd, eggs, and possibly fried meat to boot.

  1. In Albania, meatballs often come as a mixture of feta cheese and meat.

  1. Polish meatballs (golabki) are huge, about the size of large oranges, and include rice. They are served in steamed cabbage leaves, usually in a tomato sauce.

  1. Turkey boasts over 80 types of meatballs, each type made just a bit differently according to its region of origin.

  1. Italian meatballs, known as polpette, are consumed as the main course or part of a soup.

  1. The record for World's Largest Meatball was set several times in 2009. It was first set in Mexico in August weighing 109 pounds and then again a month later in Los Angeles when late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel helped set the record weight at 198.6 pounds. In October 2009 an Italian eatery in Concord, New Hampshire set the new record at 222.5 pounds.

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