Food News

What Exactly Are Ravioli? The Internet Weighs In

March 22, 2018

Classification is a confusing sport. What we call what helps us understand what what is. You follow? And especially in the food world, designations are hazy. Take, for example, a gratin: that cheesy, gooey casseroled bakefest that seems easy to define, but that upon further investigation, actually isn’t. Riffable formulas push at the boundaries of seemingly rigid classifications. Like if you sub cauliflower for crust, is it still a pizza? Are chips still chips if they’re made from crisped kale? Now, before I go all Ship of Theseus on you all, let’s look instead at a recent debate dividing the internet: Where does a ravioli begin and where does it end?

This saga began with [a tweet]. One that features a photo of man seated behind a booth on what is presumably a college campus. In front of him is a sign that reads “Pop Tarts Are Ravioli,” then below that, in slightly smaller type “Change My Mind.”

It’s a heady statement, for sure, and one that the internet valiantly gathered around. Tweets, as they do, poured in.

Some others joined in to call upon a third sealed food—suggesting, instead, that Pop-Tarts and ravioli were actually all just forms of dumplings. An interesting take, for sure.

Ben has a point. Dumpling could actually be the umbrella term under which both ravioli and Pop-Tarts fall. While we’re at it, we may as well include empanadas and pierogis and momos as well.

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Then, Pop-Tarts’ official Twitter weighed in, shutting down any confusion.

The debate, though seemingly silly at first, is actually one of substance. What do the words we use to call our food actually mean, and how can they change depending on context or use or cultural situation? Where exactly does a dumpling end and a ravioli begin? These are all worthwhile questions, but difficult to answer. And my guess is, each of us will have a different take on the matter. In the meantime, there’s only one last thing to wonder:

Which side are you on? School us in the comments section below.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AdeleK
  • cyanpineapple
  • Smaug
  • 702551
  • Valerio Farris
    Valerio Farris
Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


AdeleK March 22, 2018
Ravioli an Italian egg PASTA dish. The egg pasta is stuffed with a meat, cheese, vegetable, etc. It can not be classed under an egg pasta if it is not a pasta. The only thing listed that is even close is a pierogi, but that is also not an egg pasta. Might I ask what is the point behind grouping foods that are not similar at all into the same category?
cyanpineapple March 22, 2018
It's a joke. Chill.
Smaug March 22, 2018
Mostly it's marketing- something so deeply ingrained in the American way of life that we do it to each other, unconsciously, often in wholly inappropriate situations. You come up with a new dish, call it, say, "pilzafructo", people will see the name and for the most part, ignore it as unknown and weird sounding (though you might attract a curiosity nut or two). Call it instead, say, "chili" and people will say, "ooh, I like chili" and be willing to give it a shot- even if it's nothing but tomato soup with some paprika in it.
702551 March 22, 2018
Yeah, Americans are easily buffaloed. Call something "shumai", "gyoza" or "xiao long bao" and many people will say, "Ewww, doesn't sound appealing."

Say "pot sticker" and a few will say, "okay, those are okay."

Call them "Asian ravioli" and many will say, "hey, that's sounds pretty good."

Hence the particularly American desire to repurpose certain words to inaccurately describe something that is already well defined using a different term.

Thus, we Americans get into linguistic entropy discusssions as people debate if a tomato slice between two cabbage leaves can be called a "hamburger" ("Yes, it is!") where the rest of the non-American world thinks of a hamburger as a ground meat patty in a bread bun.

Americans like to create their own vocabulary and definitions based on their own personal interpretations, the hell to anyone else who disagrees.

So fetch!

702551 March 22, 2018
In any case, this genre of discussion is rarely resolved on the Internet. At least for sites like Food52, it's mostly so the site can pay homage to the Almighty Pageview.

For social media, it's even more extreme: it's for racking up the highest number of likes. Being factual or correct has little importance with much of the Internet in 2018.

Even FANG corporations think that garbage is great if it increases shareholder value.

cyanpineapple March 22, 2018
It's a jooooooooooooke. Dear lord, how many words did you really have to devote to acting morally superior to a silly joke?
702551 March 22, 2018
Please note the smilies; they were added for a reason. LOL
Smaug March 23, 2018
It is not a joke- it's an all too small exaggeration of a real situation.
cyanpineapple March 22, 2018
So the original meme actually comes from a photo of an alt-right commentator and all-around horrible person setting up a table that originally said "male privilege is a myth." So the meme is to replace that text with equally idiotic opinions. The ravioli one is just a spin off that. Here's the Know Your Meme link:
Valerio F. March 22, 2018
The history of that photo does, it seems, have a fraught history. Thanks for calling that to our attention. We don’t want to support his message in any way, so we went ahead and removed the photo from the article. We want the focus to be where it should be—on the fascinating debate about ravioli and Pop-Tarts and all sorts of dumplings!
cyanpineapple March 22, 2018
Nancy March 23, 2018
Valerio -
Why, if you are so senitive to the offence of the source, did you remove only half, not whole?
You removed the photo because you and a reader dislike him as source, but you quote the words in his photo and build the article on the meme.
A suggestion, for future dilemmas like this: keep all or remove all.