Pizza and Its History
Pizza with mushrooms, ham, pineapples, and gooey cheese. Some like it with little fishes on it to stick up the whole house. Others prefer just plain old pepperoni. Pizza is one of the most common and loved foods in America. In fact, the whole world has a version of pizza. Who do we thank for this?
Thank You, Ancient Civilizations
I was brought up thinking that pizza was not an Italian food but was created in America. Upon researching this I discovered that the pizza we know today did come from Italy, but Italy is not the original creator of the idea. Ancient civilizations such as Rome, Greece, and Persia all had a variation of cooking a flat bread and seasoning it to add flavor. This was a simple meal to concoct and was inexpensive.
As the empires spread and expanded, it was Italy that made it a staple food. But it would not have been found in any homes that were above the poverty level. In fact, it was considered food for the poor. The pizza of the day was a flat piece of bread with a white sauce or some herbs on it to help improve the taste.
As the Americas were being explored, tomatoes were taken to the new world where they were considered poisonous. Eventually a few people in the poorer classes took a chance and added tomatoes to the bread and fell in love with the new taste. Now, the pizza was beginning to be a little more like what we are familiar with. As the years went by, the pizza became more popular with the masses and small pizzerias began to be a familiar site in most neighborhoods.
The lower classes were still the main ones attracted to the delicacy of pizza, until the late 1800’s when King Umberto I and Queen Margherita were visiting Naples and called for one of the most popular pizzeria chefs to make an appearance with a sampling of these pizzas. One of the three that he took was in honor of the royal couple and Italy. It was a round piece of bread with mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. It reflected the colors of the Italian flag. It was also when cheese became a major component of a true pizza. The queen loved it, and the pizza became known as Pizza Margherita. It now spread into the higher classes and took all of Italy by storm.
Since then, pizza has become a food group of its own. It has gone beyond plain cheese, tomatoes, and herbs. You can find mushrooms, sausage, pepperoni, fish, lobster, BBQ chicken, ranch dressing, pineapples, or anything else you can imagine. The bread has become thinner, thicker, and just down-right huge. When the Chicago Deep Dish was introduced in 1943, it became a cult classic. Though pizza was popular in America, it took the soldiers returning from WWII and their tours of Italy and the observance that Italians in the public eye like Frank Sinatra were eating this food that made it a passion.
Not long after that, frozen pizza was created and you could have it right at home without having to spend all the money by going out. Pizza became the foods most eaten by kids, college students, and for sports events.
So, take an evening and try an unusual pizza and experiment. Chicken and ranch is delicious. Ham and pineapple is sublime. Anchovy is….. Well, anyway. Enjoy a piece of pizza!
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