History Of Pizza
Pizza, like so many other foods, did not
originate in the country for which it is now famous. Unless you have researched
the subject, you, like so many people, probably always thought Pizza was
strictly an Italian creation.
The foundations for Pizza were originally
laid by the early Greeks who first baked large, round and flat breads which they
"annointed with oil, herbs, spices and Dates."
Tomatoes were not discovered at that time
or, very likely, they would have used them as we do today.
Eventually the idea of flat bread found
its way to Italy where, in the 18th century, the flat breads called
"Pizzas", were sold on the streets and in the markets. They were not
topped with anything but were enjoyed au naturel. Since they were
relatively cheap to make, were tasty and filling, they were sold to the poor all
over Naples by street vendors.The acceptance of the tomato by the Neapolitans
and the visit of a queen contributed to the Pizza as we know and enjoy it today.
In about 1889, Queen Margherita,
accompanied by her husband, Umberto I, took an inspection tour of her Italian
Kingdom. During her travels around Italy she saw many people, especially the
peasants, eating this large, flat bread. Curious, the queen ordered her guards
to bring her one of these Pizza breads. The Queen loved the bread and would eat
it every time she was out amongst the people, which caused some consternation in
Court circles. It was not seemly for a Queen to dine on peasant's food.
Never the less, the queen loved the bread
and decided to take matters into her own hands. Summoning Chef Rafaelle Esposito
from his pizzeria to the royal palace, the queen ordered him to bake a selection
of pizzas for her pleasure.
To honor the queen who was so beloved by
her subjects, Rafaelle decided to make a very special pizza just for her. He
baked a Pizza topped with tomatoes, Mozarella Cheese, and fresh Basil (to
represent the colors of the Italian flag: Red, white, and green).
This became Queen Margherita's favorite
pizza and when word got out that this was one of the queen's favorite foods, she
became even more popular with the Italian people. She also started a culinary
tradition, the Pizza Margherita, which lasts to this very day in Naples and has
now spread throughout the world.
History has not made it clear whether
Rafaelle began to sell this creation from his own pizzeria but it is known that
the Pizza, in much the same form as we now know it, was thereafter enjoyed by
all the Italian people. Variations began to be made in different parts of the
country. In Bologna, for example, meat began to be added into the topping mix.
Neapolitan Pizza became quite popular and it brought garlic and crumbly
Neapolitan cheeses into the mixture as well as herbs, fresh vegetables, and
other spices and flavorings.
About this time the idea of baking in
special brick ovens came into existence and the bread, as it is today, was a
rather simple combination of flour, oil, salt and yeast.
Pizza spread to America, France, England
and Spain, where it was little known until after World War II. While occupying
Italian territories, many American and European soldiers tasted Pizza for the
first time. It was love at first taste! Italian immigrants had been selling
Pizzas in their American stores for some time, but it was the returning soldiers
with a lust for the saucy delight that drew the Pizzas out of the quiet Italian
neighborhoods into the main stream of city life all over the continent. In fact,
the square "Sicilian Pizza" which is so popular and was the forerunner
of the now well-promoted "Party Pizza" is an American invention. Real
Sicilian Pizza has no cheese or anchovies.
Today we celebrate Pizza. February 9 is
International Pizza Day and the Guinness Book of Records states that the largest
Pizza ever made and eaten was created in Havana, Florida and was 100 feet and 1
American and Canadian citizens will eat an
average 23 pounds of Pizza, per person, per year. Pepperoni and Cheese is the
favorite combination, especially with the younger set, and is second only to the
hamburger as this continent's favorite food.
Pizzas can be made either healthy or
fatty, depending upon what you use for the toppings. They come in many forms
such as Calzones (half the dough is topped then the other half folded over to
form a large half-moon shaped Pizza Pocket, which is then baked). It also comes
in various forms such as breads, rolls, pan pizza, stuffed crust pizza, thin
crust Pizza and thick crust pizza, wholewheat crust, and bagel crust.
The concept has also taken many forms such
as Mexican Pizza (a pizza dough topped with chili or taco filling, shredded
Cheddar, chopped onions, tomatoes and Jalapeno peppers), Ice Cream Pizza, Candy
Pizza and even Pizza cake as well as Pizza flavored items such as Potato Chips
and Tortilla Snacks!
So, next time you eat a Pizza, stop and
think of Queen Margherita and Chef Rafaelle and be grateful that a Queen would
dare stoop to eat peasant bread.
About the name:
The word "pie" does not refer to the crust, nor even to the shape or
position of the crust. The Oxford English, the Webster's unabridged,and
lexicographer Charles Earl Funk, all agree that the elemental word
"pie" relates to the Magpie, a bird with feathers splotched in two
colors, a bird called "Pica" by the Romans, whence the English
"Pie" and the alteration of "Pica" to "Pizza". The
name relates to the bird's double color and its habit of gathering odds and ends
as does a Pizza, or Pie, gather, and consist of, varied ingredients.