A History of Pizza | History Today - Deepstash

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The world's favorite fast food

The world's favorite fast food

Pizza is the world's favorite fast food, with some three billion pizza sold every year in the US alone.

The story of how pizza became so popular reveals much about the history of migration, economics, and technological change.

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History of Pizza

Pizza - pieces of flatbread, topped with savories - was a simple and tasty meal for those who could not afford plates.

  • Early pizzas appear in Virgil's Aeneid. Aeneas and his crew ate thin wheaten cakes with mushrooms and herbs scattered on them.
  • In the 18th century Naples, pizza as we know it came into being. With a struggling urban economy and a great number of poor inhabitants, they needed food that was cheap and easy to eat. Pizza met this need.

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Pizzas were scorned

For a long time, pizzas were associated with poverty and scorned by food writers.

In 1831, Samuel Morse described pizza as a ‘species of the most nauseating cake … covered over with slices of pomodoro or tomatoes, and sprinkled with little fish and black pepper and I know not what other ingredients, it altogether looks like a piece of bread that has been taken reeking out of the sewer.

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Pizzas gain popularity

While on a visit to Naples in 1889, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita grew tired of the complicated French dishes they were served. Three sorts of pizza were offered to the queen: one with lard, caciocavallo, and basil; another with cecenielli; and a third with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

The queen was delighted. Her favorite – the last of the three – was named Pizza Margherita in her honor.

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The migration

  • From the 1930s onward, a number of Neapolitans moved northward, taking their cuisine with them.
  • When Allied soldiers invaded Italy in 1943, they so liked the pizza that they asked for it wherever they went.
  • After the war, tourists became increasingly curious about Italian food, including pizza.
  • In America, by the end of the 19th century, Italian emigrants had reached the East Coast, and in 1905 the first pizzeria was opened in New York City.
  • Shortly after the US entered World War II, a Texan opened Chicago pizzeria. He offered the dish with a thicker crust and with more toppings, usually with cheese at the bottom and chunky tomato sauce on top.
  • In the 1950s, the pizza became more domesticated. Frozen pizza was designed to be taken home and baked at will.

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