Pizza is the most popular fast food. It is consumed everywhere: at the home, in eateries, on streets corners. Three billion pizzas are sold annually across the United States alone, an average of 46 slices per person. However, the tale of how pizza’s humble origins became a global dominance tells us a lot about the past of migration technology, economics, and technological advancement.
Pizza has been eaten by people in various forms or another for long periods of time. From the beginning of time pizzas made of flatbread decorated with savory foods, where could be a quick and tasty meal for people who couldn’t afford plates or were always on the move. The first pizzas are mentioned in Virgil’s Aeneid. Soon after arrival in Latium, Aeneas and his group sat under the shade of a tree, and set out thin wheaten cakes to serve as plates for their meals’. They put them on top of mushrooms and the herbs they discovered in the woods. They then drank them down, crumbs and all, which prompted Aeneas his son Ascanius to shout: “Look! We’ve even eaten our plates!”
However, it was in the latter part of 18th century Naples where the Pizza that we know it today began to take shape. Under the Bourbon monarchs, Naples had become one of the biggest cities in Europe and was growing rapidly. In the wake of the trade from overseas and an influx of farmers from the countryside, The population of Naples grew from 200,000 in the year 1700 to 399,000 by 1748. The city’s business struggled for up increasing numbers of its inhabitants became poor. The poorest of them were referred to as lazarroni due to their rough appearance was reminiscent of Lazarus. With a population of around 50,000, they struggled to survive on the stipends they made as messengers, porters, or casual laborers. In constant pursuit for work, they required food that was inexpensive and easy to consume.
Pizzas fulfilled this requirement. Not sold in restaurants and not by street sellers carrying massive boxes on their arms, pizzas could be cut to fit the budget of the client or their appetite. According to Alexandre Dumas noted in Le Corricolo (1843) in which two Liardslice could be a great breakfast, and two under would make a pizza large enough for the whole family. The food items were not too difficult to make. Although they were similar in some ways to Virgil’s flatbreads were distinguished by the use of cheap easily-to-find ingredients and plenty of flavors. The simplest ones were topped with just garlic along with lard and salt. Other options comprised caciocavallo (a cheese made of the milk of horses), cecenielli(whitebait), or basil. There were tomatoes over the top. Since their introduction from the Americas, They were an interesting object of curiosity and were being viewed as a joke by contemporary foodies. However, it was their lack of popularity and their low cost which made them appealing.
For many years pizzas were scoffed at by food critics. In connection with the soaring low income of lazzaroni pizza, they were often dismissed as disgusting and especially by foreigners. It was in 1831 that Samuel Morse – inventor of the Telegraph – described pizza as one of the “most horrible dessert … with a smear of tomato sauce, topped by slices of the Pomodoro or tomatoes, and then sprinkled with a little bit of black pepper and fish. I’m not sure of the other ingredients are in it, but it all appears like a piece of bread that’s been taken from the sewer, and then reeked back out’.
When the first cookbooks came out in the nineteenth century, the authors clearly did not mention pizza. Even those who favored Neapolitan food were reluctant to talk about it, even though the gradual advancement in Lazzarini’s standing had led to the creation of the early pizza eateries.
Everything changed following the Italian unification. On a trip to Naples during the year 1889, king Umberto I and Queen Margherita became tired of the complicated French meals they were served at lunch, breakfast, and dinner. Quickly summoned to cook local favorites for the queen and her guests, it was the pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito who prepared three kinds of pizza. One was made using the lard and caciocavallo and basil; another made with cecenielli and mozzarella; and the third pizza made with mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. The queen was thrilled. Her favorite – the third of the three named Pizza Margherita in her honor.
This was a major change. Margherita’s approval not just elevated pizza from being a meal suitable only to pasta to becoming something that an entire royal family could relish as well as transformed pizza from being a local food into a true national dish. It was the first to establish that pizza was Italian food that was similar to pasta and the polenta.
However, pizza was slow to get from Naples. The first push was triggered by the migration. In the 1930s and beyond, an increasing number of Neapolitans headed north to find work and took their food along. This trend was amplified by the war. When Allied soldiers entered Italy in 1943-4 They were so enthralled by the pizza they ate during their stay in Campania that they requested pizza wherever they traveled. But it was the tourism industry that was facilitated by the decreasing costs of travel during the postwar period which established pizza’s status as an authentic Italian food item. Since people became more curious about Italian cuisine, restaurants all over the peninsula began offering local specialties, including pizza. The quality was initially, a bit variable as not every restaurant was equipped with pizza ovens. However, pizza was quickly gaining popularity all over Italy. In the process, new ingredients were added in response to local tastes as well as the higher prices customers were prepared to pay.
However, it was in America where pizza was found the second location for pizza. At the close of the nineteenth century Italian migrants had made it to America’s East Coast; and in 1905, the very first pizzeria called Lombardi’s opened in New York City. Then, pizza was an American tradition. The popularity of pizza grew across the country to keep up with the increasing speed of urbanization, pizza was quickly adopted by savvy restaurateurs (who typically did not have Italian origin) and modified to reflect the local culture, tastes, and requirements. In the years following that the US started in the Second World War, a Texan named Ike Sewell was attempting to lure prospective customers into his recently opened Chicago pizzeria, by offering an ‘edgier version of the dish that included a more substantial crust, thicker crust, and more rich toppings that were more plentiful typically with cheese in the middle and a heap of chunky tomato sauce over it. Around the same time that Rocky Mountain Pie was also invented. Rocky Mountain Pie was developed in Colorado. Although it was not as thick as its Chicago cousin, it did have more of a crust that was intended to be consumed along with honey to make a dessert. Later, they were also accompanied by the Hawaiian version, which was topped with pineapple and ham – to the delight of Neapolitans.
In a paradox, the effect of these modifications made pizza more uniform and more prone to variations. While the shape of pizza – a base made of dough, and then topped with thin layers of cheese and tomato became more well-established and the need to appeal to the customers who are looking for something different resulted in ever more complex pizzas being made available, to the point that currently, Pizza Hut in Poland sells the spicy Indian version as well. Domino’s Pizza in Japan has created an “Elvis pizza that has almost everything.
Pizzas of today are quite different from the traditional lazzaroni and some pizza purists – especially in Naples are hesitant about some of the more bizarre toppings currently offered. However, pizza is still recognized in the same way as a pizzeria and the ages of social, economic, and technological advancement are in every slice.
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