Copyright (c) 2014 Eli Gali
It's not just America. Pizza is the universal comfort food. It is warm, sometimes spicy, sometimes gooey, always gets on your hands, and is always filling. It is the perfect food because, if you plan it right, you can combine the entire food pyramid on one slice.
Some experts think that pizza in its simplest form dates back to at least the 6th century B.C. when the Persian army baked flat bread on their shields and then covered it with available cheeses and fruits, like dates. Archeologists who uncovered the ruins of Pompeii claims to have found round stone pizza ovens.
Supposedly, the modern pizza was 'discovered' by the poor people of Naples. The very underprivileged only had flour, olive oil, lard, cheese and herbs to feed their families. Those who cooked the family meals put it all together and came up with a flat, spicy bread dish that was extremely filling - and extremely good. It is said that word spread about this great dish and soldiers would travel to taverns that served it.
According to Linda Stradley in her History of Pizza, "In the late 19th century, pizza was sold in the streets in Naples at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was cut from a large tray that had been cooked in the baker's oven and had a simple topping of mushrooms and anchovies. As pizza became more popular, stalls were set up where the dough was shaped as customers ordered. Various toppings were invented. The stalls soon developed into the pizzeria, an open-air place for people to congregate, eat, drink, and talk."
Hence, we come to one of the secrets of pizza - it is a very social food. It is round, so those who are enjoying a group meal will sit around the pizza, look and converse with each other while they devour their favorite toppings. Who likes to eat pizza alone? Well, they are millions who do every night, but it does taste best when you share a pizza with at least one other person.
It is a surprise when a pizza lover from the South goes to New York and orders a slice. They look at it like it came from a space ship. It in no way resembles the pizza they order at home. The same thing happens when the New Yorker orders pizza in Atlanta. What is really fun is when the couple from New York and Atlanta flies to Chicago and order a slice there. Every corner of every state has its own take on a pizza. Gourmet pizzerias, able to offer the finest, freshest and often unique ingredients, are now creating their own niche as well!
It is also true that different countries have diverse ways of creating pizza. What was once a 'tomato pie' is now a cornucopia of different textures, tastes and ingredients. There are pizzas for the carnivore who loves anything meaty. There are pizzas for the vegetarians. There are Hawaiian pizzas with ham and pineapple. There are white pizzas for those who dislike the color red. Then you have chicken parmesan for those that want a complete dinner on one slice of dough.
One thing is for certain, pizza is indeed the universal comfort food... and with so many restaurants now delivering gourmet pizza, one doesn't have to do much or wait that long to enjoy the perfect pizza pie.
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