Pizza is one such dish which is simple, easy to prepare and quick to eat. I have not met anyone not enjoying pizzas. It comes with so many toppings, feels like there is one for every mouth.
The other day I was at one of the coolest and yummiest Pizza place, Fat Lulu with one friend of mine. While we were enjoying our thin crust pizza and garlic bread, my curios mind started questioning and digging the information about Pizza. Where was the origin? What led to the invention of Pizza or the very famous Pizza Margherita?
One of the food historians Linda Stradley talks about Pizza in one of her articles. She says that “The pizza could have been invented by the Phoenicians, the Greeks, Romans, or anyone who learned the secret of mixing flour with water and heating it on a hot stone.”
Though, Pizza dough indeed follows a scientific method, so it won’t be wrong to say that it’s rocket science.
Pizza has been a basic and staple food of Italian since Stone Age. In its early stage pizza was a rough bread baked underneath the stones of the fire. This was used in place of plates, so once done, it was seasoned with toppings.
Though pizza was made popular by Italians but there are endless stories behind the origin. Another story says that the idea of using bread as a plate came from the Greeks who ate flat round bread (plankuntos) baked with an assortment of toppings. It was eaten by the working man and his family because it was a thrifty and convenient food.
If we go back in 6th Century BC we can find soldiers of Persian Empire preparing this food. It is believed that Darius, The Great (521-486 BC) used to do lengthy marches, and hence baked a flat bread and covered with cheese and dates.
Let us move further to Rome of 3rd Century BC (234-149 BC), and will find a history book written by Marcus Porcius Cato where we will find a mention of similar food. If we see Rome of 1st Century AD, we will find the great cookery book of Marcus Gavius Apicius called “De Re Coquinaria” and we will find the mention of similar recipe which uses chicken meat, pine kernels, cheese, garlic, mint, pepper, and oil (all ingredients of the contemporary pizza).
Now, let’s fast forward to 16th Century and explore Europe. Tomatoes came from Peru, and people of Naples used these on pizza bread with olive oil, lard, cheese and herbs and the fed to their families. All of Italy proclaimed the Neapolitan pies to be the best.
It became very famous by 19th Century AD and sold on the streets in Naples at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The new stalls were setup with customised shapes and sizes with different toppings. In 1889, Umberto I (1844-1900), King of Italy, and his wife, Queen Margherita di Savoia (1851-1926), in Naples on holiday, called to their palace the most popular of the pizzaioli (pizza chef), Raffaele Esposito, to taste his specialties. Raffaele and his wife, Maria Giovanna Brandi, prepared three different kinds of pizzas: one with pork fat, cheese, and basil; one with garlic, oil, and tomatoes; and another with mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes (in the colors of the Italian flag). The Queen loved the third pizza. Raffaele Esposito dedicated this pizza to the Queen and called it “Pizza Margherita.”
This article was originally published on Food and Streets by Sadaf.