History in the Baking: Pizza's Storied Past

History in the Baking: Pizza's Storied Past

Long ago, before the advent of commercial dough mixers and dough sheeter machines, pizza began its tale among Italy's poor working class. We were surprised to hear this, but pizza was widely regarded with disdain and judged as a gross eating habit. For the working class, the requirement was fast, cheap food that could be eaten quickly and on the go. Pizza is ideal for this now and it was just as perfect back then. In fact, according to Technomic's 2016 Pizza Consumer Trend Report (which is possibly the best report in existence), about 41% of people eat pizza at least once a week. How did we get there from a quick dish of the Italian working class? Let's hop from commercial dough mixers into the oven and take a bite out of some hot baked history.

It began much like our simplest pizzas today. The concept of baking flatbreads and garnishing with spices, herbs, etc. is ancient, coming long before the Italian advent of pizza. The pizza itself started in Naples among the poor working class. It was traditionally a few easy, delicious steps: baked flatbreads with a variety of toppings, though classically enjoyed the same way we enjoy them now, with tomatoes, cheese, garlic, oil, and proteins aplenty. They did the trick and were popular in a geographically centralized niche among certain people.

One day, King Umberto and Queen Margherita visited Naples. According to the legend, during their visit, they went to a famed pizza dispensary named Pizzeria Brandi because they had grown bored of the French cuisine that was in vogue with the aristocracy (too much foie gras or something). Naturally, they got an assortment of pizzas so as to sample this pie of the peasantry. Guess what happened? The Queen liked one particular pizza the most. Can you guess what it's called to this day? The Margherita pizza: topped with mozzarella cheese, succulent tomatoes, and fresh basil. With aristocratic approval, the regional popularity of pizza began to grow a little, but still remained predominantly sequestered to Naples.

Enter America; Italian immigrants brought the pizza to New York originally and spread their homeland's recipes across the nation, slowly building popularity among the culinarily curious. And those curious folks began to grow so much that pizza boom swept the nation by force, everyone loving this portable, fast, delicious food. You'll find those commercial dough mixers working overtime all around the country and arguments about the finest slice will be as hot as the slices themselves. Regardless, they remain an integral part of American food culture, born and raised among the working class of a quiet Italian coastal town a long time ago. Hungry yet?

May 15th 2018

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