Saturday, July 12, 2008

The History of Pizza

Pizza has ancient origins, in fact it dates back to 3000 years ago.
Some historians say that this food was already present in Etruscan cooking although obviously in a very different form and with very different ingredients from today. Pizza started out however as a dish which only required very simple ingredients that were easy to locate: flour, oil, salt and yeast.
There are many references to this food which in the course of the centuries increasingly resembled its current form. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, wavering between aristocratic taste and popular consumption, at royal banquets and at the poor man's meal the word 'pizza' was already present and in the following centuries many local variations of this term can be found to indicate culinary variations on the theme, from sweet to savoury and with different methods of cooking.
Real pizza (as we know it today) was invented around 1600 by the undeniable culinary genius of the south, from the need to make the traditional oily bread more appetising and flavoursome. Initially it was made from bread dough cooked in a wood oven and flavoured with oil, garlic, lard and coarse salt or in the 'richer' version, with caciocavallo cheese and basil.
Mention is made of the more recent pizza, with a soft, tasty dough, between 1500 and 1600: the so-called pizza 'alla mastunicola', in other words pizza with basil.
It was prepared by putting lard, cheese, basil leaves and pepper on a circle of dough.
Later the 'cecinielli' version was developed, that is with the small fish which the fisherman had over. The arrival of the modern pizza came with the introduction of the tomato!!! Imported from Peru, after the discovery of America, the tomato was first used in cooking as a sauce cooked with salt and basil and only later did someone get the idea of putting it on the pizza. Thus inventing, without knowing it, THE pizza'.
That was how the era of the modern pizza began! First in Naples and later in America too.
In fact in the nineteenth century the pizza arrived in the United States thanks to the Italians who emigrated to New York.
In the same period (June 1889) in Naples the historic marriage with mozzarella took place. A Neapolitan pizza chef, Raffaele Esposito, known as Pietro o' pizzaiolo and his wife, prepared the famous pizza with tomato and mozzarella in honour of Queen Margherita, the wife of Umberto I, the King of Italy.
The pizza chef was invited to go to the Palace in Capodimonte to prepare some pizzas at the Queen's request, and so he made three pizzas: one with basil, one with seafood and a pizza with tomato, mozzarella and basil to represent the Italian flag.
The Queen was most appreciative of this last and the pizza chef gallantly and out of recognition decided to dedicate it to her so that from that day this type of pizza has the name of the sovereign: 'Margherita'. From that moment the diffusion of the Pizza spread throughout the world, becoming an emblem of the Italian Culinary Tradition, and without exaggerating, the heritage of the entire human race.

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