Pizza has become an international phenomenon in that wherever you go in the world there will be pizza. Pizza has been adapted to more cultures and cuisines than most other dishes around the world. When some local school children were asked where pizza originally came from, they thought it was from the area in which they lived. And rightly so, because pizza has been adapted to whatever region in the world you live. Barring that thought, pizza does have an interesting history and that begins in Greece, contrary to what most people probably think and that would be Italy.
There are conflicting stories revolving around the origin of pizza; one story is that the word ‘Pizza’ is derived from the Greek word Picea. Picea is an adjective that describes the black coating left on the bottom of dough by the burning ashes which were used in ancient ovens. The first pizzas were probably baked in wood burning stoves and may well have been black on the bottom from the ashes. Another story is that the Greek Flatbread was baked on an earthenware platter and was called piada. Whichever is true, pizza did originate in Greece although not in the form that we know it today. The Italians are responsible for the modern creation of pizza and that would be the flatbread with a tomato topping, cheese and of course whatever else you would like to put on it.
When we were in Venice, Italy, the pizza that was served to us was a personal size and was very thin. It was not sliced as it was meant to be rolled up like a burrito and eaten that way. The reverse was true of pizza sold on the street carts and was not really pizza but foccacia that had pizza toppings on it. These were sold in small portions that could be eaten out of hand.
In Holland, we ordered an everything pizza and contrary to the way it is made in the United States, each section had a different topping. We were used to the ‘everything’ pizza that had everything scattered throughout so that everyone could have a taste of everything. In this case, you could only have the toppings that were on the slices you chose.
When we were In Japan, Pizza Hut sold a California Pizza that was a baked pizza shell topped with shredded lettuce and tomato. From what I understand, the California Pizza that is sold today has a variety of fish and seafood such as tuna, squid and shrimp and seaweed! If you go online and search pizza in Japan you will see all kinds of interesting combinations!
Pizza in the United States has taken on all forms and is tasty on all counts. At one time, the thick crusted pizza that took half an hour to bake was very popular. Thin crusted pizzas have taken their place and sport all types of toppings. Let’s start with the basic pizza and that would be just with a tomato topping, cheese and probably pepperoni if you are so inclined. I like my pizza with lots of vegetables such as bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and olives.
Popular styles of pizza are: Hawaiian, Mexican, Southwest Barbecued Chicken and one of my favorites, Chinese Barbecued Duck Pizza. The Hawaiian Pizza as featured in most restaurants is made with Canadian bacon (Portuguese Sausage would be more like it) and Pineapple along with the tomato and cheese. Southwest BBQ Chicken Pizza has a topping much like BBQ Sauce along with the chicken, red bell peppers and red onions and maybe cilantro and of course cheese. Chinese BBQ Duck Pizza uses Hoisin sauce instead of tomatoes and does have cheese, which is not a common item in the Chinese diet.
Along with flat pizzas there is calzone which got its name from the shape of the bottom of men’s pants in Naples, Italy during another century. Today you can find pizza bagels, pizza dogs, stuffed pizza and on and on and on. Pizza is a close competitor of the All-American Hamburger and may have even surpassed the burger as everybody’s favorite. Whichever you like your pizza, just enjoy it and if you are in the mood, try different styles, just for the fun of it.