It's time for another whimsical Tuesday Turnip search wherein I type a random phrase and we see what kind of interesting bits of information "turn-up."
- 6th C. BC - At the height of the Persian Empire, it is said that the soldiers of Darius the Great (521-486 B.C.), accustomed to lengthy marches, baked a kind of bread flat upon their shields and then covered it with cheese and dates.
- 3rd C. BC - Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 B.C.), also know as Cato the Elder, wrote the first history of Rome. He wrote about "flat round of dough dressed with olive oil, herbs, and honey baked on stones."
- 1st C. BC - In "The Aeneid" written by Virgil (70-19 B.C.), it describes the legendary origin of the Roman nation, describing cakes or circles of bread: "Beneath a shady tree, the hero sprad his table on the turf, with cakes of bread; And, with his chiefs, on forest fruits he fed. They sate; and (not without the god's command). Their homely far dispatch'd, the hungry band invade their trenchers next, and soon devour to mend the scenty meal, their cakes of flour...See, we devour the plates on which we fed."
- Around 1000 AD the word "picea" started to appear in historical records in Italy , it was a circle of dough and the topped with a variety of fillings then baked. The word pizza came into common usage at about the same time.
- It was some time later before pizza became to be made from leavened dough, as we know it today. At the same time the pita type bread schiacciata was made.
- Towards the end of the eighteenth Century historical records show an early record of the "Calzone" it was rolled with the stuffing completely encased inside it, and it was then shaped like a crescent, and baked.
- The pizza as we know it today began to originate in Naples; they were flavored with oil and garlic, cinciielli (a small fish), or anchovies, and mozzarella cheese.
- Up to 1830 the pizzas were sold from Neapolitan market stalls. The first pizza restaurant was called Port' Alba. It had installed an oven fired by volcanic rock from Mount Vesuvius as these reach the high temperatures that help to make the best pizza.
- Salvatore di Giacomo, the Naples poet and dramatist, dedicated several poems to pizza.
- Alexander Dumas, the author of the three musketeers was inspired to write about pizza. Dumas referred to a pizza that was not eaten for eight days. However he had obviously never tried one. He mentions that it was called an "Otto", the Italian word for eight, but in this he got it wrong, it was eaten immediately but the baker got paid eight days later. There were still a few bakers in Naples that carried this tradition until the seventies and it is possible this tradition exits even today.
- The pizza is a kind of stiacciati which is round in shape and made with bread dough, at first glance it looks like a simple food, but when examined more closely it looks more complicated ". Dumas
- By the nineteenth century the pizzas in Naples were garnished with pork fat, oil lard cheese, tomatoes and tiny fish, surprisingly enough not the recipe for a winning pizza!
- The sixteenth century Bourbon queen Maria Carolina loved the tri colored green red and white pizza (the forerunner of the Margherita pizza) so much that she convinced her husband King Ferdinand IV to allow the pizzas to be made in the royal ovens. She had a problem because pizza as a food was associated very much with the peasants.
- No history of pizza would be complete without the classic story of the pizza Margherita. Modern pizza history was made in 1889 when Queen Margherita Teresa Giovanni, the consort of Umberto I, visited Naples with her king. Don Raffaele Esposito, who owned Pietro Il Pizzaiolo, was asked to prepare a special dish in honour of the Queen's visit. Esposito consulted his wife who was the real pizza expert and together they developed a pizza featuring tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil. He named it the Margherita Pizza, after the city's guest of honor.
- 1905 - Gennaro Lombardi claims to have opened the first United States Pizzeria in New York City at 53 1/2 Spring Street. Lombardo is now known as America's "Patriaca dela Pizza." It wasn't until the early 1930s that he added tables and chairs and sold spaghetti as well.
- 1943 - Chicago-style deep-dish pizza (a pizza with a flaky crust that rises an inch or more above the plate and surrounds deep piles of toppings) was created by Ike Sewell at his bar and grill called Pizzeria Uno.
- 1945 - With the stationing of American soldiers in Italy during World War II (1941-1945) came a growing appreciation of pizza. When the soldiers returned from war, they brought with them a taste for pizza.
- 1948 - The first commercial pizza-pie mix, "Roman Pizza Mix," was produced in Worcester, Massachusetts by Frank A. Fiorello.
- 1950s - It wasn't until the 1950s that Americans really started noticing pizza. Celebrities of Italian origin, such as Jerry Colonna, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante, and baseball star Joe DiMaggio all devoured pizzas. It is also said that the line from the song by famous singer, Dean Martin; "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that amore" set America singing and eating pizzas.
- 1957 - Frozen pizzas were introduced and found in local grocery stores. The first was marketed by the Celentano Brothers. Pizza soon became the most popular of all frozen food.
And I'll add that in 2004, yours truly consumed 5 large slices of John's pizza in NYC all by himself. (And was VERY sorry afterward.) What's the most you've ever eaten?