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When America Quickly Went From Pizza-Ignorant to Pizza-Obsessed

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Pizza, much like the earth itself, tricks us into thinking that it has been around forever. Like imagining a universe without our earth, picturing life without pizza seems impossible and almost paradoxical. But it's true. Pizza is a relatively new dish, one that didn't rise to ubiquity in the United States until after World War II. Amazingly, there was once a time when people had to have pizza explained to them.

In 1861, a “genial East Prussian” named Ferdinand Gregorovius explored Italy and wrote a compassionate history of the country. His notes were eventually translated into English in 1903, and it is in his writings about Campagna, a small southern town, that we encounter a formal description of pizza. "All the country people eat polenta, either in the form of soup or of cakes; they call it pizza," he explains. "If I meet a man on the road and ask him, 'What have you had for breakfast?' he answers, 'La pizza.' 'What are you having for supper?' 'La pizza.'" (I like the cut of your jib, amico.)

But the dish Gregorovius describes wouldn't exactly be familiar to modern-day pizza lovers: "The yellow porridge made with this meal is kneaded into a flat cake, and baked on a smooth stone, over the charcoal fire. It is devoured toasting hot ... salad of the plants that grow in the fields, with oil poured over them, is added." Pizza with tomato and cheese—pizza margherita—wasn't invented in southern Italy until later in the century, although the exact origins of how this happened are disputed.

Pizza arrived in America (specifically, New York) in the early 1900s, but pizza's first mention in the New York Times didn't come until September 20, 1944. Half their food column was dedicated to "Pizza, a Pie Popular in Southern Italy," and the focus was Luigino’s Pizzeria Alla, a midtown a restaurant that "prepares authentic pizza." The paper took great care in explaining how the dish was made, and it sounds like the pizza one would expect to eat today—tossed in front of customers and cooked in a coal-fired oven. Reading the piece, you can almost hear the gnashing teeth of the Times copy desk trying to decide whether or not to italicize "pizza" as a foreign word. They did not, and the dish's cultural assimilation would only continue.

(One publication that did italicize the meal was the New Yorker, who didn't start writing about pizza until the 1950s. In 1952, a one-sentence write-up dryly headlined “Incidental Intelligence” in their Talk of the Town section quipped about a stand that sold pizza "with Thomas’s English muffins as a base" during the San Gennaro festival.)

The paper of record seems to have always had a pro-pizza bias. In a 1947 full-page Times spread, food writer Jane Nickerson insisted that "pizza could be as popular a snack as the hamburger if Americans only knew more about it.” 

This pizza ignorance became legal record when an upstate jury had to have pizza explained to them during a 1950 New York Supreme Court appellate hearing. (The hearing was about a disputed business transaction, not about pizza.) On the stand, defendant and Niagara Falls resident Louis H. Boniello was asked how he ended up at a casino and replied, “Mr. Robinson came over to a back door of the barber shop which is facing their property and asked me if I would drive him to the Boulevard Casino to get some pizza.” His defense attorney (and fellow Italian-American) Mr. Pusateri then interrupted, asking, “What is this pizza? I know what it is but some of the members of the jury may not know what it is.” Boniello replied, “It is a sort of Italian pie covered with tomatoes and anchovies, oil and olives and pepperoni and paste.”

The defense attorney's assumptions about the general public's knowledge of pizza were spot on. During the people's summation, prosecutor Mr. Miller recapped the previous exchange thusly: “He went out for Pizza, which I take it, is something to eat.”

That widely held ignorance was short lived. In 1956, the Times once again wrote about pizza, this time finding that “Italy’s famous pie now rivals the hot dog in popularity.”

Going from intriguing foreign dish to American cultural staple in just twelve years is pretty astounding—even for something as great as pizza.

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Yes, You Can Put Your Christmas Decorations Up Now—and Should, According to Psychologists
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We all know at least one of those people who's already placing an angel on top of his or her Christmas tree while everyone else on the block still has paper ghosts stuck to their windows and a rotting pumpkin on the stoop. Maybe it’s your neighbor; maybe it’s you. Jolliness aside, these early decorators tend to get a bad rap. For some people, the holidays provide more stress than splendor, so the sight of that first plastic reindeer on a neighbor's roof isn't exactly a welcome one.

But according to two psychoanalysts, these eager decorators aren’t eccentric—they’re simply happier. Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown told UNILAD:

“Although there could be a number of symptomatic reasons why someone would want to obsessively put up decorations early, most commonly for nostalgic reasons either to relive the magic or to compensate for past neglect.

In a world full of stress and anxiety people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood.

Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extend the excitement!”

Amy Morin, another psychoanalyst, linked Christmas decorations with the pleasures of childhood, telling the site: “The holiday season stirs up a sense of nostalgia. Nostalgia helps link people to their personal past and it helps people understand their identity. For many, putting up Christmas decorations early is a way for them to reconnect with their childhoods.”

She also explained that these nostalgic memories can help remind people of spending the holidays with loved ones who have since passed away. As Morin remarked, “Decorating early may help them feel more connected with that individual.”

And that neighbor of yours who has already been decorated since Halloween? Well, according to a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, homes that have been warmly decorated for the holidays make the residents appear more “friendly and cohesive” compared to non-decorated homes when observed by strangers. Basically, a little wreath can go a long way.

So if you want to hang those stockings before you’ve digested your Thanksgiving dinner, go ahead. You might just find yourself happier for it.

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11 Black Friday Purchases That Aren't Always The Best Deal
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Black Friday can bring out some of the best deals of the year (along with the worst in-store behavior), but that doesn't mean every advertised price is worth splurging on. While many shoppers are eager to save a few dollars and kickstart the holiday shopping season, some purchases are better left waiting for at least a few weeks (or longer).

1. FURNITURE

Display of outdoor furniture.
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Black Friday is often the best time to scope out deals on large purchases—except for furniture. That's because newer furniture models and styles often appear in showrooms in February. According to Kurt Knutsson, a consumer technology expert, the best furniture deals can be found in January, and later on in July and August. If you're aiming for outdoor patio sets, expect to find knockout prices when outdoor furniture is discounted and put on clearance closer to Labor Day.

2. TOOLS

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Unless you're shopping for a specific tool as a Christmas gift, it's often better to wait until warmer weather rolls around to catch great deals. While some big-name brands offer Black Friday discounts, the best tool deals roll around in late spring and early summer, just in time for Memorial Day and Father's Day.

3. BEDDING AND LINENS

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Sheet and bedding sets are often used as doorbuster items for Black Friday sales, but that doesn't mean you should splurge now. Instead, wait for annual linen sales—called white sales—to pop up after New Year's. Back in January of 1878, department store operator John Wanamaker held the first white sale as a way to push bedding inventory out of his stores. Since then, retailers have offered these top-of-the-year sales and January remains the best time to buy sheets, comforters, and other cozy bed linens.

4. HOLIDAY DÉCOR

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If you are planning to snag a new Christmas tree, lights, or other festive décor, it's likely worth making due with what you have and snapping up new items after December 25. After the holidays, retailers are looking to quickly move out holiday items to make way for spring inventory, so ornaments, trees, yard inflatables, and other items often drastically drop in price, offering better deals than before the holidays. If you truly can't wait, the better option is shopping as close to Christmas as possible, when stores try to reduce their Christmas stock before resorting to clearance prices.

5. TOYS

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Unless you're shopping for a very specific gift that's likely to sell out before the holidays, Black Friday toy deals often aren't the best time to fill your cart at toy stores. Stores often begin dropping toy prices two weeks before Christmas, meaning there's nothing wrong with saving all your shopping (and gift wrapping) until the last minute.

6. ENGAGEMENT RINGS AND JEWELRY

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Holiday jewelry commercials can be pretty persuasive when it comes to giving diamonds and gold as gifts. But, savvy shoppers can often get the best deals on baubles come spring and summer—prices tend to be at their highest between Christmas and Valentine's Day thanks to engagements and holiday gift-giving. But come March, prices begin to drop through the end of summer as jewelers see fewer purchases, making it worth passing up Black Friday deals.

7. PLANE TICKETS AND TRAVEL PACKAGES

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While it's worth looking at plane ticket deals on Black Friday, it's not always the best idea to whip out your credit card. Despite some sales, the best time to purchase a flight is still between three weeks and three and a half months out. Some hotel sites will offer big deals after Thanksgiving and on Cyber Monday, but it doesn't mean you should spring for next year's vacation just yet. The best travel and accommodation deals often pop up in January and February when travel numbers are down.

8. FOOD AND SNACK BASKETS

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Fancy fruit, meat and cheese, and snack baskets are easy gifts for friends and family (or yourself, let's be honest), but they shouldn't be snagged on Black Friday. And because baskets are jam-packed full of perishables, you likely won't want to buy them a month away from the big day anyway. But traditionally, you'll spend less cheddar if you wait to make those purchases in December.

9. WINTER CLOTHING

Rack of women's winter clothing.
Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash.

Buying clothing out of season is usually a big money saver, and winter clothes are no exception. Although some brands push big discounts online and in-store, the best savings on coats, gloves, and other winter accessories can still be found right before Black Friday—pre-Thanksgiving apparel markdowns can hit nearly 30 percent off—and after the holidays.

10. SMARTPHONES

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While blowout tech sales are often reserved for Cyber Monday, retailers will try to pull you in-store with big electronics discounts on Black Friday. But, not all of them are really the best deals. The price for new iPhones, for example, may not budge much (if at all) the day after Thanksgiving. If you're in the market for a new phone, the best option might be waiting at least a few more weeks as prices on older models drop. Or, you can wait for bundle deals that crop up during December, where you pay standard retail price but receive free accessories or gift cards along with your new phone.

11. KITCHEN GADGETS

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Black Friday is a great shopping day for cooking enthusiasts—at least for those who are picky about their kitchen appliances. Name-brand tools and appliances often see good sales, since stores drop prices upwards of 40 to 50 percent to move through more inventory. But that doesn't mean all slow cookers, coffee makers, and utensil prices are the best deals. Many stores advertise no-name kitchen items that are often cheaply made and cheaply priced. Purchasing these lower-grade items can be a waste of money, even on Black Friday, since chances are you may be stuck looking for a replacement next year. And while shoppers love to find deals, the whole point of America's unofficial shopping holiday is to save money on products you truly want (and love).

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