It is thought that originally, pizza (from the Italian word ‘pinsa,’ meaning flatbread) was an adaption of matzoth that Roman soldiers developed a taste for and brought back from Palestine. It was basically flour and water cooked on a flat rock with olive oil and herbs sprinkled on it.
With the introduction of the Indian Water Buffalo to Italy, mozzarella cheese was added and in 1530, Italian peasants discovered that tomatoes were not poisonous and Italian cuisine was changed forever.
How Pizza Became America’s Favorite Food
When Italians began immigrating to the United States in the late 19th Century, pizza started to become a staple among areas in which large populations of Italians resided, in cities like Chicago and New York City. Yet pizza was virtually unknown to non-Italian Americans until World War II, when returning GIs who had served in Italy came back with a taste for this favorite dish they had “discovered” while making the world safe for democracy.
History of National Pizza Month
National Pizza Month came about in October of 1984, when Santa Claus, Indiana pizzeria owner Gerry Durnell decided that a month should be set aside to honor this simple dish. In addition to being a pizzeria owner, Durnell was also editor of Pizza Today Magazine. He chose October because that was the month that the first issue of his magazine was published.
Although any month would work, it seems appropriate that October would be chosen. With the Baseball World Series and College and National League Football in full swing, you can bet a lot of pies are eaten. Pizza also seems to be the fuel of choice for late night brain-storming sessions, parties and get-togethers.
In fact, with 63,000+ pizzerias serving pizza to 94 percent of Americans each month, it works out to 45 slices of pizza per person per year in the United States. That’s 100 acres of pizza per day, or 350 slices per second! Pass the bicarb, please.
Crazy Pizza Combos
As for what goes on a pizza, the sky is the limit. If there is a trend in food you can bet that sooner or later it will appear on pizza, be it Buffalo chicken wings, all manner of vegetables as well as every type of meat and fish or combination thereof imaginable. Any kind of cheese is fair game and there is even a variety of dessert pizzas covered with pie fillings and drizzled with cake frosting. YUM!
Pizza is the ultimate “I’m hungry … what’s to eat in the house” creation. You rummage a can of corn beef hash from the pantry, find some Swiss cheese hidden in the back of the fridge, a few spoons of sauerkraut from the jar of the fridge door and some thousand island dressing, pop it on some dough made of rye flower and caraway seeds and voila “Reuben Pizza!” Ok, maybe not … but you get the idea.
As for the dough, you have choices. You can go to the store and purchase raw dough or flat breads or you can be adventurous and make your own. It’s really simple. In a bowl, combine:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 package of yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons of salt
3 tablespoons of oil (olive oil preferred)
3 cups of lukewarm water
Allow dough to rest for 30 minutes then knead. Flatten onto a well greased 11 inch round pizza pan or 18” x 13” rectangular baking sheet.
Add sauce and toppings (but not cheese) and let rise for 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven while it is rising to 450˚ and place on the bottom rack for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove and add cheese, place on top rack of top 1/3 of oven and bake for an additional 6 to 8 minutes until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown. Remove and let sit for five minutes for cheese to “set”. Serve hot.
Those that are health conscience can substitute whole wheat flour (add two table spoons of honey to the mixture). This recipe gives you a thick, Sicilian style crust.
Cook up two pounds of diced boneless chicken breast in two tablespoons of olive oil, one clove of chopped garlic and two tablespoons of Italian seasoning. Paint pizza (or spaghetti) sauce on the spread-out dough. Add chicken and one cup of raisons, sprinkle one pound of combined shredded mozzarella, parmesan and sharp cheddar cheeses. Bake as instructed above. This makes up for the Reuben Pizza.
Delicioso! Enjoy pizza month!