Origins of Pizza
I think that everyone probably has certain things that they don’t realize how much they enjoy until they are right there in front of them or they are actively enjoying it. For me, one of those things is pizza. It’s not until I am actually eating it that I can tell you how good it is. There are many different kinds of pizza and I suppose there are also other ways to enjoy it as well. As I do with the things I enjoy, I wonder where pizza finds its very beginning and how it has grown into the great popular beast that it is today.
While many know that pizza, as we know it today, began in Italy, there has been something much like it, that likely inspired it, around for a while. Starting all the way back with the Persians in the 6th century, soldiers under Darius the Great, the ruler at the time, would cook flatbread with dates and cheese on the tops of their shields. There is a mention of something vaguely pizza-like in the Aeneid, wherein the Harpy Queen warned Aeneas that the Trojans would not be at peace until they were forced to eat their tables. Later in the myth, the soldiers and Aeneas are served circular ‘cakes’ (flat bread) covered in vegetables, which they realize are the tables that they would not be happy until they ate. You could also look at the similar kinds of flatbreads that the Egyptians ate, although they are different from how we think of modern pizza as these often lacked toppings.
When we want to look at the origin of pizza as we know it today, we must cast our glance to Naples where it first came to be. Flatbreads similar to the ones from the Persians and other cultures after were sold on the streets of Naples by Street Vendors and other such places as a quick and easy source of food, perhaps similar to modern fast food. At the time this began, Naples was an independent state. It wasn’t until 1861 that Naples became a part of Italy and later in the 19th century, the city received a visit from King Umberto I and Queen Margherita, who grew bored of the French cuisine that they had been indulging in the rest of their trip and instead wanted a selection of the cities pizzas. The Queen’s favorite was a pizza mozzarella, with soft white cheese, basil and red tomatoes which have since instead become known as a Margherita.
So much time has been put into the development of something that has become fairly commonplace in the lives of many. The history of something so seemingly simple stretches farther back than you would initially think. I think that is true of so many things out there that we do not often consider and there are likely many more things that will one day come to be that are much the same.