Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pizza Food Lore

In the world of folklore which is folk wisdom about what it is we need to know about our communities is the rich and varied landscape of food lore. 

Food is essential to survival so how it is grown, prepared and served is pretty important – even when we aren’t aware of the common lore that for centuries and generations has been keeping people healthy and alive.

Food lore, like every other element of folklore (folk art, folk music, legends, etc.) does change with the times. New World immigrants can easily point to the changes they have made in their food ways and customs because of something as simple as geographics.

For example, weather patterns and soil types can provide food substitutions. Rice can be replaced by wheat, beef can replace goat, etc. Along with this are the cultural shifts that occur when people from different parts of the world form new communities. Two such examples are Tex-Mex (a blend of Mexican and Texan foodways) and Asian-inspired Jewish dinners.

In this creative atmosphere there are modern foods, like Pizza, that have deep-reaching roots into the past and can be found in a variety of societies. 

The concept of pizza is thought to have originated in Greece, but the earliest forms of pizza making were found in 6th century Persia.  Persian soldiers pressed for time, would spread dough on their shields and place tomatoes and other herbs on top to cook. Ancient Greeks typically added oils and herbs to their pizza, and the Romans were said to use cheese, honey, and bay leaves which were all easily accessible during that time. Pizza grew in popularity in Naples, Italy and was served on the street or breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It didn’t spread to the Americas until the 19th century. 

 The first evidence of pizza in the US was in Chicago made by a poor man who would try to sell a slice for two cents.  He would make it in his wash bins that were deep, which paved the way for the famous deep-dished Chicago pizza. The first pizzeria to open in the United States was in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi called “Patriaca della Pizza”.  After World War II where many of the soldiers were stationed in Italy, pizzerias began to flourish in this country.

Here are some fun modern pizza recipes that reflect today’s cultural diversity:
Sunny Side Up: Eggs and bacon pizza. 
Thai Pizza: Pizza with an extra kick.
California Pizza: Veggie-style.

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