David’s bag, which had somehow gotten lost among 18,000 other stranded bags in Frankfurt last Thursday, finally arrived in our apartment yesterday. It actually spent the night in my neighbor’s apartment, because Lufthansa had delivered the bag on Sunday when we were out to brunch, but only left a little note in my mailbox that it was there. I don’t check the mail on Sundays for internationally obvious reasons: it’s always empty on that day. Never mind that it’s often empty on other days as well, but that’s another story.
So, to celebrate the fact that David no longer had to live out of a complimentary toiletry bag we decided to make pizza. It turned into a Mexican-themed pizza when David removed a 2-pound loaf of Tillamook Pepper Jack Cheese from his bag (I don’t care how many days it has been out of a fridge – I’m eating it because it’s yummy!). However, I digress. We also chose a Mexican theme because we had some corn meal flour in my cupboard, which we used to make the dough. We topped it with the pepper jack cheese, Saturday night’s leftover tomato sauce, some peppers, salami (they don’t have pepperoni here), tomatoes, and a sprinkling of parmesan – we couldn’t remove the Italian completely out of the pizza…
Which brings me to my next point. While shopping, David and I asked ourselves: what is the history of pizza? We decided it must be Italian, from Naples (I cringed as I thought about the sardines on a Pizza Napoli…). I took it upon myself to google the question this morning, for what other resource would a smart, college-educated girl turn to for such important questions?
I know you all could do the same thing as I did, but you didn’t and I did, so I will share with you my findings. Basically, what I could glean from the first five sites or so (and Wikipedia of course!) is that pizza actually has its origins in Greece. In ancient times they used flat breads to sop up gravy and oils from their food as a replacement for plates. We still have such breads today, namely the foccacia bread and the pita bread. Pizza floated to Italy, where peasants ate flat breads with various toppings on them. The introduction of the tomato to Europe through trade* as well as Queen Margherita’s discovery of this delicious peasant food in the late 19th century led to the popularization of pizza in Italy, as well as the Pizza Margherita. This was apparently the queen’s favorite pizza made by Rafaelle Esposito, a well-known baker in Naples whom she invited to her palace to make her three types of pizza. The Pizza Margherita as you may know has a tomato sauce, cheese, and basil topping.
While pizza made it to the United States in the 19th century already, it stayed a tasty secret in the Italian-American population. It wasn’t until WWII, when American soldiers occupying Italy discovered pizza, that America’s love of pizza took off upon the soldiers’ return. Pizza was originally hawked by peddlers in Chicago on Taylor Street, who sold the pizza out of copper tubs. Famous pizzerias include Lombardi’s in New York where originally a whole pie was sold for five cents, but many people couldn’t afford to pay for the whole thing. Instead, they would name the price they could pay and get a slice accordingly. Ike Sewell opened Pizza Uno in Chicago in 1943 and invented the deep dish pizza. Domino’s was created in 1960 by Tom Monaghan and became the first delivery pizza.
Of course, a discussion about pizza would not be complete without referencing the word “pie.” In the Northeast, especially in some bakeries in Central New York, they’re known as “Tomato Pies,” actually put together backwards with the cheese first, then the toppings, and lastly the tomato sauce. Seems messy, but intriguing! The word “pie” actually comes from the Magpie, known in Italian as “pica” hence “pizza” in Italian and “pie” in English. The Magpie is a gatherer, similar to pizzas which have many different ingredients. Other etymologists claim that the word “pizza” comes from the Old High German word “bizzo” or “pizzo” meaning “mouthful,” or even from the Italian word “pizzicare” which means “to pluck,” referring to the need to remove the pizza quickly from the oven. There are many other etymologies of the word, seemingly hotly contested, but I would say as long as you’re happy with the pizza you have in front of you, all is well!
* Tomatoes, as you may know, are actually native to southern North America and Central America, aka Mexico – points for our Mexican Pizza!
For the Pizza Dough:
1 Tbsp Yeast
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 cup warm Water
2 cups Corn Flour
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
ca. 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 ½ cups Tomato/Pizza Sauce (vegetarian spaghetti sauce works fine)
2 cups Pepper Jack Cheese (grated)
Salami or Pepperoni (as desired)
½ each of Red and Green Peppers (chopped)
1 clove Garlic (chopped or pressed)
1 Tomato (thinly sliced)
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in water until it foams. Stir in the flour ½ cup at a time. Knead about ten minutes on a floured surface, adding about a tablespoon of oil as needed. Let rise 45min to 1hour in an oiled bowl placed in a warm area. Punch down, let rest ten minutes, and pat into a lightly oiled (lined with parchment paper) pizza pan.
After the dough has risen, chop and grate the toppings. Sauté the garlic with the peppers for about two minutes on medium heat. Assemble the pizza as desired and bake*.
* I can’t give you a specific temperature or time, but a hot oven for a short amount of time is better than a cooler oven for longer. This way it will get nice and crispy. It also helps to make your dough as thin as possible.