You can find pizza in practically every country in the world. Almost everyone agrees that this tasty treat is tied to the proud culinary traditions of Italy, and Naples in particular, where petrified pizzas are still preserved in volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 74 A.D.
Historians can also point to an ancient Italian cookbook written by Marcus Gavius Apicius, a famous Roman chef who included several recipes for flatbreads covered with cheese, meat and olive oil, but no tomatoes because, little known fact, this staple of Italian cuisine is native to the Americas, which wouldn’t be discovered for another thousand years or so!
The Italians can rightfully claim pizza as part of their heritage and one of their most important contributions to world cuisine, but that doesn’t mean that the historical roots of this delicacy can’t be traced back to countries and cultures that predate even the Romans.
Etymologists have argued that the name pizza was originally derived from the ancient Greeks’ word “pita” meaning bread, and some historians argue that the very first pizzas were created by the Persian army as early as six centuries before the Christian era.
The story is that the first pizzas were made by Persian soldiers, whose metal shields doubled as cooking utensils. After a long day of marching and fighting, the soldiers would stretch a wad of dough over their distinctive round shields and set them over a cooking fire. As the dough baked, they’d spread cheese, dates, and whatever meat or vegetables were at hand over the crust and voila, the very first pizzas!
Today, you can order pizzas around the world, with everything from coconut to kangaroo as a topping. No doubt the future will bring us even more variations as cultures learn from each other and exchange an even wider variety of ingredients.
Writer: Robbie Dillon