The History of Pizza

The history of pizza begins in antiquity, when various ancient cultures produced flatbreads with toppings.

The History of Pizza

The word pizza was first documented in AD 997 in Gaeta and successively in different parts of Central and Southern Italy. The precursor of pizza was probably the focaccia, a flat bread known to the Romans as panis focacius, to which toppings were then added.

Modern pizza developed in Naples, when tomato was added to the focaccia in the late 18th century. However, pizza was mainly eaten in the country of Italy and by emigrants from there. This changed after World War II, when Allied troops stationed in Italy came to enjoy pizza along with other Italian foods.

Origins

Foods similar to pizza have been made since the neolithic age. Records of people adding other ingredients to bread to make it more flavorful can be found throughout ancient history.

The History of PizzaIn Sardinia, French and Italian archaeologists have found bread baked over 7,000 years ago. According to Professor Philippe Marinval, the local islanders leavened this bread.

The Ancient Greeks had a flat bread called plakous (πλακοῦς, gen. πλακοῦντος—plakountos)which was flavored with toppings like herbs, onion, and garlic.

In the 6th century BC, the soldiers in Persian King Darius I armies baked flatbreads with cheese and dates on top of their battle shields.

The History of PizzaAn early reference to a pizza-like food occurs in the Aeneid (ca. 19 BC), when Celaeno, queen of the Harpies, foretells that the Trojans would not find peace until they are forced by hunger to eat their tables (Book III). In Book VII, Aeneas and his men are served a meal that includes round cakes (like pita bread) topped with cooked vegetables. When they eat the bread, they realize that these are the “tables” prophesied by Celaeno.

Some commentators have suggested that the origins of modern pizza can be traced to pizzarelle, which were kosher for Passover cookies eaten by Roman Jews after returning from the synagogue on that holiday, though some also trace its origins to other Italian paschal breads. Abba Eban has suggested that modern pizza “was first made more than 2000 years ago when Roman soldiers added cheese and olive oil to matzah”.

The History of PizzaOther examples of flatbreads that survive to this day from the ancient Mediterranean world are focaccia (which may date back as far as the ancient Etruscans); Mankoucheh in Lebanon, coca (which has sweet and savory varieties) from Catalonia; Valencia and the Balearic Islands; the Greek Pita; Lepinja in the Balkans; or Piadina in the Romagna part of Emilia-Romagna in Italy.

Foods similar to flatbreads in other parts of the world include Chinese bing (a wheat flour-based Chinese food with a flattened or disk-like shape); the Indian paratha (in which fat is incorporated); the Central and South Asian naan (leavened) and roti (unleavened); the Sardinian carasau, spianata, guttiau, pistoccu; and Finnish rieska. Also worth noting is that throughout Europe there are many similar pies based on the idea of covering flat pastry with cheese, meat, vegetables and seasoning such as the Alsatian flammkuchen, German zwiebelkuchen, and French quiche.

The History of PizzaIn 16th-century Naples, a galette flatbread was referred to as a pizza. Known as the dish for poor people, it was sold in the street and was not considered a kitchen recipe for a long time. This was later replaced by oil, tomatoes (after Europeans came into contact with the Americas) or fish. In 1843, Alexandre Dumas, père, described the diversity of pizza toppings. An often recounted story holds that on 11 June 1889, to honour the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, the Neapolitan pizzamaker Raffaele Esposito created the “Pizza Margherita”, a pizza garnished with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, to represent the national colours of Italy as on the Italian flag.

The History of PizzaPizza is now a type of bread and tomato dish, often served with cheese. However, until the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, the dish was sweet, not savory, and earlier versions which were savory more resembled the flat breads now known as schiacciata.Pellegrino Artusi’s classic early-twentieth-century cookbook, La Scienza in cucina e l’Arte di mangiar bene gives three recipes for pizza, all of which are sweet. However, by 1927, Ada Boni’s collection of regional cooking includes a recipe using tomatoes and mozzarella.

Text from Wikipedia

Medieval Monday – Pokerounce

A historic sweatmeat recipe found on Cook It!
Medieval Monday – Pokerounce

A medieval sweetmeat to be eaten at the end of a meal. Sugar was an expensive luxury so honey sweetened foods were popular. The range of imported spices used would still have made this an expensive dish. Galingale is an aromatic spice, a little like ginger, but worth using if you can get it.

This dish is not unlike modern honey dishes which you might know, such as baklava.

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Tart in Ymber Day / Terter for Emberdagene

A fasting tart recipe found at Let Hem Boyle
Tart in Ymber Day / Terter for Emberdagene

In the liturgical calendar of the Western Christian churches, Ember  (Ymber) days are four separate sets of three days within the same week — specifically, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday — roughly equidistant in the circuit of the year, that are set aside for fasting and prayer. These days set apart for special prayer and fasting were considered especially suitable for the ordination of clergy. The Ember Days are known in Latin as the quattuor anni tempora (the “four seasons of the year”), or formerly as the jejunia quattuor temporum (“fasts of the four seasons”).

The four quarterly periods during which the ember days fall are called the embertides.

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Pumpes – Meat Balls / Kjøttboller

A historic dinner recipe found on CookItPumpes – Meat Balls / Kjøttboller

The original recipe:

‘Take fayre buttys of vele and hewe hem,and grnd hem,and wyth eyroun(eggs); caste powder pepyr, gyngere, safroun, galingal and herbes also raysonys of coraunce. Sethe in a pan wyth fayre water. Than putte it on a spete round and lete hem rosty. Serve hem forth.’

Pommeaulx (abridged)

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Eat Like an Egyptian

An article by Stephanie Butler publised on
history.com october 2013
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Archeological discoveries have told us much about how ancient Egyptians worshiped, celebrated and mourned. But these scientific finds have also provided tantalizing clues about how–and what–this complex civilization ate. From grains like emmer and kamut to cloudy beer and honey-basted gazelle, this week’s Hungry History focuses on the meals of ancient Egypt.

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Bread and beer were the two staples of the Egyptian diet. Everyone from the highest priest to the lowliest laborer would eat these two foods every day, although the quality of the foods for the priest would undoubtedly be higher. The main grain cultivated in Egypt was emmer. Better known today as farro, emmer happens to be a fairly well balanced source of nutrition: it’s higher in minerals and fiber than similar grains. Breads and porridge were made from the grain, as well as a specially devised product that modern-day archeologists call “beer bread.”

Eat Like an Egyptian_02Beer bread was made from dough that used more yeast than normal breads, and it was baked at a temperature that didn’t kill off the yeast cultures. Brewers crumbled the bread into vats and let it ferment naturally in water. This yielded a thick and cloudy brew that would probably disgust our modern palates. But it was also nourishing and healthy, and filled in many nutritive deficiencies of the lower-class diet.

But ancient Egyptians did not survive on carbohydrates alone: Hunters could capture a variety of wild game, including hippos, gazelles, cranes as well as smaller species such as hedgehogs. Fish were caught, then salted and preserved; in fact fish curing was so important to Egyptians that only temple officials were allowed to do it. Honey was prized as a sweetener, as were dates, raisins and other dried fruits. Wild vegetables abounded, like celery, papyrus stalks and onions.

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Although no recipes from the times remain, we have a fair idea of how the Egyptians prepared their food thanks to dioramas and other objects left in tombs. Laborers ate two meals a day: a morning meal of bread, beer and often onions, and a more hearty dinner with boiled vegetables, meat and more bread and beer. Nobles ate well, with vegetables, meat and grains at every meal, plus wine and dairy products like butter and cheese. Priests and royalty ate even better. Tombs detail meals of honey-roasted wild gazelle, spit-roasted ducks, pomegranates and a berry-like fruit called jujubes with honey cakes for dessert. To top it all off, servant girls would circulate with jugs of wine to refill empty glasses: the perfect end to an Egyptian banquet.

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Medieval Monday – Almond Milk / Mandelmelk

A staple medieval recipe found on mediumaevum.tumblr.com
Medieval Monday - Almond Milk / Mandelmelk

Almond milk was a staple of the medieval kitchen. It was used in a wide variety of dishes as a substitute for milk or cream, especially on “fish days”, when the church placed restrictions on what foods could be eaten (the most prominent of which were the days during lent). Fortunately, almond milk is quick and easy to make.

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Grilling Tips from the Ancient Greeks

Article by Stephanie Butler posted on history.com in 2014

Love to grill? Well, you’re not the first. In fact, the Greeks beat us all to it by more than 3,000 years. Recently, archeologist Julie Hruby of Dartmouth College presented her research findings about how exactly the ancient Greeks used their grills at the Archeological Institute of America’s annual conference in Chicago. Hruby’s research centered on her work with ancient souvlaki trays and griddles from Mycenaean-era sites in Greece.

Souvlaki tray
Souvlaki tray

In years past, everyday objects like cooking pots were often thrown away at architectural sites, in favor of more glamorous items like vases or jewelry. But Hruby decided to take a second look at the trays and griddles to help solve some long-standing archeological mysteries. For starters, scientists knew the souvlaki trays would have somehow held skewers of roasting meat. But they didn’t know if cooks rested the meat directly on the trays over the fire, or if the trays were meant for hot coals with the meat placed on top. And the griddles, presumably for bread baking, had one smooth side and one side pocked with small holes. What would be best for baking?

To solve these problems, Hruby turned to an unlikely source: ceramicist Connie Podleski at the Oregon College of Art and Craft. Hruby and Podleski mixed their own American clay to imitate the rough, gritty Mycenaean clay. They then fashioned new souvlaki trays and griddles to the exact specifications of the originals, and put them to the test over an open fire.

Griddles
Griddles

The results of this ingenious experiment answered all the scholars’ questions. When meat skewers were placed directly on the trays over the fire, the thickness of the tray resulted in uncooked souvlaki. A much tastier result occurred when hot coals were shoveled onto the trays, and the skewers placed directly above. Essentially, according to Hruby, the trays were portable barbeque pits, “perhaps used during Mycenaean picnics.” As for the griddles, Hruby found that baking bread stuck much more readily to the smooth sides of the utensil than the hole-marked side. This led her to believe that the rough surface could have served as a primitive nonstick pan, as the holes also result in a more even dispersion of oil across the cooking surface.