Saturday, 9 February, is World Pizza Day and if you’re like the majority of us, when you hear the word ‘pizza’ you probably start salivating. Surely one of the world’s most ubiquitous and much-loved foods, pizza is to modern day pop culture what cucumber sandwiches must have been to the Victorians in the 1800s. Today the breadth and scope of toppings is astounding, and in some cases dare we say absurd – the Russians have a pizza known as ‘mockba’ which is Russian for ‘Moscow’, and it is famously topped with four different kinds of fish: sardines, tuna, mackerel and salmon; AND it’s traditionally served cold! Each to his own, I know, but I might just give that one a skip.
The most basic pizza, of course, is the Margherita, and legend holds that in 1889 when a Neapolitan pizza maker was commissioned to create a pizza in honour of the visiting Queen Margherita, he chose to prepare a dish that would represent the colours of the Italian flag – hence the red of tomatoes, the green of basil and the white of mozzarella. We do tend to think of Italy as the birthplace of pizza, but that’s not entirely true. As it turns out, the Greeks used to make a derivate of pizza centuries before – they would cook flat breads in mud ovens. But it was only in the 16th century when tomatoes made their way from Peru to Europe (incidentally, Europeans initially thought tomatoes were poisonous) and Neapolitans put tomatoes on their yeast dough, that the most basic of pizzas was born.
After many transformations, pizza eventually made its way to America and in 1905, the first pizzeria, Lombardi’s, opened in New York – amazingly enough, it’s still open and serving pizza today catering for the Little Italy section of NY. Other fun pizza facts according to Mental Floss are that the first frozen pizza hit the market in 1962; the Hawaiian pizza was invented the same year; the largest pizza in the world was 40 metres in diameter and weighed 23,249 kilograms; and on average Americans eat 350 slices of pizza each second, with 40% of them eating pizza at least once a week – I wonder if the same could be said of South Africans?
No one seems too sure about when World Pizza Day was first celebrated, but it’s clear to see why this dish deserves a day all to itself. So, whether it’s in-store, take out or home-made (remember N1 for the best in quality meat Cape Town for all your toppings) – Happy Pizza Day and have a slice for us!