After the delicious but rich (and fattening) meals over the festive season, I tend to cook and eat lighter and healthier meals in the new year.
However, my husband has his own remedy for the elaborate and heavy meals of the holidays — pizza to go. He often justifies his pizza-intensity which follows the holidays by telling me that I deserve a rest from the kitchen, and that it is an excellent and casual contrast to the formal meals of the season just past. I do enjoy pizza, but not quite as much as my husband and many other Americans do. This made me think a little about pizza, so I studied this subject a bit.
According to Carol Helstosky, associate professor of history at the University of Denver and author of “Pizza: A Global History,” the ancient Greeks and Romans had a version of pizza a couple of thousand years ago — a flatbread cooked with herbs and oils. However, pizza as we know it did not start to develop until the 18th century in Naples — an Italian waterfront city that had hordes of working poor people who bought much of their food from street vendors. These Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza was a flatbread with various toppings that were local to the region and remain popular, including tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.
The popularity of pizza spread across Italy after the country unified in 1861, and legend says that Italy’s Queen Margherita loved pizza so much that she decreed that this simple dish be named after herself! In the late 19th century, Italian immigrants came to the United States, and those from Naples took the tasty dish to New York and other American cities. The first documented United States pizzeria was G. (for Gennaro) Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905. Pizza really began to take off as a fast food after the Second World War and, as is the American way, local varieties became popular, including Chicago thick crust and Californian gourmet pizzas with smoked salmon. Some of the big food and restaurant companies got involved, and then pizza really began to go global.
Today, according to Pizza Magazine’s annual “Pizza Power Report” (I am not making this up — visit www.pmq.com for proof), pizza continues to dominate. Here are a few interesting facts from the report:
• Hamburgers are still the No. 1 restaurant food in America, but pizza remains a strong No. 2.
• The U.S. market grew by about 8 percent in 2014, while Asia Pacific was up a whopping 27 percent.
• There are 73,000 pizza restaurants in the USA, which generated sales of $39 billion in 2014.
• The number of pizza restaurants grew by around 2 percent that year. Most of the newcomers were independents, but the sector is still dominated by chains that own around two thirds of all pizzerias.
• The biggest players are Pizza Hut, followed by Domino’s, Little Caesars, Papa John’s and Papa Murphy’s.
• Frozen pizza sales remain static but are also huge, with a market worth $5.5 billion.
I will leave you with a quote from American actor Kevin James: “There’s no better feeling in the world than a warm pizza box on your lap”.
God bless America and happy New Year!
Francis can be contacted at email@example.com or via her PR agency at www.lesleyfrancispr.com