A Penchant for Pizza
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN ITALY
KING Ferdinand I (1751–1825) is said to have disguised himself as a commoner and, in clandestine fashion, visited a poor neighborhood in Naples. Why the secrecy? One story has it that he wanted to sink his teeth into a food that the queen had banned from the royal court—pizza.
If Ferdinand were alive today, he would have no trouble indulging his appetite. Currently, there are some 30,000 pizzerias in Italy, and each year they produce enough pizzas to serve 45 to each inhabitant!
Pizza may have originated in Naples about 1720. Back then, pizza was primarily for the poor, a “fast food” that was sold and consumed outdoors. Vendors would traverse the streets loudly calling out to advertise their tasty delicacies. The pizzas were kept warm in a scudo, a copper receptacle that was carried on the vendor’s head.
King Ferdinand I eventually made his penchant for pizza known to the royal court. Before long, this street delicacy won such favor that even members of the wealthy elite and the royal class began flocking to pizzerias. Ferdinand’s grandson, King Ferdinand II, went so far as to have a wood-burning oven built in the gardens of Capodimonte Palace in 1832. Thus, he was able to keep his aristocratic guests happy.
Today, pizza is a favorite food of young people, but a word of caution is in order. To be considered nutritious, pizza should be made from healthful ingredients that are balanced in carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Olive oil is a recommended ingredient in pizza. It promotes the formation of HDL, described as “the good type of cholesterol that helps clean the arteries.”
Furthermore, when pizza is cooked well, it rarely causes digestive problems. In part, this is because the carbohydrates in the flour receive an ample amount of hydration during the kneading and leavening process. Meanwhile, the presence of complex carbohydrates contributes to a full feeling, which usually helps keep even the most enthusiastic pizza lover from overindulging.
The next time you indulge your penchant for pizza, recall its humble origins. And be glad that King Ferdinand I did not keep his love for pizza a secret.
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▪ Pizza is best cooked in a wood-burning oven. The smoke that is released during cooking gives the pizza a delicate aroma, while the thin layer of ash on the bottom of the pizza gives it a delicious taste.
▪ The world’s largest circular pizza was made in 1990. Its diameter measured more than 122 feet [37 meters], and it weighed more than 12 tons [12,000 kg]!
▪ The age-old custom of throwing pizza dough into the air and rotating it is not just for show. The centrifugal force that is created flattens the dough into a disk with a slightly raised border—a perfect base for a pizza!
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