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Snippet of Gastropod: Pizza Pizza!

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station description Food Through the Lens of Science and History
Gastropod
Duration: 07:51
This episode of Gastropod covers everything you've ever wanted to know about the world's greatest food - pizza.
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This episode of Gastropod covers everything you've ever wanted to know about the world's greatest food - pizza. Did you know that Americans eat 100 acres of pizza a day? Have you ever wondered what country has the best pizza? Do you even know the true origin of the New York Italian classic? Humorous commentary combined with expert opinions make for excellent listening while rolling the dough and spread the cheese on your next homemade pizza.
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we eat a seriously astounding amount of pizza. Americans collectively eat 350 slices a 2nd and 100 acres a day. More than five billion pizzas are sold around the world each year. It's a lot, so we all eat it. But are we all eating the same thing to get back to where we started with the donut pizza that is going to be haunting my dreams? Is there actually a standard definition of pizza? Oh, no. Okay, the reason I'm laughing about that is because any time I'm asked, I've become somewhat of an expert or authority on the history of pizza. And any time I'm asked, there's always someone who disagrees with my definition. Carol Kostovski is a history professor at the University of Denver and author of Pizza. A Global History. So I want to be really careful about what I say here that this is my opinion as a food historian that I believe pizza is a yeast ID flatbread that has ingredients baked onto the crust. That is sort of the most basic definition of pizza. I don't get that specific where I say okay, it has to be around or it has to be square or it has to be thin or thick, or it has to have tomatoes and cheese on it. But here's the thing you asked to pizza experts. For definition of pizza, you get two different definitions. I think that we need to kind of establish the fact that pizza is pizza until you put tomato sauce on it right, because before that it's a flatbread. I mean, if not, then you could argue that the Egyptians had pizza because they had flatbreads, right? And that would be absurd to say, Francisco Goya is the head chef at modernist cuisine. They've already put out a five tome series called Bread, and now they're working on an equally exhaustive pizza book or books for which they have been doing a lot of research, which sounds delicious, although Francisco says it's actually very exhausting, too. The tally. As of December, it's been 200 pizzerias, and it's just a number that bottles of mine because I mean, if we've been to 200 Pizzeria is you have to picture there's at least five pizzas per pizzeria, and I don't want you to think that we eat the entire pizza. You have to pace yourself. It is a marathon of eating pizza, and by the end of the day you just want to like a carrot or something, a vegetable, something that feels a little bit better to your body to eat because there is such a thing as too much pizza. I'm unconvinced, but I agree with Francisco that the definition of pizza is kind of a slippery thing. I wouldn't call just any flatbread pizza. I mean, it's, you know, it's a tortilla pizza. I'm from Mexico. I would say no, but I've thought about it because it has sauce and it has cheese and it's a flatbread and, you know, it's cooked at a command, which is very high heat, so it's strictly defining it. You can see how some of these lions cross over each other. I think we can all agree that a tortilla is not a pizza. For starters, a tortilla is flat, but it's not really a flatbread. It doesn't have yeast, but there are a lot of delicious yeast and flatbreads around the world. There's lava and pita and lavash and non, and those are just off the top of my head, Carol says. There's archaeological evidence going back 10,000 years for little ancient pizza things. They were cakes of mashed grains baked on a hot stone and then talked with whatever was handy oil, honey, herbs or even more complex sources. So flatbreads go back to the Neolithic, the dawn of agriculture. And if they're yeast and flatbreads in so many different cultures, then pizza can't possibly be an Italian invention, right? These are the kind of fighting words that will land you in court. Cynthia, specifically the Court of Historical Review in San Francisco, which is a fake court stopped by real judges. They've made some landmark rulings in their time on where the martini was invented and whether or not chicken soup is the Jewish penicillin. And in 1991 the court gathered to debate a serious question. Is pizza originally Italian or Chinese? The Chinese case was surprisingly strong. The prosecutor claimed that pizza is descended from pink, to which our rice flour cakes filled with sausage and spices that were brought to Italy by our old friend Marco Polo, back in the 12 hundreds and then transformed with the use of local ingredients. But the judge wasn't buying it even before Marco Polo made his way to the east and back the Etruscans in what is now Italy, around about 1000 BC we're making little cakes that looked much more like pizza. The Italians won their day in court, so I guess we can say that pizza is not Chinese. But that's pretty much all we can say for sure. While the exact origins of ancient pizza are somewhat murky, modern pizza definitely has a birthplace where you begin to see pizza develop and being called pizza is around the 17th and 18th century in Naples, and what people ate back then that they called pizza was essentially kind of a bread with topics begged onto it. It didn't look anything like what we might visualize now, as pizza research is, the first thing that Neopolitan is called. Pizza had no tomato. In fact, it was used to flatbread with anything that was on hand. You kind of threw whatever you had usually because you didn't have a lot of ingredients. So it wasn't unusual for people to consume pizza, which was just, you know, crust or bread with maybe bits of fish baked on it, or maybe herbs that you gathered from the fields on that would look really different from what we think about is pizza today. By the late 17 hundreds, Italian dictionaries defined pizza as the word that people in Naples used for what pretty much everyone else called focaccia. A yeast ID flatbread topped with oil and herbs and sometimes olives and other salty good things, like cheese and cured meats. But what about the tomato? At least according to Francisco? A yeast of flatbread isn't really a pizza until it meets one of the most delicious vegetables ever. Oh, God, it's actually a fruit, but never mind. The tomato first had to get to Naples from Central and South America. It arrived at the very end of the 15 hundreds, but it took another century before people regularly aided. Europeans were initially a little wary of tomatoes. There was some suspicion they were maybe poisonous. But tomatoes planted in the rich volcanic soil in sunny southern Italy were particularly sweet and delicious, and someone in Naples had the brilliant idea to take these delicious tomatoes and toss them on their flatbread. I have no idea, you know who was the first person to do it. But I think it was very much the case, like I just mentioned that people kind of through whatever ingredients were on hand, and someone got this great idea of like, Yeah, let's slap a few tomatoes on top of this pizza and it caught on, at least in Naples. And that's actually the thing you have to understand. To understand where the modern pizza came from is that Naples, in the 17 hundreds, was the third largest city in Europe and also by far and away the most densely packed city. Lots of those people in Naples at the time were really poor. They lived tightly packed in tiny rooms in multi storey buildings, and they didn't have running water or kitchens. And so they had to buy any their food on the street. They were eating a lot of things you could buy hot and hold in your hand. This is how Naples developed a very particular food culture. Naples was famous for its street vendors, who walked the city and cried out their wares. Octopus balls, cones of fried anchovies melt from the bay boiled chestnuts, chunks of zucchini marinated in vinegar, this fun new food called macaroni, which, of course, you can hear about both in our macaroni and cheese episode and also in our pasta episode. Although actually Macaroni was comparatively speaking, expensive and the very poorest Neopolitan could only have that on Sundays. Pizza was half the price, and so people eight slices of it for breakfast, lunch and
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