How Pizza Became ‘The World’s Most Popular Food’

An emblematic dish of popular Italian cuisine, pizza has traveled from Naples to Tokyo… suitable for all tastes, it has adapted to local specialties. A three-volume encyclopedia and a Netflix series have been dedicated to him.

It takes insanity and a healthy appetite to devote seventeen hundred pages to pizza. A simple disc of white dough, an ancient mixture of flour, salt and water, garnished with tomatoes and cheese, did it deserve such indulgence? Yes, assured Nathan Myhrvold who devoted three years of his life to the transalpine specialty and devoted an encyclopedic summation to it in three volumes. (Modern Pizza), Almost as heavy as a Neapolitan wood-fired stove. “Pizza is arguably the most popular food in the world,” Who, with his team, has logged kilometers (one hundred and twenty thousand) of surveying and testing (eight hundred yards of chopped, sliced ​​and chewed samples), his carbon footprint has exploded no doubt as has his cholesterol level.

“Pizza is multicultural, it is found in practically all countries, but with local adaptations”, Confirms this hyperactive with a CV as long as a trattoria card, who was therefore able to judge the status of many faces of the Italian round. An in-depth account of a worldwide success story, along with a list of over a thousand recipes The voluminous book indeed illustrates the infinite adaptability of Margherita from Naples to Tokyo, New York or São Paulo. The French would be the second biggest eaters in the world today, behind the Americans… so ahead of the Italians.

Italy to North Korea

Dough galettes cooked and decorated in Naples since at least the XVI centurye In the century, pizza actually experienced a global boom during the 20th centurye century, Italians first traveled in luggage, when a million Neapolitans left for France or the United States. It then returned to re-introduce Europe in American form and conquer other continents according to the same process: first eaten as a foreign dish in restaurants, before being trivialized by its marketing in supermarkets and fully integrated into local customs. dish

Nathan Myhrvold is clear: pizza can be found everywhere today, including in Nairobi or the Palau Islands, in Micronesia, but also in Mongolia or Kyrgyzstan. And even in Pyongyang, North Korea since 2009… The only exceptions that will still escape the grip of the Italian round: the islands of Kiribati and Tuvalu. A victory that will outlast Earth’s atmosphere as NASA plans to put it on the menu for its astronauts “Margaritas generated by a 3D printer”, as says the anthropologist Sylvie Sánchez who devoted a very voluminous essay to Italian specialties (Pizza, Culture and Globalization, CNRS edition).

Margherita Olympic Games

A sign of time and its influence, this great traveler of modern food has even become a major standard of living: the pizza index of the principle of the Big Mac index (invented in 1986) now makes it possible to determine it. , through its price variation, an illustration of the evolution of purchasing power from one country to another… Another example of the kingship of this planet: Pizza has its World Fair, held every year in Las Vegas, where the latest innovations in the sector are displayed, keeping the dough from getting wet. From breathalyzer boxes designed for home delivery to high-tech applications. There are also competitions in acrobatic throwing, dough stretching and cardboard box folding. Since the Margherita Olympic Games, in short, pizza has become, like football, a sport without borders, which also has an annual world championship (in Parma).

Good flour, this combined specialty has become accustomed to all latitudes, dressed in local colors, in tune with current trends. Kosher pizza in Israel, halal in Bangladesh, gluten-free or veggie… “It seems to be engraved in its DNA that it can lend itself to the craziest reinterpretations, because it is an atypical culinary object: it avoids the rules usually applied during meals, can be eaten hot or cold, it combines playful nibbling . Sharing runs and enthusiastic snacks. He’s not serious and yet genuinely nurturing.” Anthropologists analyze.

Its infinite variations are sometimes inspired by a local dish that has been “rejected in pizza mode”. » : Anchoides for Marseille anchovy pizza; Burgers for North American Ground Meat Pizza; In an Iranian version of Khoresh Ghormeh Sabzi, a traditional herb stew… Canadians invented the Hawaiian pizza (born against all odds, in Toronto, off the Pacific atoll) with the controversial mix of pineapple and bacon…

An excerpt from the book Modernist Pizza.

An excerpt from the book Modernist Pizza.

Photo by Nathan Myhrvold/The Cooking Lab, LLC.

Conveniently, pizza also knows how to team up with its local cousins: in Rome, it’s joined forces with focaccia to deliver pizza. Al Taglio ; In the United States, he met “pie” (pie) to give birth to “Chicago style”. », Baked in a mold and crumbling under a thick filling. “Pizza has demonstrated, unusually in our contemporary history, an integration, an association of North America and Latin Europe”, Note Sylvie Sanchez.

The street girl, decked out in an elaborate animal trap, has today achieved the status of an object of art and passion, as evidenced by the Netflix documentary series Monomaniac.Chef’s Table: Pizza, which celebrates in six episodes and in a highly polished aesthetic the “John Coltrane” and “Michael Angelo” of cannabis flour – installed and crowned by American Chris Bianco, respectively, in Phoenix. The New York Times America’s Best Pizzeria; And Romain Gabriel Bonci, head of the very popular pizzeria, whose pizza Al Taglio, Garnished after cooking with octopus or foie gras, La Botte has effected a small revolution.

A constant back and forth

Two manufacturers who embody a process of sophisticated and ongoing upmarket that began in the 1980s, with the advent of “Artisan Pizza” and some “Gourmet Pizza” who gradually transformed the pizza maker into the chef and the plebeian dish into the creation of haute couture. The Italian guide Gambero Rosso (our Michelin equivalent) has published an edition since 2005 exclusively dedicated to pizzerias. But starting in the late 1970s, chef Alice Waters installed a wood-fired oven in her restaurant in San Francisco and offered refined creations including goat cheese and nettles. A few years later, it was followed by an Austrian restaurateur in Los Angeles, Wolfgang Puck, associated with pizza maker Ed Ladow, who created the pizza. “Dish for the Stars” Uses the same ingredients as haute cuisine: caviar, smoked salmon, duck or truffle. From a modest slice of bread, pizza has become a canvas for composing an innovative meal, both accessible and refined.

“The French reached very close to Italy for toppings, buffalo milk mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes”

A double world champion, awarded for his creations based on radicchio, panna cotta with gorgonzola, parmesan crumble and speck crisp, John Berg embodied the creative and demanding pizza that is making a mark today. Based near Aix-en-Provence, for over ten years he has been training pizza makers who want to perfect their knowledge and chefs who want to get their hands dirty. A wise observer of recent changes in pizza, the Provençal maestro has noticed a double evolution in recent years, in terms of fermentation but also in the products chosen. “The French have come very close to Italy for toppings, buffalo milk mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, grana padano, Parmesan, all of which did not exist on the plate ten years ago. On the contrary, I think the French inspired the Italians in fermentation: Gabriel Bonsi came to do an internship with one of the best French bakers at Cistern. They come in search of French wisdom stemming from an old baking culture. »

As with creativity, it is also the search for authenticity that is now in order, with a proliferation of addresses that highlight artisan knowledge, knots and long-term fermentation techniques, quality ingredients produced – San Tomato Marzano, mozzarella fior di latte or buffalo milk from Campania. The Neapolitans themselves, in a traditionalist spirit, have worked to create a recipe of their centuries-old specialty “safe”, With the creation of Associazione verace pizza napoletana (AVPN), which adds and protects its label “State of the Art” – pH of water, at oven cooking temperature (preferably wood oven) between 6 and 7, established at 485 degrees.

Thus is written the endless story of this crisp and golden globetrotter: a constant coming and going between cultures according to fashion and inspiration. Which expands into a hunger for authenticity and a desire for novelty, as a string of mozzarella melts.

to read
modern pizza, By Nathan Myhrvold. Encyclopaedia in three volumes, published by cooking lab, 1708 pages. 375 euros.

there is
Chef’s Table: Pizza, on netflix.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *