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Pizza – il pasto delizioso

Country Roads

December 31, 2012
Arvid Huisman ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

While the two words are related there is a significant difference between a gourmet and a gourmand. A gourmet is "a connoisseur of good food; a person with a discerning palate" while a gourmand is "a person who enjoys eating and often eats too much." I am the latter.

While I am an ice cream addict for treats and desserts, if you were to ask me which food I enjoy eating the most and often too much I would have to say, "Pizza!" I could eat pizza several times a week and not tire of it.

Ironically, I was a teenager before I ever tasted pizza. A pizzeria opened in our rural Iowa county seat and as part of a church youth activity we ate at Rocky's Pizza. It was love at first bite!

My father was a meat and potatoes guy so pizza for supper was out of the question at home. One evening, however, Dad had an evening dinner meeting so Mom purchased a Chef Boyardee pizza mix and delighted her large brood with pizza for supper. I loved Mom's pizza, too.

So it was that pizza joined Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren as Italian things I admire.

Pizza has been around for a while. Historians tell us that the first use of the word pizza dates back more than 1,000 years. The term "pizza" first appeared in a Latin text from Gaeta, Italy, in 997 AD. The document claims that a tenant of a certain property was to give the bishop of Gaeta twelve pizzas every Christmas Day and another twelve every Easter Sunday. Lucky bishop.

In regards to the origin of the word "pizza," the jury is still out. There are a number of theories about Latin and Greek originations but the Oxford English Dictionary indicates the word came from Germany.

The Old High German word "bizzo" or "pizzo" means mouthful. It is related to our English words bit and bite. Some historians believe that the word was brought to Italy in the middle of the 6th century by the Germanic Lombard invaders.

Pizza was brought to the United States in the latter part of the 19th century by Italian immigrants. The word "pizza," however, was not seen published in the U.S. until 1904 when it appeared in the Boston Journal.

Pizza quickly became popular in cities with large Italian populations where it was consumed primarily by the Italian immigrants and their families.

World War II changed that quickly. Allied troops occupying Italy discovered the pizzeria and brought their love of the dish back to the States.

The first commercial pizza mix was introduced in 1948. "Roman Pizza Mix" brought the pizza to many non-Italian homes and the rest is history. Independent and chain pizza restaurants popped up everywhere during the last half of the 20th century.

Throughout Northern European-dominated Iowa today you're never more than a few miles from a pizzeria. Even my hometown of 200 has a restaurant known miles around for its delicious pizza.

As delicious as it is, I have never seen pizza recognized as health food. I have a broader view of health food, however, and enjoy several of the primary food groups when I eat pizza. I get my grains from the crust, my fruit from the tomato sauce, my vegetables from mushrooms and onions, my meat in the toppings and my milk from the soft serve ice cream many pizza joints now offer. See what a complete food pizza is?

The biggest problem I have with pizza nowadays is that I can't eat as much of it as I could years ago. In my early 20s we enjoyed a pizza buffet in a nearby city where I could eat an easy dozen slices of thin crust pizza. Today a few slices and I'm full.

A convenience store near my office sells pizza by the slice during the lunch hour; very handy. A couple of weeks ago I spoke to a breakfast club that meets at a metro country club. We were served a breakfast pizza that could put General Mills and Kellogg's out of business!

Pizza. The Italians describe it well -- delizioso.



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