The Enduring Popularity of Pizza
It doesn’t matter how you slice it, pizza is one of the world’s most popular foods. According to a 2018 survey by Voucher Codes (vouchercodes.co.uk), the average Brit will eat 731 pizzas in their lifetime. It accounts for a spend of over £9,700 on the classic dish in their lifetime – that’s a lot of money, and a lot of pizza. It’s easy to see why it’s so loved. The basic elements are simple: dough, tomato sauce and cheese. But bringing them together just seems to create magic, whether it’s a quick frozen option thrown into the oven, or one you spend hours lovingly creating in the kitchen.
A piz-za history
The history of pizza goes back centuries; using a flat piece of bread as an alternative to a plate, onto which you can add toppings, seems to have been popular very early on in history, with mention of ‘thin wheaten cakes as platters for their meals’ in Virgil’s Aenid from 19BC.
However, when someone mentions pizza, your mind probably goes to Italy. Of course; alongside pasta and Luciano Pavarotti, it’s probably the European country’s most famous export. Pizza began life as we know it in Naples, a city in southern Italy, near to Mount Vesuvius, the volcano famed for destroying the nearby town of Pompeii.
With tomatoes having been introduced to the city from Peru, adding them to the top of a flatbread made a cheap and easy meal for Naples’ poor population. With the addition of mozzarella cheese some years later, the pizza as we know it was born. It is believed to have been the creation of a Neapolitan baker called Raffaele Esposito, who also added basil, naming it ‘Pizza Margherita’ after Italy’s queen at the time.
From there, we’ve seen the pizza grow in popularity, and change and adapt to include all sorts of toppings, bases and cheeses, but the Neapolitan Margherita pizza hasn’t changed at all. There’s even an non-profit association in Naples whose mission it is to protect the traditional pizza and ensure it doesn’t change to include anything but the three key ingredients.
Around the world
Neapolitan purists notwithstanding, pizza has evolved to become just about anything you want it to be. In Chicago, the perennially popular deep-dish pizza began life in Pizzeria Uno in the 1940s. Two Italian immigrants recreated their nation’s favourite dish, but put their own spin on it; baking a crunchier crust and using a deep dish for the base. The famous pizzeria still stands in the Near North Side neighbourhood, and now even offers a vegan option.
Elsewhere, around the world, we are lucky to have a huge variety of pizza-style dishes on offer.
- Tarte Flambée – France
The French take on pizza is known as tarte flambée. Originating in the Alsace region, it has a very thin dough base, and is covered with crème fraiche, thinly sliced onions and bacon lardons. It’s easy to adapt the recipe to be suitable for vegans; choose a vegan cream cheese, and substitute the meat for smoked tofu.
- Manakish – Lebanon
Originating from the Levant (the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia), the Manakish is similar to a pizza, and is often served for breakfast or lunch. They are traditionally made from the leftover dough baked for the day’s bread, and are topped with cheese, minced lamb, or, the already-vegan option, za’atar spice and olive oil.
- Zapiekanka – Poland
A popular form of street food in Poland, a zapiekanka is made from a baguette cut lengthwise and topped with cheese and, traditionally, sautéed mushrooms before being grilled. It has its roots in the 1970s, when communism made ingredients hard to come by, and people became adept at making the most of what they had. And with Poland becoming known as a particularly vegan-friendly country, and Warsaw in particular a vegan hotspot, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding an authentic zapiekanka that suits a plant-based diet.
Pizza has become one of the easiest dishes to adapt for vegans, due to the abundance of cheese options now available. Most high street pizzerias offer a vegan choice, and it often feels as though barely a month goes by without popular takeaway pizza companies launching a new menu option. And with supermarket freezers boasting an array of choices, it’s possible to eat a different vegan pizza every night of the week!
Making your own from scratch is a great way to spend time as a family, or a fun date night option, and nothing beats homemade dough topped with melting cheese. Take a look at some of our pizza recipes for inspiration!