Pizza in the Stone Age

We all have eaten pizza at least once, for many it became an instant favorite from the first time it touched one of their taste buds. Kids dream about being allowed to eat pizza every day and some college students actually live mostly on it. Many associate pizza with the marketing revolution, fast food chains and Italian restaurants, but the origins of pizza go well back into the Stone Age.

Researcher have found that in the Italian island of Sardinia, bread has been baked for more than 7,000 years and the local tribes already leavened their bread. Ancient Greeks also had a flat bread called “plakous” which was flavored by adding herbs, garlic, and onions. Many other flat breads were developed by many tribes and settlements across the old world.

The first modern pizza was created around the mid-19th century, once tomato was introduced to the European cuisine from the Americas. Although many Europeans thought that tomatoes were poisonous, in the poor area of Naples people started using it as topping for the flat bread. The dish gained popularity very fast and it became a tourist attraction.

The oldest pizza known is called Mariana and includes tomato sauce, oregano, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. Mariana is the word Italians use for the wife of the Seamen, they would usually receive them with this dish after a day of hard work in the Mediterranean Sea.

Pizza was one of the first foods brought by the Italian immigrants in the United Stated in the 19th century. The Boston Journal was the first to reference pizza in the new world. It became a traditional dish among the Italian immigrants living in the U.S. During the Second World War many Americans that fought in Europe discovered pizza. When they were back home, they had been enchanted by the flavors and the dish rapidly gained popularity across the U.S.

The next time you enjoy a slice of pizza think about the years it took for this dish to be completed and the great opportunity you have to be able to enjoy it now.

Italian Food for a Longer Life

The average life expectancy in the first world is around 78 years, what makes some people live longer remained a mystery for a long time. Once in the 20th century researchers found that some regions of the world had average life spans longer than those from other regions. Researchers decided to conduct some social experiments and try to elucidate what habits or diet was giving these people that extra boost of life.

One of the main and best-researched zones is the Italian island of Sardinia. This warm and beautiful island surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea is probably the place of origin of pasta. Sardinians mostly live an active life researchers found, and this was a major contributor to human health. Surprisingly researchers also found high intake of fats especially olive oil, high consumption of red wine and cheese. Many of the centenarians interviewed still love eating homemade pizza, cheese, and wine. It is hard to ask them questions and try to look back in time wondering why they lived so long. Researchers concluded that the high intake of tomatoes also played an important role in their longevity as the component lycopene is believed to have cancer preventing properties. Perhaps what surprised the researchers the most was the sense of time perceived in the island, it was as if time stopped existing. The island is surrounded by amazing people, telling stories, eating the most delicious pasta you can imagine and raising a big glass of red wine.

Today most people associate Italian food with fast food, but the truth is that the traditional Italian cuisine is filled with healthy fats and veggies. This might explain why those living on the island had such long lives. Next time you are enjoying your favorite Italian dish covered in olive oil with a cup of red wine you might want to think like a Sardinian and take your time to share with a a friend and other people you love.

“Pesto” The Sauce of Roman Emperors

agostino's pasta sauce
 
This thick and creamy sauce is one of the favorite sauces from the Italian cuisine. Every day around the world thousands of pasta dishes are served with this unique flavored sauce. It became popular in the US in the 80’s and 90’s but its origin goes well back in history.

Few people have actually wondered about the origin of this delicious pasta sauce. The fact is that citizens of the Ancient Roman Empire already enjoyed the early version of pesto. They called it moretum because of the preparation process that involved raw garlic, salts, and cheese with other ingredients in a mortar. The Appendix Vergiliana is a collection of old poems from the 1st century and this is where moretum the predecessor of pesto, make its first appearance in history. The author of the Appendix talks about how many high rank politicians loved the sauce and some even thought it was an aphrodisiac.

The sauce survived the middle ages in the area of Genoa where a similar sauce called agliata emerged and was mostly made with crushed garlics and walnuts. Later in the mid-19th century the main ingredient of modern pesto, (basil) was added again in the area of Genoa. Since then it became very popular among the Italian population and was brought to the US by the Italian immigrants.

Today there are many variations of the original recipe, enthusiasts and experts claim that there is no comparison between a pesto made in a mortar and one made with other methods. Every time you eat a delicious plate of pasta with pesto think about how lucky you are as you enjoy an ancient recipe that Emperors from the Ancient Roman Empire loved almost two thousand years ago.