Is pizza the perfect food or what? I have said many times that if I had to live off of one food item for the rest of my life, it would be pizza. I almost did that, at least for a few weeks.
In 1985, I was a Navy surgeon stationed in Okinawa, Japan. My lovely wife, Sally, was pregnant with our second child. She wanted to return to stateside for a visit with her family before she got too far along to travel comfortably. I was about to head out to a two week deployment in the jungles of Okinawa with the marines and so she took that as an opportunity to travel home with our daughter for a few weeks, six to be exact. It was our longest separation since getting married, and still is.
When she left, I had to fend for myself and every evening my return to our little Japanese apartment in town necessitated that same decision making: what to have for dinner. The first night, I made a pizza. I liked that so much that the next night I did the same thing….and nearly every night thereafter. For six weeks. The only break was the few evenings when sympathetic friends invited me over for dinner.
I discovered the truly versatile nature of pizza. To wit, you can put just about anything on a pizza. I know that because I did. In the fridge or in the pantry, if it was edible, I stuck it on top of a pizza. Of course meats, veggies, and cheese are all well known and pretty routine but you can also make desert pizzas, salad pizzas, and more. If you can form the crust into a sort of bowl, you can even make soup pizza. It is the perfect food, capable of incorporating literally every food group, singly or all at once. How’s that for versatile?
You can eat it by hand or with utensils, cold or hot, on the run or sitting at a table. The options are endless.
Who doesn’t like pizza? It has a storied history, dating back to 16th century Naples, Italy. In 1889, Raffaele Esposito, a Napolitan pizza maker, created the pizza margherita, still my favorite, with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil for the Queen Consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy. The red, white, and green of the garnishes were said to represent the colors of the Italian flag. Although it is of Italian origin, pizza is now as American as apple pie. Americans have had a long standing love affair with pizza. Check out the facts below:
- Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza each day, or 350 slices per second.
- Pizza is a $3 billion per year industry
- There are approximately 61,269 pizzerias in the U.S.
- Each man, woman, and child in America eats an average of 45 slices (23 pounds) of pizza per year.
- Approximately 3 billion pizzas are sold in the U.S. each year.
- The most popular topping is pepperoni.
- Italian food ranks as the most popular ethnic food in the America.
- According to a Gallup Poll, kids between the ages of 3 and 11 prefer pizza over all other food groups for lunch and dinner (I bet they didn’t ask about breakfast as I guess pizza would have won there too)
February 9 was National Pizza Day. How did I miss that? If any food deserves its own day, it pizza. Belated Happy Pizza Day everyone!