Just a quick note about an article about pizza’s origin that appeared on several news outlets today. It asserts that a researcher recently discovered a reference to our favorite food in a 997 AD document, which declares that 12 pizzas were to be provided to the local bishop on both Christmas Day and Easter in return for use of the land on which a mill had been constructed. This is indeed a very early use of the word, possibly the first, but there are problems with the sensational headline.
1. This document is not a new discovery. Food historians have known about this reference for a long time. I’ve read about it in several books about Italian food history/culture.
2. As it is used in this document, the word “pizza” probably does not describe the food we know of today. Another old use of the word, in a 1270 AD cookbook by Renaissance chef Bartolomeo Scappi, describes pizza in two recipes. Neither resembles modern pizza; they both mention eggs, cinnamon, butter, rose water, and other ingredients that are not part of the modern form. The cookbook also mentions that the food is served on Easter.
3. The article mentions this “new discovery” as displacing the old legend of Raphaele Esposito creating a pizza in the colors of the Italian flag for Queen Margherita of Savoy in 1870. First of all, the story is dated 1889. On top of that, it’s not proven at all. Check out this researcher’s myth busting work on how the only document that supports the event is a total fraud!
I’m just posting this because I know I’m going to get a lot of questions once people see the claim that pizza isn’t from Naples. That being said, I have no stock in pizza’s origin story and definitely think there’s more information out there to help explain how it came to be. This is just a sensational headline that’s going to get a lot of clicks, but doesn’t really give us anything new in the story of pizza.
Carry on with your day!