Pizza – An American Icon Food
Right up there with baseball and apple pie, pizza has become an American icon, no longer just reserved for college students on a budget – but a family favorite across the country. Whether it’s piled high with pepperoni and mozzarella or loaded with pineapples and ham, pizza is one of the most popular foods in the United States. Americans gobble up around three-hundred-fifty slices of pizza per second, which amounts to around acres of pizza per day. In fact, the typical person in our country each eats an astounding 23 pounds of the round pie annually.
History. Although most folks credit the Italians with the creation of pizza, seasoned flat bread topped with olive oil and spices was served centuries before in Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. The familiar pizza that is served up at your local pizzeria or out of your own freezer is akin to the pies that were first baked up in Naples, Italy in the latter part of the 19th century by baker Raffaele Esposito who concocted the dish for royal guests. The ingredients for Esposito’s original pizza pie were inspired by the red, white and green colors of the Italian flag and are represented through the colors of the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. The honored guests, Italian monarch King Umberto and his wife Queen Margherita, were so impressed with the pizza served to them that they begun to applaud about it to others and a phenomenon was born. It did not take long for pizza to arrive in the U.S. as Italian immigrants begun to settle in Chicago and New York and opened up small cafes and restaurants that served pizza in the early part of the twentieth century. Soldiers returning from WWII who had served in Italy and developed a taste for the beloved pie helped to spur on the popularity of pizza in the U.S. That popularity begun to grow throughout the 20th century, and now 94% of all Americans eat pizza regularly.
Toppings. The toppings of the pizza are arguably its biggest selling point. In the United States, pepperoni is considered to be the most popular topping, accounting for around 1/3rd of all pizza orders at restaurants that serve pizza; in fact, over 1/4 of a million pounds of pepperoni is used on pizza in our country each year. Canadian bacon, Italian sausage, mushrooms and ham are also popular toppings. And while the majority of folks prefer meat on their pizzas, around 1/3rd of all pizzas are ordered with vegetarian only toppings. For those with a taste for the more exotic, everything from oysters to Cajun shrimp has also been offered up for pizza toppings in gourmet pizzerias around the country. The toppings for pizza vary widely around the world; for example, squid and eel are beloved in Japan while Brazilians top their pizza with green peas. Sardines and onions are popular pizza toppings in Russia while in Costa Rica, coconut is commonly used as a topping.
Staying Power. Regardless of the way you slice it, pizza as a beloved food has staying power; in fact pizza is so beloved that the month of October has been dubbed as National Pizza Month in the United States since back in 1987. Pizza is a thirty billion dollar a year industry with around 69,000 pizza restaurants operating in our country that sell around three billion pizzas annually. This represents nearly 1/5th of all restaurants in the country and accounts for around ten percent of all food service sales.