Pizza – A Global History by Carol Helstosky – review

Pizza a global historyThe Edible Series of food history books is turning into one of my favourite multi-volume collections. Pizza – A Global History is another title recently published and it has the same characteristic high-end presentation and content as the others I have encountered. These are small books but classy so if you are into shelf-appeal you’ll enjoy these, but you’ll miss out if you don’t read them.

But let’s talk specifics, in this case Pizza. There are almost 60 illustrations here that chart the history and also explore the future of this dish. It’s as iconic as the ever-popular burger and is certainly more easily adapted to local tastes and dietary requirements. Pizza has become an international favourite.

Pizza had a rather unpromising start, being the food of poverty and last resort for the unfortunate of Naples. The author and food critic Alexander Dumas  (yes, the same chap who wrote the Three Musketeers and many of those other books you say you have read) gave pizza a bad press but noted that the toppings indicated the state of the food supply in that area of Italy. People with money would never consider eating such lowly fare.

Young people probably suppose that pizza has always been a well-loved international dish. In fact it wasn’t even very popular as an Italian food till after the Second World War. It remained traditional only to Naples until many from that region migrated north for work, taking their taste of home with them. The onset of the tourist industry heralded a new dawn for pizza, with American GIs now returning with their families, seeking a slice of nostalgia of times spent in war-ravaged southern Italy.

America’s love of pizza started in the 40s and continues to this day. Its arrival coincided with the start of a more affluent and leisure-focused era. It was a dish enjoyed by young and old and could be purchased by the slice, in a restaurant or from a fast food stall. Young men on mopeds are a common site in most large towns and empty boxes are a new trend in street furniture.

Pizza – A Global History is fascinating and well researched. Carol Helstosky is a food writer deserving of a space on your bookshelf and I look forward to reading more from her.

Pizza – A Global History
Author: Carol Helstosky
Published by: Reaktion Books
Price: £8.99
ISBN 978-1-86189-391-8


Food history book review by Chrissie Walker © 2018