How much do Americans love pizzas? It’s a love affair that they cannot let go of. In one of the informal surveys about their pizza consumption habits, about 20 percent said that they would love to have it as their food for the rest of their lives.
In fact, almost 90 percent wouldn’t mind giving up some of their guilty pleasures like wine if they could have free pizza for a year. When it’s a cheat day, you can expect Americans to call their favorite pizza place for a box, which could be gone in 60 seconds (or, well, probably in 30 minutes).
But why does the country love their pizzas so much, perhaps even more than their burgers and fries? Let’s talk about the theories behind it.
1. Pizzas Can Have Everything
Pizzas are some of the most delectable—and versatile—types of food today. For one, a slice can already have everything.
There’s the crust (or the dough), which is your instant source of carbohydrates. Then, you can top it off with different kinds of meat, from salami to buffalo chicken, prosciutto, and almost all types of ham. These can already be your protein.
There are also veggies, like bell peppers and tomatoes. They may not help you meet your daily food requirements, but well, a veggie is a veggie, right?
Over the years, Americans now have access to specialty-type pizzas. For those who are on a plant-based diet, they can opt for vegan pizzas, which may be topped with broccoli, roasted bell peppers, sundried tomatoes, and mushrooms to substitute the meat.
Conventional pizzas are made from wheat, which can cause terrible symptoms for people with food sensitivities and conditions like Crohn’s disease. But today, they may already order gluten-free pizzas, made from a gluten-free flour blend. You may even find slices that are dairy-free.
2. Americans May Have the Italian Immigrants to Thank
Any love affair has a beginning, and for American’s passion for pizzas, they have the Italian immigrants to thank. Many years ago, when the Europeans found their way to North America, many eventually decided to move here permanently. The Italians were among them.
According to Britannica, from 1880 to 1920, their population reached about 4 million or about 20 percent of migrants in the country. While some were able to land jobs, others decided to apply their skills—pizza making to be precise.
The first pizzas that appeared in the United States were inspired by those of Naples, the supposed birthplace of these delicious dough treats.
Back then, they sold their pizzas the way their ancestors did: in boxes in the streets, with pizzas cut according to the preferred size and the budget of the customer. It wasn’t until 1905 that the first licensed pizzeria opened in New York.
After World War II, many Italian Americans moved to the suburbs, bringing along with them their pizza culture. From there, pizza places popped up across the country.
3. Pizzas Are a Working-Class Food
Another reason Americans learn to love pizzas is they see is a working man’s food. First, the prices are wide-ranging. Those on a tight budget can purchase a box for less than $8, and it can already feed a huge family. If they want to splurge on certain days or nights, they can opt for something special, which may be worth at least $14.
Pizzas make convenient lunch. They are already filling, and people can just buy and go, something that fits the busy lifestyle of Americans these days.
During the course of the early history of pizza in the country, pizzerias eventually sold these boxes by slices. Thus, more people, probably earning low to minimum wages, could afford the food.
4. Pizzas Can Tell People’s Culture
Over the years, the world has seen a variety of pizza styles, and each differs not only in taste but also the story behind it or even the culture of its people and place. Take, for example, Chicago’s deep dish. The story goes that when the Italians came into the country, some moved to the neighborhoods of Illinois to work in factories.
Some of them eventually became entrepreneurs, and at least one opened what could be the first store to sell a Chicago deep-dish pizza, which was the complete opposite of the Naples-style pizza but a clear American-Italian fusion: big but made from known pizza ingredients. The crust was so deep that they ended up putting several layers of meat, veggies, and sauces.
It’s unclear whether this relationship will end, or another type of food will take the pizza’s place. But until then, these slices and boxes will be staples in people’s freezers, ovens, and tables.