For most people I know, including Parichay and myself, the biggest question that haunts us on a day-to-day basis, or rather a meal-to-meal basis is the evergreen classic ‘What should we eat?’
With all the adulting, work and travel that comes our way, we’re not too surprisingly spoilt for choices. Which only makes meal selection tougher. And on most days, when we’re absolutely clueless or swamped with life stuff, this question becomes the most detestable one.
At home or while in Mumbai or anywhere in India, there are a lot of choices that we can mutually settle for. But when it comes to travel, the choices become slimmer. Well, only for Parichay.
In day-to-day life, especially, while traveling my food rules are simple- try everything and then choose your favorites. As a matter of fact, I also put aside my dislikes and preferences (in most cases) just to taste the local flavors. But again, all this is simply the advantage of being a non-vegetarian.
Parichay, on the other hand is a pure vegetarian. He’s never even had cake with egg, in his entire life. It can be quite annoying to see him scan through every ingredient at the supermarket while traveling. And then again, he’s not a vegan either. He loves his dairy based options, especially- milk and cheese. And absolutely would settle for substitutes. Additionally, there are a lot of vegetables that he isn’t fond off.
So, the million-dollar question here is, how do we enjoy a good meal outside, especially while travelling abroad.
And the obvious answer here being…
P for Pizza
After all the traveling, I can tell that you can always, literally always bank on Pizza for a filling meal! It’s like the comfort food for travelers, across the globe. While the origins of Pizza are definitely Italian, this dish has been accepted, owned and adapted almost everywhere in the world. To think of it, Pizza is like a life skill you need. It is indeed very fascinating how one Italian dish took over the globe, standing the test of time with its existence and popularity. Almost makes me think that this was the most iconic creation in the history of food.
It’s absolutely astonishing how Pizza serves different sections of the society- vegetarians, vegans, non-vegetarians, gourmet lovers, fast-food lovers, the elite and the street, the majorities and the minorities. Subtly and silently, Pizza alone bridges the gap of all differences for a few brief moments, without catching anyone’s eye. Like the uniform everyone wears, putting everyone on the same pedestal, it is quite the equalizer or rather the ‘peace-maker’.
Italian and American Influences
For a complete noob, guessing the roots of Pizza can be confusing given its affiliation with both, the European and American culture. And you will find interesting adaptations in both continents, different yet appeasing!
Italy- The Birth Place
There are many stories that trace the roots of Pizza back in the eighteenth-century Italy. The Italian city of Naples is considered to be the home of the Margherita Pizza, which as per legends was made for the visiting Queen Margherita in Italian flag colors. For years, decades and centuries to follow, Italy’s gift to the world- the Pizza traveled far and wide gaining its popularity.
However, even today, the Italians take their food culture very seriously. Generations have worked the kitchens as pizzaiolos, keeping the family secrets guarded and the traditions of delivering some of the finest pizza alive. What is incredible is the continued passion, that has perhaps been passed on from generations to keep Pizza traditions alive.
On our recent visit to Italy, we took some time out, especially, to visit the pizzerias in Naples.Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, Naples: This is considered to be the first pizzeria in Naples, and it was a dream to not just visit, but the watch the pizza being freshly made from scratch to actually digging into it.
Fried Pizza: It was our hostel manager, a Neapolitan, told us about the concept of fried pizza and recommended that we try it. We weren’t quite excited about it at first, but the hot cheese melting in your mouth had an unstoppable feel to it! Did you know about this dish? And would you try it?
Pizza with Julia Roberts: If you’re also a fan of Julia Robert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’ like me, you’ll get my excitement on visiting the exact same pizzeria where the film was originally shot. As soon as the freshly baked pizza arrived, we forgot all about Julia Roberts and the movie and stayed silent, completely enjoying every bite of heaven that we were tasting.
America- The Second Home
The first pizzeria in the USA was in New York, named ‘Little Italy’ in 1905. This is enough to prove the pizzas Italian origins. However, what is interesting is the Westernization/ Americanization of the ‘zza that followed over the years. Preference for the thick crust, a large variety of toppings which were largely meet based, sales by the slice became some of the common trends. Gradually, every state came up with it’s own modification of the pizza through it’s making, ingredients, toppings, cheese, servings etc.
The most revolutionary creation of America for pizza was the introduction and rise of Pizza chains like Dominos, Pizza Hut, etc popularized pizza across the country with quick takeaways and deliveries.
Fun fact: 13% of the American population consumes pizza on any given day!
Why is Pizza is the best comfort food while traveling?
- The concept & making of pizza is pretty much the same all over
- You can spice it up with seasonings and toppings or tone down to your taste
- Pizza is comfort good to the mind and soul (This point is non-negotiable)
- You can find it everywhere
- There’s always a budget and an expensive gourmet option when it comes to pizza
- It’s super easy to make, which means there’s barely a chance to go wrong with it
- You’ll always find a vegetarian option that you can trust
- You can dine-in or take away
- You can enjoy it hot or you could enjoy some cold leftover pizza
- Instant mood-lifter!
To us, pizza has always been a savior! Late night in a new city, after a walk in the snow, on a budget, all through our travels, if there’s one food that we’ve always sworn by (especially Parichay with his vegetarian restrictions), it was Pizza, our best friend. And our favorite part is the fact that across continents and destinations, never, absolutely never has a pizza disappointed us!
What about you? Are you also fond of pizza on your travels? What’s your go-to comfort food?