In praise of
Flour, Fresh Yeast, Water, Salt, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Tomato Pulp and Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil, in short, Pizza.
Pizza Margherita comes in the following colours: basil green, mozzarella white, tomato red … the Tricolour, that is, the three colours of the national flag of Italy!
Besides Italian pizza being the symbol of a nation, it is also of the equally famous Mediterranean diet - pizza ingredients fully match the requirements this healthy eating regimen demands.
A well-known sports nutritionist, speaking of the benefits of supplements for athletes, added that the healthy and balanced Mediterranean diet provides all the nutritional intake we need.
The term "diet" usually recalls a bleak image of food restrictions.
In one of his short stories, Giovannino Guareschi, author of the famous “Mondo Piccolo” saga with Don Camillo and Peppone, tells of a time when he went to the doctor due to a persistent headache he had.
The doctor questioned him about his eating habits in an attempt to work out what he was suffering from and what food to eliminate that could solve the problem, yet he was having a hard time since the patient’s diet was already poor – the story is set in the 1940s, a time of war and deprivation – and really did not know what more he could cut from his diet.
As he was leaving the doctor's office, something popped into Guareschi’s head. He retraced his steps and said: “Doctor, I have actually just recalled that I do have a bad habit: I eat peppermints!”.
"Very well" answered the doctor with a hint of satisfaction. "You must eliminate them".
It worked, as Guareschi describes in his novel: "In fact, after giving up the peppermints, the headache vanished and I was able to safely continue to eat and drink all the good things that I actually had failed to tell about to the doctor".
Given the ingredients it is made with, our pizza would seem to open unexpected, beneficial dietary prospects.
However, it would be unwise to eat too much pizza, or too frequently, particularly in the picturesque variations it comes in at restaurants, especially outside of Italy.
As we all know, pizza in many countries is based on a rather broad recipe creativity, especially to adapt to local people’s taste, unfortunately often with some extravagant results.
Like the time when, on holiday in Santo Domingo, I was invited to the Vesuvio pizzeria on the Malecon. Indeed, it was quite a volcanic explosion the sight of the pizza specialty of the house, the pizza Vesuvio. It was at least sixty cm wide and had everything one might imagine on top of it: meat, fish, salami, all sorts of cheese, fruit – definitely not a Mediterranean diet food and, on second thought, nor was it a pizza actually.
When it was created, pizza was meant to be a peasant food and became popular especially in the city of Naples in the mid-1800s. Upon visiting Italy, the writer Alexandre Dumas père once described pizza as follows:
“At a first glance, pizza looks like a simple food. Upon examination, you realise it is a complex food…. (from Il Corricolo, Italian travel memoirs of 1843).
Pizza is also the natural evolution of food that was served on a plate of bread, once the idea of a full meal, as mentioned by Virgil in the Aeneid.
Today the "real" Neapolitan pizza is a cultural heritage. in 1984 after its foundation, the True Neapolitan Pizza Association decided to set precise rules for making true Neapolitan pizza.
Going back to Guareschi, in those times war economy had forced everyone to a poor diet regimen. It would be only with the post-war reconstruction and the 1960s economy boom that we would see a progressive change in eating habits and a broader selection of food and ingredients in homes, shops and restaurants. Just a few decades ago, going to a restaurant was a luxury for the few. Today, things have totally changed and restaurants, though currently through a crisis due to the pandemic, make up a huge business sector. But along with our eating habits, our diets have also changed.It just takes to stroll around our cities at lunchtime to see the broad variety, from huge food platters to low-calorie drinks, with our pizza popping up everywhere in any case.
However, modern eating habits do pose a number of risks.
Eating quickly and in a disorderly fashion is not healthy.
If we also accompany unhealthy eating with aperitifs, we will be putting a heavy load of stress on our bodies. Bad eating habits make it difficult to stick to a Mediterranean diet, with the objective of eating according to the Healthy Eating Pyramid that risks remaining a mere declaration of intent rather than a health protocol we apply to our lives.
There is no point in eating a salad at lunch if we indulge in drinking cocktails and eating cold cuts after work. How do we sort things out then? Perhaps, instead of working out the best diet we should focus on how we actually eat food. Undoubtedly, the current times do not help in eating healthy. We have been forced to restrict movement during the pandemic lockdowns, thus managing calorie intake has become even tougher when we sit down at the dining table.
During lockdowns, cooking was fun and a consolation, yet if consolation also means having a few drinks every night, then we are not doing any good to our body. We are rightfully told to turn to healthy lifestyles all the time and, today, food supplements can help us out a lot to achieve this. Yet, after all we have been through in the past two years, we should add another level to that Mediterranean diet eating pyramid: the hope of vitality and rebirth.
With the certainty that we will soon go back to enjoying the normal things in life, like a sunset on the beach while a guitar plays a soft melody, we can make life better already with the aid of polyphenols, proteins, calcium, phosphorus, lycopene, beta-carotene, magnesium, carbohydrates offered to us by our beloved Queen Margherita.
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Voice: William Scott Agostini
TKS Publisher staff