Living in Italy|Pizza Talk – Sailor’s Pizza

The author who wrote a brief history of pizza once wrote that pizza was historically a poor man’s food. And it is not directly related to the Italian city of Pisa. For in Italian, pizza is written as pizza and the city of Pisa as Pisa, two completely different words and with too short a letter formation to think of belonging to the same root. There are also some differences in the Italian pronunciation, like the joke about “Fuzhou” and “Luzhou”, which can only be laughed at. In normal times they are not the same.

The local Italian pizzas are not as fancy as Pizza Hut. They are unpretentious, but very tasty. Probably the most famous of these is the Margherita pizza that Anne Hathaway chewed and could pull apart in Food Prayer and Love.

Before going abroad, our foreign teacher taught us how to identify a margarita pizza: if it has only red and white on top, it is a margarita pizza. If it also has smoked fish in it brown. Or the bright pink of Parma ham, then it’s not. Because Margherita pizza pizzas, despite their reputation, have simple ingredients – just mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. Hence the appearance of brown, pink and green pizzas are not. Later on, as I travelled around Italy, when it was sometimes difficult to get used to the special local cheeses and speciality pizzas, I would pick the Margherita pizza, whose familiar and regular flavour made my heart feel at home.

Margherita’s pizza, although famous, seems to be famous outside of the area and is not given preferential treatment locally. At least, it is not always first on the menu of pizzerias and does not scream out to be seen at first glance.

When I first arrived in Italy, the pizzeria under the apartment building was the one I visited most often. At first, when I took the shop’s advertising list, I was just dazzled by the 20 or 30 types of pizza listed on it, Neapolitan pizza. The pizzas were listed as Neapolitan, Roman, Four Seasons and so on. Then I thought about it, but there are also Shandong mixed grain pancakes, Lanzhou ramen and other delicacies in China. Lanzhou Ramen, in one’s mind, must have beef and mutton, and Shandong Pancake has deep-fried noodle crisps.

The good thing is that although there is no picture next to each pizza, the ingredients are written in detail. It didn’t make me cringe. I’m always afraid of ordering a pizza that is too greasy or has gorgonzola cheese. I find most Italian cheeses good, but I don’t like blue cheese because the blue veins on it are a kind of mould, which I can’t get over, and it tastes really strange, and despite trying it a few times, I still can’t get into it. But despite this, the marinated anchovies in the first pizza I ordered were a bit of a bummer due to the way the ingredients were handled, the taste was so salty and bitter that when I bit into it, I couldn’t help but spit the fish out and smack my lips to make a face.

As I’ve been in Italy for a while, I’ve become more familiar with the various pizzas. It’s natural to become familiar with them after eating out more often. But people always have their own preferences, they think they are familiar with them, but in fact, when faced with 20 to 30 kinds of pizzas, the ones they order most often are just two or three. The feeling of superiority that comes from thinking you know the whole picture is probably not just in the matter of ordering pizza. So it is often necessary to reflect on ourselves, to put away our pretentious arrogance, to return to life, to look at reality, to see it from a different perspective. We will then recognise the narrowness of our everyday perspective and thus, in stages, gain a new lease of life in general.

To cut to the chase, through this kind of self-examination of the mind, I have really found bits and pieces of the ordinary that I had missed in the past, and it is not too much to say that I have been able to find precious pearls in the sand.

For a while, a close friend who had decided to go vegetarian showed me her recipes. I scanned her food list for a week with curiosity and found it very new. There were some foods that I could hardly imagine, such as the veggie burger, which is known to be a beef patty on a refined bun. Another thing that intrigued me was the fact that she could eat pizza marinara, the root word for pizza in Italian is mare, which means sea. As I understand it, it is probably similar to Pizza Hut’s seafood supreme pizza. So how could it be vegetarian?

I then looked for the advertising flyer downstairs and found the section on this pizza to find out. Instead of seafood, it turned out to have tomato sauce and a spice called pizza herb, which is very common in pizza making, and probably a little bit of olive oil on top of that. It was as simple as it could be. I guess the taste was mediocre too. When I was in secondary school, the little restaurant near my school served seafood fried rice with plenty of crab fingers and diced squid, which I still remember after I graduated. So this uninspired “seafood” pizza made me feel like I was being poured cold water on.

This friend was my flatmate and I was oblivious when I watched her munch on her pizza. But that night, in my dream, the pizza kept appearing, and the dream was as bizarre as follows: I dreamed that I was sitting in a small restaurant in the harbour and the waiter brought me a seafood pizza with bright red prawns and sardines. But in the blink of an eye, the prawns and fish suddenly bounced and moved! I was about to do it with my knife and fork when I saw this and my jaw dropped. In the meantime, the fish and prawns had jumped into the sea. All that was left of the pizza crust was red tomato sauce and pizza grass.

When I woke up the next day, I was so angry and amused at the memory that I thought I had been poisoned by the test and that there was no way to live in peace unless I could solve any mystery. So I turned on the computer and looked up the information, and that’s when I threw it away – it turns out that the proper translation of this pizza would be sailor’s pizza, which originated in Naples. Originating, to be precise, from the port of Naples, where the strapped sailors often drank and ate pizza in groups in pizzerias when they came ashore, though as they all led a life of scraping by, they could only eat the simplest of pizzas and drink the worst of wine. This is how the pizza marinara came about.


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