The “Global Domination” of Pizza


I couldn’t resist this piece at History Today.  The author is Alexander Lee, a fellow in the Centre for the Study of Renaissance at the University of Warwick.   Here is a taste of his “A History of Pizza“:

Pizza is the world’s favourite fast food. We eat it everywhere – at home, in restaurants, on street corners. Some three billion pizzas are sold each year in the United States alone, an average of 46 slices per person. But the story of how the humble pizza came to enjoy such global dominance reveals much about the history of migration, economics and technological change.

People have been eating pizza, in one form or another, for centuries. As far back as antiquity, pieces of flatbread, topped with savouries, served as a simple and tasty meal for those who could not afford plates, or who were on the go. These early pizzas appear in Virgil’s Aeneid. Shortly after arriving in Latium, Aeneas and his crew sat down beneath a tree and laid out ‘thin wheaten cakes as platters for their meal’. They then scattered them with mushrooms and herbs they had found in the woods and guzzled them down, crust and all, prompting Aeneas’ son Ascanius to exclaim: “Look! We’ve even eaten our plates!”

But it was in late 18th-century Naples that the pizza as we now know it came into being.

Read the rest here.


The Religious History of Corn Flakes


Last night I was reading some old posts at The Way of Improvement Leads Home and I was reminded about that time in the 2016 presidential campaign when Donald Trump attacked Ben Carson for being a Seventh Day Adventist.

Politics aside, do you know about the connection between Seventh-Day Adventism and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes?

Howard Markel explains at

Fewer still know that among the ingredients in the Kelloggs’ secret recipe were the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist church, a homegrown American faith that linked spiritual and physical health, and which played a major role in the Kellogg family’s life.

For half a century, Battle Creek was the Vatican of the Seventh-day Adventist church. Its founders, the self-proclaimed prophetess Ellen White and her husband, James, made their home in the Michigan town starting in 1854, moving the church’s headquarters in 1904 to Takoma Park, outside of Washington, D.C.  Eventually, Seventh-day Adventism grew into a major Christian denomination with churches, ministries and members all around the world. One key component of the Whites’ sect was healthy living and a nutritious, vegetable and grain based-diet. Many of Ellen White’s religious experiences were connected to personal health. During the 1860s, inspired by visions and messages she claimed to receive from God, she developed a doctrine on hygiene, diet and chastity enveloped within the teachings of Christ.

Read the rest here.

Christian James on Digital History, Slavery, Food, and Archives on Day Two of the 2015 AHA

Christian James weighs in one more time.  Thanks, Christian!  It was great hearing from you this weekend! –JF
Saturday at AHA packed in more great programming on archives, digital history, and public history. I started with the Contested Archives panel about national and international archival controversies. Bruce Montgomery discussed Iraqi government archives that the U.S. seized from Baghdad in war, as well as missing Kuwaiti archives from the Gulf War and repatriated Kurdish documents. Erin Mosleydiscussed the Genocide Archive Rwanda as an example of an “atrocity archive,” “deeply political” collections that are created to help prevent war crimes but complicate context and authenticity. Todd Shepard discussed the Algerian national archives, its struggle with France for repatriation of colonial records, and national archives as sites for the construction of national identity.
These panelists were a welcome extension of Derek Peterson’s talk from Session 1 that I wrote about yesterday, which addressed complicated origins and contexts to archival sources internationally. Commenter Francis X. Blouin, though, asked for more discussion of the evidential nature of these archives (what exactly do the records in question actually document?). I also wished that there was more discussion of digital records; might cyberwarfare in the age of Stuxnet and the Sony hack complicate any of the panelists’ arguments, or underscore them?
Next, I got to see some of the Digital Histories of Slavery projects. (Some of these projects are still in development, and panelists asked not to link out to the beta versions they demoed.) These projects included a collection of runaway slave ads, a collection of mapped voting records to show the centrality of slavery to Alexandria, Virginia in the 1850s, a visual and conversational history of sexuality in slavery, and a collection of slave freedom petitions in Washington, D.C. I especially enjoyed how these digital histories enabled access to individual documents and narratives, but also allowed aggregation and distant reading. And, since the history of Washington, D.C. is one of my specialties, I loved that two of them focused on the region.
As I made my way through Times Square for lunch, it started to snow – definitely a magical NYC moment (even if it seemed fake at first). I returned to AHA for one more sessionon Food History and Public History, which are both central to my work in progress at the National Agricultural Library. This panel tied together outreach work, blogging, and organizing kitchen demonstrations and museum exhibitions.
The food history session emphasized that food connects to public audiences viscerally. Some public programming stakeholders might find food history to be “fluff,” but food ties into supposedly more ‘weighty’ topics like diplomatic history, and fears of “fluff” can sometimes speak to historians’ anxieties or the difficulty of public history in general. If you are interested in the topic, check out two of the major online works discussed, American Food Roots and Not-So-Innocents Abroad. I left the panel with some great ideas but an expansive to-read list – surely an occupational hazard.

My thirty hours in New York were jam-packed with conversations on archives, libraries, digital history and public history. The diversity of programming was a great success, and while I couldn’t attend any of the strictly academic history panels, the #AHA2015hashtag and social media coverage have been amazing (almost overwhelming, in fact). Thanks to John Fea for the opportunity to contribute to it!