The Abnormal Pizza Craze

Pineapple pizza and non-pineapple pizza eaters need to unite to take down these adversaries!

The day is March 2, 2019. A group of high school friends gather at a home to make homemade individual pizzas. There are a variety of toppings one can put on their pizza ranging from mushrooms, to sausage and pepperoni; some people even prefer the controversial fruit of pineapple on their pizza. One boy at this gathering, Evan, made the worst pizza known to mankind. After putting mozzarella on the dough, he chose orange slices as his topping. With this, he then made a dessert pizza consisting of the orange slices, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and chocolate syrup. Not only did this monstrosity almost cause a fire in the oven, he claimed that it tasted delicious, despite the ridicule he immediately faced from his peers. However, Evan is not the only one who has made absurd pizzas like this. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, Americans were putting anything and everything they could on pizzas to make it unique to their own tastes and thus incorporating it into the American diet.

This Italian dish traveled to the U.S. in the late nineteenth century as waves of Italian immigrants entered New York. Pizza can be seen throughout the twentieth century, beginning with slices costing only five cents in 1905 and gaining popularity during the Great Depression because of its inexpensive monetary value. However, the first published recipe did not appear in America until 1936 out of Boston. This simple recipe includes “cheese, tomatoes, grated parmesan cheese, and olive oil” (Paste). Even with this rich history, some individuals were still somewhat skeptical about the pizza. It was not until soldiers stationed in Italy during World War II returned home that it became an American delicacy. With two working parents becoming more common in American households, pizzas became the “perfect meal to order, pick up and eat at home on nights parents were too tired to cook” (Paste). In just a few decades, pizza quickly took over the American diet and shaped the pallet of generations to come.

New Haven, Connecticut is not only known for Yale University; it is also the home of clam apizza. In the 1960s, Frank Pepe began topping his pizzas with “freshly shucked clams” at his restaurant (Obscura). What began as a small appetizer common in New Enlgand, these small creatures eventually found their way onto this now popular food item. As absurd as this may seem to those who have neither tried the pizza nor enjoyed clams, this pizza has won “‘best pizza in the country’ multiple years in a row,” (Obscura). 

Although this was a craze of the 1960s, clams have been eaten in North America since before colonial times. Found along the Atlantic coast, Native Americans in these regions began harvesting and eating clams (Causeway). As the British colonists began migrating to the Americas, they quickly adapted these useful creatures into their diets. This delicacy has been part of the American diet since the very beginning and found its way onto pizza nearly 200 years after the founding of the country.

Stan’s Pizza and Submarine Shop had its grand opening in Michigan in August of 1969. All different types of food served by this restaurant are illustrated in this newspaper ad. Among these are anchovy pizza and anchovies as a side. A tiny, salty fish appears to be one of the weirdest items someone can put on a pizza, but this concept actually originated from Ancient Rome. Fish on bread was a very common commodity in Ancient Rome for the peasant class. As pizza came about during the eighteenth century in Italy, some of the earliest versions were even offered without cheese but including anchovies (Paste). With anchovies being easy to preserve, “cheap and abundant,” it would make sense to put them on a dish that was meant for the working class (Paste). What may be weird to some consumers today, was commonplace for most peasants and working class individuals in earlier times. While maybe not as controversial as fruit on pizza, the idea of these tiny Mediterranean fish on pizza is ridiculed throughout modern media and television (Paste).

With pizza toppings now ranging from clams, to anchovies, to pineapples, it seems that Americans are willing to put anything on this Italian dish. Well, some pizzarias decided to include “everything but the kitchen sink” (The Idioms). This saying first became popular during the early twentieth century, but became more common during World War II, referring to the extreme amount of effort that was used in the war (The Idioms). Seeing that pizzas and this common saying became popular with World War II, it would make sense that the two would be combined.

Tucson Daily Citizen (Tucson, Arizona) · Fri, Aug 11, 1961 · Page 11

One newspaper article from 1961 depicts how one customer requested everything “including” the kitchen sink, which then prompted the owner to quickly run to an arts and crafts store and purchase a miniature plastic sink to put on top of the pizza (Tuscon). This pizza in particular unites food with political war efforts that results in a delicious meal that still exists today.

One major controversy throughout the world is the debate of pineapple on pizza; what some people may think is the best thing to ever exist, yet others may refer to it as “a sin” or “a war on pizza.” In 1969, a newspaper based out of San Rafael, California published an article advocating for a gelatin banana dessert pizza (Daily Independent Journal). Using yellow cake batter, fruit flavored gelatin, bananas, and whipped cream, one should be able to make a wonderful dessert that would properly fit a picnic menu (Daily Independent Journal). Edible gelatin, more commonly known as “Jell-O,” is a food very common in the current American diet; various flavors and kinds of Jell-O mixes fill the shelves of grocery stores and provide a dessert that can last for a decent amount of time. Throughout the early nineteenth century, many individuals were experimenting with gelatin, hoping to make an appealing and edible version. In 1822, Peter Cooper did just that (Shutte). Cooper owned a company based out of New York that would create animal byproducts including glue, oil, and chalk (Shutte). It was in this facility that he experimented with edible gelatin and eventually invented what is known as Jell-O today. The creation of Jell-O is not only an example of the brilliant mind of Cooper, but also how the Industrial Revolution and the process of manufactured goods can provide opportunity to create ingenious foods like this.  Interestingly enough, Americans were accustomed to Jell-O before they were introduced to bananas in the 1880s (Rainforest Alliance). Originating in the Malay Archipelago in Southeast Asia, bananas require a warm and tropical climate to prosper and can currently be found growing around the world including places such as South and Central America, China, and Africa (Rainforest Alliance). While this fruit has been around for ages, they could not come to the United States until refrigeration and fast ship travel was available. By utilizing a technique known as “putting the bananas to sleep,” the cold climate inside these shipping containers are able to prevent the fruit from ripening and rotting on their trip to North America (Rainforest Alliance). What was considered a delicacy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is now eaten on a daily basis as individual Americans eat an average of 75 bananas per year (Rainforest Alliance). The Industrial Revolution plays an overall critical role for the ingredients required of this dessert pizza.

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For this project, I knew I had to make at least one of these pizzas. I am not one for seafood – especially clams and anchovies – which left the banana gelatin dessert pizza. The recipe calls for yellow cake mix, an egg, water, fruit flavored Jell-O mix, whipped cream, and about 3-5 bananas. You first begin by mashing a banana and mixing it in with the yellow cake mix, water, and an egg to make a banana flavored cake batter. After baking, I let it cool and began to work on the Jell-O. For this, I chose strawberry flavored Jell-O because I thought it would compliment the banana flavor of the cake mix. I then sliced a couple bananas and spread them across the cake and poured the slightly set Jell-O on top. After everything had set properly, I topped it off with whipped cream. Overall, this dish was extremely easy to make with the simple steps. This dish does take some time to make because of the need for it to set and cool, but you can always do other activities while everything sets into place. One issue I did run into is how thick the cake part of the pizza came out. The recipe calls for a thirteen inch pan, but I only have a ten inch pan available to me. Because I still used the regular amount of cake mix, the cake came out thicker than expected and caused the entire dish to become more like a cake with Jell-O in place of the frosting rather than a pizza. I was very skeptical of how this would taste, but it was actually very flavorful and left me and my family wanting more; almost the entire dish was eaten in one night. I feel as though the strawberry gelatin overpowered the banana flavor, but I also neglected to top the gelatin with more banana because I was so excited to eat it. The cleaning of this dish was also very easy and convenient.

With a drastic increase in popularity after World War II, pizzas have taken various forms throughout American history. With thousands of different toppings and types of pizzas, anyone can find a pizza they love even if it seems a little abnormal to everyone else. The diverse palette of the American diet and this country’s ability to import many goods allows individuals to put a variety of different toppings on their pizzas. Pizza has become such a major part of the American diet and it will continue to prosper through time.


Daily Independent Journal (San Rafael, California) · Wed, Aug 6, 1969 · Page 14

The Daily Item (Port Chester, New York) · Wed, Jul 14, 1965 · Page 34

The Evening News (Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan) · Fri, Aug 8, 1969 · Page 12

Tucson Daily Citizen (Tucson, Arizona) · Fri, Aug 11, 1961 · Page 11

Click to access hf-Jello%20and%20Peter%20Cooper.pdf

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