While studying for a food and culture midterm for my study abroad program in Rome (that’s right, I actually studied abroad), I came across a phenomenon called the "Pizza Effect" that changed the way I thought about cultural food, specifically Italian.

tomato sauce, spinach, tomato, basil, sauce, mozzarella, pizza
Alex Weiner

So, what is the "Pizza Effect?

In her book, "Chewing the Fat," Karima Moyer-Nocchi wrote that an anthropologist used the term 'pizza effect' to describe when an insignificant cultural phenomenon is taken to another country, and then following its success abroad, is revalued in the original country. Then it takes off as an original, longstanding tradition.

English, please?

Basically, pizza in Italy is the way it is because Neapolitans (creators of what we know as pizza) brought the food with them when they immigrated to America.

The original pizza recipes were nothing more than breads with oils, seasonings and cheese. They became more intricate (and are continuing to do so, cough cough blackberry ricotta pizza) when they were brought to America, and this new version with tons of toppings is the kind of pizza we know today.

It was hugely popular in the US, and because of its success, Italians held the food at a higher value in their culture than before it had been brought abroad.

But here's the catch...

Moyer-Nocchi goes on to say that American tourists who traveled to Italy expected to find the pizza they grew to love in America. Italian chefs then began to cater to the tourists expectations. That created something called culinary tourism.

Again, English?

Pizza is considered to be a traditional "Italian" food because Italians started to serve it when Americans came to their restaurants expecting to find what they thought to be traditional food. 

Then, because it was so popular, it actually started to become a traditional dish. But this only happened because it was taken out of Italy, became so popular in America, and then Italians capitalized on the success of the food and took pride in calling it their own. 

So is that chow mein actually Chinese? Is that burrito really Mexican? Why didn't we know this about pizza before and what other foods should we know the history of?

And also just to mention it (because the director of my abroad program would not be happy if I didn't clarify this), there's no such thing as just "Italian" food, but you can read more about that here