Sunday, May 13, 2007

Marco Polo, Pizza Thief?

It's a well-known fact that China was once the most advanced civilization in the world, and the 4 great inventions of ancient China are said to be the compass, gunpowder, paper making, and the printing press. However, the quite nationalistic Chinese are fond of making claims of inventing all manner of things, some of them rather dubious, but amusing. For instance, I read an article a while ago about recent archaeological discoveries which led to wild Chinese claims about inventing skiing. Having been to a Chinese ski "resort," I rather doubt that. But I think my favorite so far was yesterday, when I was hanging out at China Fire and talking to the owner, our friend He Le. He will soon be offering pizza, and we had a conversation along these lines:

He Le: "You know where pizza comes from, don't you?"
Me: "Italy."
"Nope." I knew where this was going.
"Then, where?"
"China," his face now beaming. "You know Marco Polo? His statue is right outside." There is a prominent street near the university that is known as both European Street and Marco Polo street, and features a unmissable statue of the man, who rumor has it lived in Zhangye for a year when it was an important silk road trading post. It is possibly the cleanest and certainly the whitest street in Zhangye, and resembles an enormous model set of ancient Greece or Rome.
"Yes, I know him."
"Well, when he was in China, he liked to eat nang, from the Xinjiang area." Nang is a kind of bread made by the Uyghur people, which is circular and has a raised crust on the outside, but otherwise bears no resemblance to pizza. "So when he went back to Italy, he missed it, and he described it to friends so they could make it for him. They didn't know what to put on the top, so they put meat and other toppings, and it became pizza. So pizza went from China to Italy, and then it was re-introduced to China!"

Well, at any rate, pizza will be coming to China Fire.


Matthew said...

Who cares where it originated... what really matters is who perfected it.

Dan said...

True. My hometown in America may not have much to brag about, but one thing we do have is great pizza. Chinese food is so excellent that I'm not too bothered by the lack of Western options here, but a good pizza place would be more than welcome.

veggiedude said...

There is a region of China that makes something very similar to pizza, but it is called "binzer" (I'm spelling it as it sounds phonetically). When I heard the name, I became suspicious. It does sound a bit like 'pizza'.