The Aztecs grew tomatoes but it was Cortés who brought the seeds to Europe. He thought they’d look nice in gardens. Like pretty, round, red flowers.

Soon, however, aristocrats – the only people able to afford flower gardens — nibbled those pretty red flowers and discovered they were delicious and soon lots of aristocrats were eating tomatoes. And, occasionally, dying. From tomatoes?

Yep. It happened. It really did. Which meant they were poisonous, right?

Actually, no, but it took a while before people knew why they were dying. It was because flatware of the time was made of pewter which has a high lead content and that acidic foods – like tomatoes – caused the lead to leach out of the flatware and into the food, resulting in lead poisoning.

Italians, however, never thought tomatoes were poisonous and when Queen Margarite, the first Italian monarch since Napoleon, came to Naples for a visit, someone invented pizza, with the three colors of the Italian flag – red, white, and green – included to honor the visiting queen. White cheese, green peppers and red tomatoes. Tomatoes have been included as a basic pizza ingredient ever since.

Then those Italians emigrated to America and brought pizza with them.  So Americans had to make a choice. Pizza or death by tomato poisoning? Given such a choice, which would you choose?

Pizza, of course, especially since none of those Italians who ate tons of the pies died forthwith. And also because Americans are both smart and foodies with good taste.

And the rest is history.

Pizza history, that is.

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