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Pizza Pi

Hudson Cooper - Columnist
Posted 2/25/21

For many of us during the pandemic physical contact with the outside world has been limited to acquiring food. Whether picking up takeout or getting it delivered, food from supermarkets, restaurants …

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Pizza Pi

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For many of us during the pandemic physical contact with the outside world has been limited to acquiring food. Whether picking up takeout or getting it delivered, food from supermarkets, restaurants or fast-food venues has supplied our nourishment.

Statisticians have recently delved into what foods are most popular for takeout in each of the states. Not surprisingly, chicken dishes are favored in 12 states. Next in line for popularity is Chinese food that gets served most often in 5 states. New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Louisiana dive into plates of sushi.

In our state of New York, the pandemic food of choice is pizza. I contacted Phyliss T. Wycoff, spokeswoman for the Society of Fast-Food Consumption, to gather some pizza data. She shared some amazing numbers with me.

In a lifetime, the average American will eat 6,000 slices of pizza. Now, finally getting a chance to use high school math, that means if you are 65, you have eaten 8 slices of pizza every month of your life. If you have slackened off that pace, do not worry. Somewhere a guy who orders by the pie not the slice has your back.

The earliest form of pizza consisting of bread, oil and herbs began in Italy in 997 A.D. Eventually mozzarella cheese and tomatoes were added around the 18th century. Originally pizza was just known as pie when Italian immigrants arrived in the United States. Eventually they began calling it pizza supposedly from the Latin word pinsa meaning flatbread. English speakers in America called it a “tomato pie.” Eventually both cultures merged and named the increasingly popular food a “pizza pie.”

From its humble beginnings pizza has grown into a bonanza of toppings. In America, the top toppings are pepperoni, sausage and mushroom. Some of the unpopular add-ons are anchovies, eggplant and pineapple. Pineapple on pizza supposedly began in 1957 in Portland, Oregon. It was dubbed Hawaiian pizza. I have a feeling putting pineapple on pizza was “Dole-d” out in a failed attempt to increase sales of the canned fruit.

Other toppings such as olives and BBQ chicken are gaining popularity. In reality except for lettuce, any item that you might put in a hot sandwich might be good on pizza. In fact, if I owned a pizza restaurant adding a topping of the seasonal, boneless McRib might become a big selling item.

Pizza, besides being delicious, offers a chance to jump into a home-schooling lesson in geometry for your children. Circle March 14th on your calendar. March 14th is celebrated as National Pi day.

Not to be confused with apple, cherry or pizza pie, this Pi is the magical number found by the noted mathematician Archimedes that is used to calculate the area and circumference of a circle. Instead of a boring lecture on geometric shapes and measures, gather the clan around a box containing a pizza. A pizza pie is 8 triangles that make up a circle and contained in a square box.

Before you pass out a few slices, ask your family if they can guess the circumference of the pizza. Then take a yardstick out and measure the diameter of the pizza pie. Now tell your school age children that the mathematical Pi is a fraction of 22 divided by 7 which in decimals rounds off to 3.14. Multiply the diameter by 3.14 and amaze them that it results in the circumference which they can verify by measuring with some string.

As you then serve the pie, you can add a brief introduction into the triangle shape of the slice. Also, you might want to briefly describe the concept of fractions by pointing out that removing 4 out of 8 slices leaves one half of the pizza pie.

Then as your family quickly take their dinner into the tv room to avoid another lecture, pluck off the pineapple chunks your kids ordered and enjoy your slice.

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