Slice of History: A Pizza Museum is Coming to Chicago

Courtesy of U.S. Pizza Museum
Courtesy of U.S. Pizza Museum

In the United States, pizza may as well be its own food group. More than 75,000 pizzerias help move an estimated $45.1 billion in pies annually. According to the Department of Agriculture, 13 percent of Americans eat pizza on a given day, while four percent of kids who grab a slice are eating it for breakfast.

If your interest in pizza extends beyond consumption and you want to achieve a better understanding of its history and influence in modern civilization, then the U.S. Pizza Museum should be on your to-do list the next time you visit Chicago's South Loop. Opening August 10 at the Roosevelt Collection at 1146 South Delano Court West, the museum will present a curated collection of vintage pizza boxes, menus, ads, and other items of historical merit. (Yes, that means several Noid-related artifacts will be on display.)

A look at some of the items in the collection of the U.S. Pizza Museum
Courtesy of U.S. Pizza Museum

Founded by pizza historian Kendall Bruns, the U.S. Pizza Museum grew out of a series of pop-up events and an online presence, and will now join the Roosevelt Collection's assembly of shopping and tourist destinations. According to Bruns, pizza has been long overdue for a critical examination.

"As America's favorite food, pizza provides an easy entry point to learn about history, pop culture, and the people behind the pizza," he said in a press release. "We expect the exhibits to have a nostalgic effect on viewers, and I'm thrilled to work with Roosevelt Collection to bring it to life. Visitors will benefit from free entry to the museum and an ongoing calendar of activities."

The Pizza Museum will be open Fridays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. local time and weekends from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. through October, with plans to continue operation if demand warrants. While the museum doesn't actually make pizza, Aurelio's of South Loop will be providing pies during opening weekend.

The Reason Your Local ALDI Grocery Store Doesn’t Have a Phone Number

Matthew Horwood/Getty Images
Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

ALDI’s streamlined layout, reliably low prices, and lack of name-brand products all make grocery shopping feel much less overwhelming and more personal than it often does at other stores. Having said that, you can’t exactly ring up your friendly neighborhood ALDI the way you would with many local grocery stores.

Search online for a nearby ALDI and you’ll notice that the same phone number is listed next to every location: (855) 955-2534. If you call that number, an automated voice says this:

“Thank you for contacting ALDI U.S. Due to our limited store staffing, the phone numbers for our stores are unlisted. This is part of our savings model that allows us to pass on significant savings to our customers.”

As Reader’s Digest explains, there are only three to five employees working in any given store at a time, and they’re focused on serving customers in person. With fewer workers on the payroll, ALDI can keep its prices as low as possible, directly benefiting customers.

In other words, the company doesn’t want to pay people to answer questions that customers could often answer themselves, since so much information is available on the internet these days. To make sure the answers really are easy to find, ALDI’s website boasts a robust FAQ section, featuring questions like “Why do I need a quarter to use a shopping cart at ALDI?” and “If you don’t have the brands I know, how can I be sure of the quality?” Other tabs include a list of product recalls, a section on Instacart delivery, and a store locator with each location's hours.

If you can’t find the information you’re looking for on the website, there is an option to contact ALDI via email, or call their corporate customer service line during regular business hours at (800) 325-7894.

[h/t Reader’s Digest]

Graham Crackers Were Invented to Combat the Evils of Coffee, Alcohol, and Masturbation

tatniz/iStock via Getty Images
tatniz/iStock via Getty Images

Long before they were used to make s’mores or the tasty crust of a Key lime pie, graham crackers served a more puritanical purpose in 19th-century America. The cookies were invented by Sylvester Graham, an American Presbyterian minister whose views on food, sex, alcohol, and nutrition would seem a bit extreme to today's cracker-snackers. Much like the mayor in the movie Chocolat, Graham and his thousands of followers—dubbed Grahamites—believed it was sinful to eat decadent foods. To combat this moral decay, Graham started a diet regimen of his own.

Graham ran health retreats in the 1830s that promoted a bland diet that banned sugar and meat. According to Refinery29, Graham's views ultimately inspired veganism in America as well as the “first anti-sugar crusade.” He condemned alcohol, tobacco, spices, seasoning, butter, and "tortured" refined flour. Caffeine was also a no-no. In fact, Graham believed that coffee and tea were just as bad as tobacco, opium, or alcohol because they created a “demand for stimulation.” However, the worst vice, in Graham's opinion, was overeating. “A drunkard sometimes reaches old age; a glutton never,” he once wrote.

Graham’s austere philosophy was informed by the underlying belief that eating habits affect people’s behaviors, and vice versa. He thought certain foods were "overstimulating" and led to impure thoughts and passions, including masturbation—or “self-pollution,” as he called it—which he believed to be an epidemic that caused both blindness and insanity.

Illustration of Sylvester Graham
Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Graham's views directly influenced Victorian-era corn flake inventor John Harvey Kellogg, who was born a year after Graham died. Like his predecessor, Kellogg also believed that meat and some flavorful foods led to sexual impulses, so he advocated for the consumption of plain foods, like cereals and nuts, instead. (Unsurprisingly, the original recipes for both corn flakes and graham crackers were free of sinful sugar.)

In one lecture, Graham told young men they could stop their minds from wandering to forbidden places if they avoided “undue excitement of the brain and stomach and intestines.” This meant swearing off improper foods and substances like tobacco, caffeine, pepper, ginger, mustard, horseradish, and peppermint. Even milk was banned because it was “too exciting and too oppressive.”

So what could Graham's followers eat? The core component of Graham’s diet was bread made of coarsely ground wheat or rye, unlike the refined white flour loaves that were sold in bakeries at that time. From this same flour emerged Graham's crackers and muffins, both of which were common breakfast foods. John Harvey Kellogg was known to have eaten the crackers and apples for breakfast, and one of his first attempts at making cereal involved soaking twice-baked cracker bits in milk overnight.

Slices of rye bread, a jug of milk, apples and ears of corn on sackcloth, wooden table
SomeMeans/iStock via Getty Images

However, Kellogg was one of the few remaining fans of Graham’s diet, which began to fall out of favor in the 1840s. At Ohio’s Oberlin College, a Grahamite was hired in 1840 to strictly enforce the school’s meal plans. One professor was fired for bringing a pepper shaker to the dining hall, and the hunger-stricken students organized a protest the following year, arguing that the Graham diet was “inadequate to the demands of the human system as at present developed.” Ultimately, the Grahamite and his tyrannical nutrition plan were kicked out.

Much like Kellogg’s corn flakes, someone else stepped in and corrupted Graham’s crackers, molding them into the edible form we now know—and, yes, love—today. In Graham’s case, it was the National Biscuit Company, which eventually became Nabisco; the company started manufacturing graham crackers in the 1880s. But Graham would likely be rolling in his grave if he knew they contained sugar and white flour—and that they're often topped with marshmallows and chocolate for a truly decadent treat.

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