Pita bread is just about the easiest bread I know, so I’m all over this week’s request. The thing is, I spent most of my life thinking I hated pita bread. The reason, because I’d only ever eaten the dry, flavorless, almost brittle stuff that comes in plastic bags. It never occurred to me to attempt to make my own (how do you do that pocket?).
So imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that homemade pita bread is not only delicious, it’s extremely — almost absurdly — easy. There simply isn’t any comparison between the home version and store-bought. Yes, yes, I know you hear that all the time about home made everything, but it’s especially true of pita (really “pitta” as it was spelled back when it was first introduced to the American market, before the boys in marketing took a whack at the word).
You may remember back when I was talking about pizza that I said that the words pita and pizza come from the same root. That root is that double-t’d Greek word, pitta, which means “pitch” as in the tarry stuff that drips out of pine wood when it’s burned. What’s the connection? Apparently that puddles of pitch are also flat and round. That’s what the Oxford Companion to Food says at least, and who am I to argue?
Snoop around the cuisines of the Mediterranean and you can find derivations of pitta everywhere, notably around the pizza capital Naples (originally Neapolis, founded by the Greeks in about 600 BC). The Turks have pida, the Romanians pita, and the Greeks have pita spinoffs like tiropita and spanakopita.
Of course what I’ve just written is but a short history of the word pita. The actual bread has probably been around as long as people have been baking, since pita is a flatbread, and flatbreads are the world’s oldest family of breads. Who made pita originally? The Arabs, only to them it’s known as khubz ‘adi, and it’s been on their menu for millennia.