Food & Drinks

In Guatemala You Can Enjoy The Experience Of Eating Pizza Made On Volcanic Heat

Guatemala’s Pacaya volcano is erupting, spewing rivers of lava and ash clouds, keeping local communities and authorities on high alert.

But for David Garcia, a 34-year-old accountant, the lava oozing down the mountainside has become an opportunity. He serves up “Pacaya Pizza” cooked on the smouldering volcanic rock to awed tourists and locals.

“Many people today come to enjoy the experience of eating pizza made on volcanic heat,” Garcia told newspapers.

The 2,500-meter (8,200-foot) Pacaya volcano, one of the most active of the country’s 38 volcanoes, lies about 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of the capital city of Guatemala City. After being dormant for over 70 years, Pacaya began erupting vigorously in 1961 and has been erupting frequently since then. It has been steadily active in 2021, with two strong explosions at the end of March.

In a rocky area that leads to the Pacaya crater and converted to a makeshift kitchen, Garcia spreads the dough on a metal platter that can resist temperatures up to 1,000°C (1,800 degrees Fahrenheit), slathers it with tomato sauce, a generous helping of cheese and pieces of meat. Wearing protective clothing from head to his military style boots, Garcia places the pizza on the lava. After ten minutes on the 200 to 300°C hot rocks the pizza is done.

Lava emerges at temperatures of 1,000 to 1,200ºC, but when the lava’s temperature has decreased to 800ºC it quickly forms an insulating crust, keeping the interior still very hot. It can take years to decades for lava within thick flows to solidify. It takes much longer for the flow to cool to ambient temperatures.

Garcia first started baking pizzas on the mountain side in 2013 in small cavities he found amongst the rocks. “I didn’t sell much the first few days,” said Garcia, whose fame has now spread throughout social media. In recent weeks, with Pacaya regularly erupting, he started cooking the pizzas directly on the moving lava flows coming close to population centers.

“Having a pizza cooked in the embers of a volcano is mind-blowing and unique in the whole world,” said Felipe Aldana, a tourist trying out one of Garcia’s specialities.

But this experience is not completely without its risks. The explosive activity of Pacaya sends not only lava, but also ash, rock fragments and toxic gases down the slopes.

A traditional experiment among early-career volcanologists is trying to cook eggs and ham on fresh lava or in hot springs. During the ongoing eruption in Iceland, scientists and tourists cooked toast and sausages on the cooling lava flows. Some even concluded this meal with a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

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