I didn’t have my first slice of pizza until I was 12. I know, it’s shocking, but I was a weird foreign kid and my mother made all our meals and they were regular, traditional, old-country fare.
My introduction to pizza happened at a birthday party for a classmate named, Paul. Paul was a very brainy science/math type and not very sociable, so I was surprised he was even having a party. Turns out I was the only girl invited to the party.
Paul was very nice and made me really, really welcome. He suddenly had a ton of things to talk to me about. He showed me all his collections and stuff he’d built and experiments he was working on and told me all his hopes and dreams for the future. But he was gentlemanly about it and asked my opinion on everything and dragged my whole, short life story out of me while he was at it.
He was amazed, for instance, that I’d never had pizza and made sure that my first time was a good experience. He told me what pizza was made of and gave me a bit of pizza history. He assured me that if I didn’t like the pizza, I didn’t have to eat it and he’d get me something else. He took me right over and showed me how full their fridge and cupboards were of other food options.
I can’t remember what the rest of his party guests were doing while Paul and I toured his home and his life, but I guess they must have been kept occupied by his mother or brothers or something.
The pizza was great, of course – good old pepperoni and cheese pizza. He was thrilled to see me enjoying it. Then he was distressed to find that while I was working my way through my inaugural slice, the boys had snarfed down the rest of the pizza. So, I only got once piece, but that was okay.
Some time after the eating of the pizza, Paul and I shared a kiss. The kiss, (a quick peck really) was a first for both of us and tasted of pepperoni. We smiled at each other afterwards and trotted off to have cake.
It was many years before I had pizza again though I nagged my parents incessantly.
I thought of pizza often during the intervening years.
Pizza didn’t become a regular part of my life until Joe, my high-school boyfriend. When the weather was too bad to be outdoors and/or whenever we didn’t have enough money to go out, we’d spend Sunday afternoons in Joe’s rec room. We’d go get a pepperoni pizza from Julio’s, take it back to his house with a couple of Cokes and watch some quality Sunday afternoon TV. Then we’d make out for a while before I had to go home.
For a very long time the smell, taste or even idea of pepperoni pizza sparked a bit of teenage lust in me. It may still.
THIS IS NOW
Last night I got a flyer in the mail advertising shawarma pizza. It has shawarma meat products on it, shawarma sauce and shawarma toppings. To me this makes it a shawarma, not a pizza. Just because it’s on round, flat dough instead of rolled up in round flat dough doesn’t make it pizza.
Originally pizza was just flattened bread dough with olive oil, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese and maybe some basil. Anchovies and mushrooms were also acceptable additions.
Pizza has only been in North America for about 50 years and for a long time was only available in Italian neighbourhoods. As soon as it left the hood, however, some bad things started to happen to pizza.
People began to pretend that they could throw anything on flat bread (not even pizza dough, necessarily) and call it pizza – chicken masala, fried eggs, lobster, tuna, broccoli, peas, roasted cauliflower, hamburger, smoked gouda, bbq pork, fruit, nuts — and I don’t even want to talk about “stuffed crust”. (berk!)
I don’t know, but I think it may be time to reclaim pizza. If you want to eat all sorts of stuff on flat breadish things, call it something else. This stuff is probably all wonderful and fabulously delicious, so it really deserves its own special name.
Pizza (and all those love it) should take a stand and say: “No More! Pizza is made with pizza dough, olive oil, tomatoes or tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and maybe one other simple, traditional topping (e.g.: pepperoni, mushrooms or anchovies).”