Taking Back the Pizza

THAT WAS THEN

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).”

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17 responses to “Taking Back the Pizza

  1. I have recovered from my heavy machinery heartbreak enough to tell you of one of the great pizza moments of my life.
    A co-employee of mine at GM was turning 65 and his family invited me to the celebration. He and his wife are Armenian and she had made home made Armenian pizza.
    It was on a very thin crust about 1/2 what passes for thin crust pizza now, and the topping was just tomato paste and a sprinkling of herbs.
    Like any good cook she refused to tell me exactly what, although even I could tell there was basil and rosemary among other things. She also sent in pizza for me whenever Charley and I worked afternoon shift together on fridays till he retired about 3 yrs later. I have never found this anywhere else and don’t know if it is available commercially but it should be.

  2. “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.”

    Hey, Zoop, wanna go out for a slice or two of ‘za sometime? Or are you saving it to cap off your first date on a front-end loader?

  3. Bandobras – Do you mean lahmajoun? If you didn’t live in hicksville you might have seen it, or something like it in various ethnic shops and restaurants. But you could always try to make it at home. How hard could it be?

    Bob: Why Robert! Have you come a-courtin’? Hadn’t you best speak to Pappa before making advances of such a bold nature? (How was that, Woodsy??)

  4. When vacationing in Honolulu back in the early 90’s, I went to a recently-introduced restaurant called California Pizza Kitchen. At the time, it was a new franchise chain (mid-80’s)that some celebrity types (I remember Cher hyping it) were dropping their spare change into – no doubt for tax purposes. Since I’d never heard of anything so strage, I decided to try the ‘BBQ chicken’ pizza.
    I was sick for 24 hours afterward.
    It sucked.
    The chain, I believe, still exists, and is going strong, but I’ll be staying away from it the next time I visit the States.

  5. I saw a program recently about Italy introducing protected designation origin for Neapolitan pizza. Apparently this was 14 yrs in the making. I tell you, they’re pretty darn serious abou it but when you think about it, makes sense because reading the ingredients makes you want to jump into the next plane to fly to Italy to sample it 🙂 Tomato sauce, basil and buffalo mozzarella. The size MUST be plate size, no bigger and as far as they’re concerned, it’s THE only pizza worth calling a pizza. I agree 🙂 Less is more…

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3753575.stm

  6. Silly XUP it isn’t lahmajoun, its Mrs Sarkisian’s Armenian pizza.
    It did look a lot like lahmajoun, but her’s was mad with no meat just suce on the bread. They weren’t vegetarians it was just the way she learned to make that. I never did hear a name other than pizza for it.

  7. I heart pizza too. I’m a fan of all types: from the simple (cheese and sauce), to the slightly quirky personal fave (tomato sauce, cheese, green olives, bacon, onions, pineapple — mmmm, salty and sweet), to the very, very delicious but perhaps too far from the traditional for your definition that I’ve had many times on Preston St. and managed to make a reasonable facsimile of at home (the Verona – pesto sauce instead of tomato, 5 different cheeses, red onions and tomato slices. Topped with a drizzle of spiced olive oil it’s divine.)

    Damn, now I’m hungry.

  8. I make my own pizza and I subscribe to the no-rules philosophy of pizza-making. I’ve hit upon some serendipitously happy combinations, like hot italian sausage with pears and goat cheese.

  9. We make our own pizza, and it’s done with tomato sauce (though sometimes a lebanese vegetable/pepper paste I don’t remember the name of), veggies and cheese.

    I can’t stand greasy pizza anymore.

  10. Hmm, I don’t think I ever had pizza until I was in my teens, now that I think about it. I do remember eating it at my aunt’s in Scotland in the late 70’s and being very confused that they all ate their slices with a knife and fork!

    I love pizza now, and you can put anything you like on it(except mushrooms). I do agree though, that sometimes it is so far removed from what pizza really is that it should have its own name.

    At the moment I am having a square, thin crust, seafood and spinach thingy. mmmmmm.

  11. JB – Boy, you sure get around. So, are you a pizza purist now or just staying away from that particular type of pizza/pizza chain?

    UA – Oh! How excellent. Good for them. They should at least be allowed to patent the name “pizza” so that only certain combinations of stuff can be called pizza

    Bandobras – OK then.

    CP – by all means eat whatever you want. I’m just sayin’ don’t call it pizza. What’s your favorite combo?

    Alison – 5 different cheese? Ye gods! How do the subtle flavors of the various cheeses manage to make it throught to your tastebuds?

    Zoom – You’re such a rebel. It sounds delicious, but it’s not pizza.

    Jazz- Do you make your own dough? And, if so how? And, if not? What do you use?

    Violetsky – Isn’t it interesting that us old folk didn’t experience strange foreign foods and/or take-out foods until we were out of childhood? I usually eat pizza with a knife and fork, too.

    Kimberly – Thank you. We’re well on our way to a movement — especially with Italy behind us!!

  12. I think my favorite combo is the artichoke hearts, black olives, onions, hamburger and pepperoni pizza – all with a spicy red sauce and topped with mounds of mozzarella – we get from a local chain here. Yes, it’s pizza in our minds. :p

    I also really like a lot of the pizzas from California Pizza Kitchens, and we’ve never had a problem with them.

    Mmmm…now I’m hungry for pizza (or whatever you call it) now…er, again! 🙂

  13. CP – That does sound like a heart-stoppingly delicious cheese dough thing. There’s nothing that can’t be improved by spicy red sauce in my books!

  14. Why would you want spicy red sauce in your books? That’s just weird , and ot pizza either.