They say that there are two things that expats should never discuss in social situations…politics and religion. So, if we find ourselves in unknown company, it’s always wise to avoid such conversations, if for no other reason than to keep your friends. After all one of the reasons why many of us moved abroad was to escape the politics that are poisoning the U.S.
A recent event prompted me to dust off my rusty computer keyboard to propose a third verboten topic…PIZZA!
I was sitting with a group of people having breakfast at the plaza when the conversation turned to pizza and the establishments that make it here in town. The group started to talk about one particular place. In my foolishness, I chimed in that I thought the quality of that establishment had gone down. A woman at the table became physically agitated, and almost jumped out of her chair to challenge the notion.
You would have thought I had thrown a fire bomb on the table; Or that I told a Republican that Donald Trump is a Russian agent; Or told a Democrat that Barak Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery.
Whoa! I was taken aback — so much so that my chair almost toppled over backwards. Suddenly, this woman told me in no uncertain terms that the quality was the same if not better, and then challenged me to state the reasons for my opinion. No matter how hard I tried, my reasons weren’t good enough for the pizza partisan. She had developed pizza derangement syndrome!
Let’s face it, tastes in food are personal – especially pizza. I even wrote a blog post and an article for Ojo del Lago, a monthly magazine where I live in Mexico, about why I don’t like Lima Beans. Regardless of the best efforts of friends to change my mind, I still hate them.
So, what is pizza? In the New York area they sometimes call it a tomato pie. Dean Martin referred to the moon as a “pizza pie.” It’s a simple food with a baked yeast crust on the bottom and toppings on top. In Chicago, they make it in a pan with a baking soda crust. It has become a universal food, to which the Italians may claim its origins, but not its various regional and personal incarnations. Pizza knows no international borders. Its enjoyment isn’t limited to any racial, ethnic, political, or religious group. Even vegetarians and meat lovers can share its pleasures. And, you can feel “safe” that probably no one has ever been accused of cultural appropriation for eating pizza.
In the past thirty years, the north American population has been introduced to a myriad of different pizza varieties. Gone are the days when the pizza that your neighborhood pizza parlor made was good enough. I remember when people, especially in Italian neighborhoods, would argue over whether Neopolitan or Sicilian was better. Today we have crispy crust, thin crust, medium crust, Sicilian thick crust, Chicago style, fancy focaccia, Stouffers French Bread Pizza, Tostinos Pizza Rolls, lamajeun, flat bread, and I’m sure I missed some.
Everybody has their favorite style and favorite toppings. Even Dominoes in the U.S. has thrown in the towel, and now offers a selection of four different types of crust…one for (almost) every taste.
There are some absolutists when it comes to food, and it’s often because of regional preferences, or what they remember eating when they were younger. While I’ve seen plenty of Mexicans put ketchup on pizza, you’ll never convince a Neapolitan that it’s OK. And likewise, you’ll never convince a native New Yorker that ketchup belongs on a hot dog.
But, you may like your pizza or hot dog with ketchup. Who am I to tell you you’re wrong? At the risk of getting the dander up on the backs of pizza partisans reading this, I confess that I’ve never understood mixing pineapple with ham on a pizza…heresy! That combination belongs at a luau or Easter dinner. And, thank goodness no one has thought to top a pizza with lima beans!
When all is said and done, we’re lucky that there’s no lack of pizza options at Lakeside. Whatever you like, you have a choice.
As for the pizza place that I said has seen better days, I still buy pizza there. I like that style of pizza.