Peter's Blog, June 14th

 

Welcome back everyone.

I mentioned in the Coming Attractions about how much I enjoyed the recent Jon Stewart rant about NY pizza.  I found it at: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-june-1-2011/me-lover-s-pizza-with-crazy-broad" --  but you can also track it down via a Google search under Jon Stewart Pizza (one of these days I'll have to figure out out to put one of those click here buttons into these postings). Anyway, I'm sure most of you have already seen it and, aside from the many satirical levels on which it worked (let's face it, all comics will lament the day when they don't have either Sarah Palin or Donald Trump to use as foils -- it's as easy as shooting ducks on an Alaskan pond), I found Stewart's rant especially insightful as a social commentary on how important pizza really is to us. In some ways, he did a better, or at least funnier version, of what fuels Pizza Quest--the deep passion and connection many of us feel -- though clearly not The Donald -- to pizza.

 So, yes, it was really funny --in some ways brilliant, albeit a bit profane (but hey, it's about pizza, so we'll cut him some slack!)-- but more importantly, it reinforces what we've been saying here since Day One: there is something about pizza that touches us deeply, not just because it tastes good but because of what it represents.

So what does it represent?

Obviously, to Jon Stewart -- and not just to him but to so many of us, which is why his rant was so brilliant-- it is a trigger point, a symbol of cultural identity. In the instance of the rant,

pizza is a symbol of what it means to be from New York City, to be a nice Jewish kid from humble stock, as Stewart points out, who can one day aspire to be Robert DeNiro, or anyone else for that manner (don't miss the snippet of his impersonation of Trump himself in the opening few seconds of the bit). So, one message was, "Hey, you mess with New York pizza and you mess with me." But, obviously, it goes much deeper than that. We've discussed here how pizza has its many global incarnations; dough with something on it is not just an Italian invention, though the folks in Naples have come pretty darn close to perfecting what dough with something on it can artfully be. It's a vehicle for delivering flavor--perhaps dough with something on it is the perfect flavor delivery system, whether it be as pizza, quesadilla, naan with garlic butter, or even a grilled cheese sandwich or a hoagie, cheesesteak (now you're getting into Philly turf, so tread carefully) or any kind of sandwich--they're all dough with something on it -- or in it -- and they all work as vehicles for delivering flavor. But, as the rant shows, they also deliver a sense of identity. Note my cautionary comment about cheesesteaks and hoagies, above, something as dear to we Philly folk as NY pizza is to a New Yorker, or a kielbasa is to someone from Detroit or Hamtramck, or a wiener is to someone from Wisconsin (don't get started on wiener jokes--that ship has had its 15 minutes of fame this past week and has sailed off the ends of the earth, I hope), or a kolache is to someone of Czech or Polish background, and on and on--all signifiers of cultural identity. Don't mess with them or you mess with the people who are connected to them. Of course we love pizza -- it is not only the Italians, the New Yorkers, the New Havenites, the Chicago Deep Dishers, or even the Pizza Huttites--everyone, it seems, has a connection to pizza, a taste memory, a family or personal history with it, a relationship that began or ended or found solace over it; we all have our own personal connection with pizza.

So, and I'm preaching to the choir here, this is why why we're on this journey, "on the bus," individually and collectively; to dig a little deeper into that connection, to find out who and why we are the way we are, and to discover why some things can have this power in our lives, to help define us to ourselves, to provide touch points of meaning and meaningfulness. Think about this as you watch that rant again; there's a lot going on -- right up to the last punchline.

 

 

Comments 

 
#1 Adnan 2011-06-14 22:26
So true.....pizza represents a connection to the place where we belong. And for me, a Bangladeshi guy who is now 8000 miles away from home, it connects in a bit different way---as a kid, pizza was one of the few dishes that involved the whole family with veg slicings, cheese gratings etc. Fun times :-)

And talking about "dough with toppings", I recently discovered the middle-eastern version of it--Pita with spiced meat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lahmacun) and pita with oliveoil-thyme-sesame mix (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Za%27atar#Culinary_use) both fantastic!
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#2 Peter Reinhart 2011-06-15 20:07
Would love to try those pita pizzas! I've had it with zatar and love that flavor!
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#3 Norma 2011-06-15 21:41
Great post Peter! It is interesting that there are so many styles or kinds of pizzas and your post tells this well.

I also like many kinds of pizzas, and keep experimenting with new styles. I think most of the pizzas I have tried are good in one way or another.
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Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

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