I think I am losing my love for pizza. Really, losing my taste for it. This suspicion—bordering on realization—devastates me. What happened? What changed? Where did we go wrong? Are we going to have to break up.
Pizza is, of course, the perfect food. Cheap, filling, predictable. With just one slice, all four food groups are yours for the eating. And you can take it—this warm, complete meal—to go.
In high school, eating pizza was a small act of rebellion. It was the food Mom didn't make. It was a means of declaring independence. “No!” I will not eat a perfectly arranged meal with a vegetable side dish. And most important, “No!” I will not eat with the family. I will eat out. I will opt for grease and cheese and heat and a slight mess—a bit of sauce left on my shirt—all evidence of having gone out for the evening. In time, I made "going out for pizza" a euphemism for all sorts of behavior my parents would never know of—as long as I was at the pizza place by the agreed upon hour for pick-up.
Rebellion gave way to ritual. In college, my student-run co-op kitchen would all serve homemade pizza on Friday nights. The ideal compliment to cheap beer. The perfect launch to the weekend—you never wanted to miss out. I don't recall a particularly satisfying pie. They weren't really pies at all. Rather—typically veggie or vegan—they were always made in flat long pans and usually burnt or raw. But taste didn't matter. It was pizza. It was the weekend. It was what everyone did. And to complete the rebellion from the teen years, we were cooking it in--all of us as self-proclaimed Grown Ups, making decisions about dinner in our new home, the co-op.
Then came survival. During the early adult years, during grad school and immediately after, pizza was a daily need. There was no reason and no means to go beyond it. Three dollars for a Coke and a slice, and I was done for the day—free to spend the rest of my money elsewhere; on a new CD or at a show or on multiple drinks. It was the early ‘90s. Sub Pop and small rock labels ruled the Northwest, and the epicenter in Portland was located, conveniently enough, right around the corner from my house: Escape from New York Pizza on NW 23rd. Anyone in a band or connected to one worked there. Going for a slice at Escape was as good as going to a club and being part of the din.
The thought of eating something else—say, something like broccoli—would emerge, but it was usually followed by images of buying, chopping, cooking and waiting—at home. Once again, the purpose and place of the rebellion had shifted places. Now, it was about going out and not settling in to some home life that I was supposed to submit to as an adult. I would find myself walking around the corner.
As I got older—perhaps fueled by nostalgia— pizza turned into novelty. A certain level of stability had been achieved, and thus, I was actually using my kitchen for more than reheating leftovers and boiling water. Pizza then signaled a special occasion. Something bought on Sunday nights when cooking felt too time-consuming. With one order, Sunday dinner and Monday lunch were covered. No matter the style, it was always satisfying.
But now, I don't know what purpose pizza serves. I go for a slice, and I leave feeling gross. Regardless of the style or the place, I just don't feel good afterward. It's too easy to label this reaction as lactose-intolerant or gluten-sensitive. Those don't sit any better with me. Silly as it may sound, something deeper has changed in my experience with pizza. Rebellion, ritual, and survival have all passed.
And being an age where people are prone to wax about the “Good Old Days,” I try to keep nostalgia in check too. I guess I just don't need it anymore. Frozen, or artisan, or from the locally-minded shop up the street, or from the rocker joint around the corner, I'm letting them all go. I want to cook; I want control. I need to break up with pizza.
Previous installments of FoodNerd here.