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COMMENTARY

Pizza… A Circle of Life

By Gary W Moore

My mother taught me many things. She gave me the gift of curiosity. She questioned everything and encouraged her children to do the same. She spent her early teen years as a short-order cook and waitress. With her experience, she taught me to cook and enjoy the creativity of the process.

In 1943, Mom moved from Sapulpa, Oklahoma, to Oakland, California, to work in the shipyard to support our war effort. There, she was introduced to her first pizza. It was love at first bite. She later passed her love of the pie to her children, and today, we are all pizzaholics. And why not? What’s not to love about pizza? She used to make it. We didn’t have much money when I was a kid, so I’ve had pizza made from Bisquick, ketchup, cheddar cheese slices, and sliced hot dogs. It wasn’t good, but sometimes even bad pizza is better than no pizza at all. I’ve learned that it’s maybe not the taste of the pizza, but the role it plays in American life.

Growing up, a great thrill was being told the pizza delivery man was coming. It was a rare treat, but when it happened, it was pure delight. It was like waiting for Santa, but instead of us feeding him cookies, he’s bringing a pizza!

Pizza has become a national celebratory food. When something good happens, we order a pizza. It’s easy to order, readily available anywhere, and compared to most foods, inexpensive. It’s food for the common people. When our doorbell rings with unexpected guests, I immediately think about ordering a pizza.

Do you know what cheese said the first time it met sausage? It’s Slice to Meat you!

In a nation where regional food has now been homogenized and can be found everywhere, pizza seems to remain regional. I’ll show my bias by claiming Chicago is the world’s pizza capital and boasts the best pizza on the planet. Chicago has the extremes, from its deep-dish delights to the thin and crispy treats. All of it good. I do enjoy New York style pizza but have found two regions of pizza that I don’t love… yet.

Before I go on… How do you fix a broken pizza? With tomato paste!

Tim, a close friend, is from suburban Detroit and raves about Detroit-style pizza, and he couldn’t wait to show me. But upon arrival in Livonia, Michigan, I was served something that seemed like a flat and square loaf of heavy bread with a little sauce drizzled over it and covered in cheese. It wasn’t bad… it wasn’t round… it wasn’t what I perceive as pizza.

And just for a little background… what’s the difference between a columnist and a large pizza? At least the pizza can feed a family of four. (Ouch!)

Then there’s Southern California. I love the weather, landscape, and beach. As for their pizza… I searched far and wide and thought it was all awful. I think if you put avocado on it … it’s no longer pizza. California Pizza Kitchen does offer a great Thai Chicken Pizza, but in general, I find SoCal is a pizza desert… at least so far?

Hey… did you hear about the Hawaiian chef who burnt his pizza? He should have baked it on Aloha temperature.

Pizza is as diverse as the people who eat it.

Originally from the Chicago area, I like my deep-dish pizza with cheese and a flat, thin sheet of Italian sausage that spans the entire pie. I like my thin crust with pepperoni and onion. I prefer my sauce to be on the sweet side and my crust not to be soft and soggy

Did you hear about the pizza chef with a terminal illness? He pasta’way. Now he’s just a pizza history.

Writing this column, I’m reminded of a scene in Forrest Gump where Bubba is telling Forrest of all the ways to make shrimp. “There’s thick crust pizza, thin-crust pizza, sausage pizza, BBQ chicken pizza …” I’m guessing the list could go on forever.

Aside from the silliness of this column, here’s what’s important.

When we gather around pizza, people smile. It’s not just another dining experience to provide nourishment, but an activity that has become a prominent thread in the fabric of our American tapestry. The enjoyment isn’t only in the consumption, but the idea that pizza is a gathering point… a touchstone that brings us together. And we all know in this time of intense national anxiety, we must find something we can agree upon. I believe conservatives and liberals alike can still sit around a pizza and find some common ground… and maybe laugh together… and just perhaps… begin to heal our American spirit.

The election is over. Can we all order a pizza and smile? Can we enjoy the companionship of those we may disagree with politically and eat a pizza together? Isn’t it time to try?

PS – I’d tell more pizza jokes, but they’re all too cheesy!

Submitted by Gary W. Moore, a freelance columnist, speaker, and author of three books, including the award-winning, critically acclaimed, “Playing with the Enemy.” Follow Gary on Twitter @GaryWMoore721 and at www.garywmoore.com

 

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