Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pizza - What Better Place To Start

Pizza - What Better Place To Start
In theory, the actual act of eating a slice of pizza should be a fairly straight-forward operation. But, as with other foods that are so clearly a staple in our everyday diets, everyone has his own opinions. This entry outlines my 'school of thought' for eating pizza.

The Benchmark
First off, I should state that as a Boston native, I have no right to claim myself a pizza expert. Don't get me wrong, you can get a decent slice in Boston, it's just not NY or Chicago. This brings me to an interesting point when dealing with foods that are staples. Like your mom's red sauce, the version of a food that you eat growing up becomes the benchmark against which you judge all other versions of that food as an adult.

For example, I grew up on [insert name of town] House Of Pizza joints across the south shore of Boston. These pizza shops specialized in thick, chewy crusts, very oily cheese, and tart tomato sauce - see: Greek Pizza. Along with pizza, these shops (often Greek owned) also carried a wide array of subs including chicken cutlet, meatball, and steak and cheese. Note that all were available with shredded iceberg lettuce and would always be listed on a black board over the counter with removable plastic letters. (Imagine if this was your benchmark! Zante's).

As with everything, I have some particular rules I follow to get the best experience eating my pizza.

Structural Integrity
Pizza was made to be eaten by hand, not with a knife and fork. That being said, occasionally, you will have a slice of pizza that is impossible to eat by hand without folding (see Folding below). This is usually the result of either excessive toppings, or a soggy crust. In this case, I like to use a fork and knife to eat the first few inches of the slice, and then eat the rest by hand.

Folding pizza is a bad idea. Sure it makes sense from a functional perspective, but if you want to enjoy your pizza, don't fold it. An often overlooked component of eating is how you put food in your mouth. Given that taste buds are found on your tongue and palette, you want the tastiest part of the food to touch those surfaces when you put it in your mouth. When you fold pizza, you're surrounding the cheese, sauce, and toppings with the bread. When you first put it in your mouth, all you taste is the bready crust. I therefore prefer pinching to folding. Pinching refers to simply bending the slice at the crust just enough to provide the structural support needed to hold it.

Delayed Gratification
There are definitely different schools of thought with regard to saving the best bite for last vs. eating the best bite first. With saving the best bite for last, you have the advantage of ending on a great bite that will stay with you until you eat something else, but you run the risk of getting too full to enjoy it. Given that I rarely say no to something because I'm too full, I usually opt for the saving the best bite for last. In my opinion, when eating pizza, the best bite is no more than 40% crust, and contains a sampling of toppings. Given that the crust is the widest part of the slice, this can sometimes be a challenge. I therefore will take bites out of the crust from the sides as much as possible while preserving the structural integrity of the pizza.

Hopefully you've enjoyed this window into my gastronomic OCD. This is what happens in life when your only hobby is eating.


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