Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Philosophical Pizza

 I have a question. What  makes a pizza a pizza? Obviously there are about as many types of pizzas as there are people. Change one thing and is it still a pizza? Change the dough and is it still a pizza? Change the sauce and is it still a pizza? Change the shape, the thickness, the density, the toppings,  the cheeses and is it still a pizza? I once asked a bartender on a cruise ship while sailing around Tahiti, what makes it a martini? This bartender was having a martini night and although we don't drink martini's we showed up because he boasted of knowing a 164 different martini recipes! Some of these recipes were so exotic using chocolate syrup, whip cream, strawberries, fruity mixers in tropical colors and on and on. So when his answer came back to me that, what makes a martini a martini is: (drum roll please) the martini glass. (End of drumroll). I was a little disappointed that he could make that claim when all he was doing was making any drink imaginable and pouring it in a standard martini glass. It reminds me of a story I had read in college by an unknown author. His book was titled The Profit by Kellogg Allbran. Now, I know you're all thinking. "Who? You mean The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran!" No, I mean The Profit. The story went like this: A crowd had gathered around the feet of the Master and they called to him. "Speak to us Master, tell us some truths." The Master replied,  "What would you like to know? A man who was a glass blower spoke out, "Master, speak to us of glass." And the Master took a deep breath and said as the crowd hushed. "Glass is an amazing thing. It is very strong  yet  very fragile. Glass is solid yet it is clear. It is malleable yet firm. It is simple yet complex. Remove only one ingredient from it and you would not have glass. If you removed the lime and replaced it with lemon, you would not have glass. If you removed the sand and replaced it with sugar, you would not have glass. If you replaced its solidness with water, you would not have glass." The master paused and a man spoke out, "What would you have Master?" And the Master winked and said to the crowd, "Lemonade. "
So should it go with pizza? If you remove one item and replace it with another, do we still have pizza? Many have suggested and done so approvingly or not, that if you change pizza from a meal to a dessert item, is it still a pizza? What makes it a pizza? If we were to put sweet dessert type toppings on it and chilled it, would it still be a pizza? This could be one of those dilemma questions that doesn't have an answer– like the tree falling in the forest.
   Well, we did it. Sheri did it actually, and with pretty good results. She didn't concoct it out of thin air but from author and master pizza maker Tony Gemignani's book called Pizza. Using similar products for the dough, but with an infusion of sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon, and baked it on the pizza stone at a lower temperature. After that it's anything goes. Marscopone cheese mixed with vanilla, sugar and ricotta, then topped with strawberries and a drizzle of fudge sauce.  
    The second pizza had  a par-baked crust and then was topped with crushed gingersnaps, caramel sauce, pecans, and peaches artfully arranged and baked again until sizzling. Tasted great! Less filling... But was it Pizza? My thought on that is the image that we all have of what a pizza should look like, smell like and taste like predetermines it in our heads what a pizza is. Just change the name from pizza to something else and suddenly it sounds like a great dessert. This may be one of those philosophical questions that people like Voltaire, Shakespeare, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Carl Jung and others could have and should have debated. People like Einstein, Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking could have really racked up some awards for solving that universal question. I say, leave it to minds greater than mine to determine. I think that's what the Master would've said.

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