Once upon a time, a pizza was a simple treat. Then someone had the idea to stuff some cheese into the crust, which you might take as the epitome of pizza decadence. You ain’t seen nothing yet: Here is the pizza topped with cheeseburgers.
Hail Queen Margherita!
When I was a kid, all I ever wanted on a pizza was tomato sauce, cheese and basil, what is called a “Pizza Margherita” and named after the queen of Savoy, who apparently valued the true gastronomical origin of the pizza: a simple dish eaten by the poor.
Because even after it had left those lower caste confines and appeared on the queen’s table, it essentially was the same humble, yet satisfactory food. By the time of WWII, when American soldiers in Italy discovered the pizza, things still hadn’t changed much, which is probably exactly why these men developed a taste for it.
But it consequently was their discovery that had all hell break loose in the world of pizza. Where before in the US pizza was a dish mainly eaten by Italian immigrants, the hungry GIs now introduced their families and friends to the uncomplicated food they came to enjoy. Suddenly there was a large market and entrepreneurs prepared to seize it: 1943 saw the Chicago-style “deep dish” pizza invented and the first pizza restaurant chain started, in 1948 the first ready-made pizza dough mix appeared on supermarket shelves and in 1958 the first Pizza Hut opened its doors, soon followed by other big players.
The Total War Of Pizza
Of course, the craze about pizza not long after took over the entire world, but, in essence, all those chains still sold the same thing: a flat dough with some tomato sauce and cheese on top. That is hardly a product you can stand out with, if everybody else’s is practically identical. A topping more appeared here, another there. Soon that too wasn’t enough, and “special sauces” were touted, then “unique” doughs. Pizza makers found themselves on an escalation ladder that always required them to one-up what the others do.
When more toppings, special sauces and doughs weren’t enough anymore, you needed a really good idea. That came as a pizza with cheese in the crust, now followed by uniting two fast foods into one and putting hot dogs into the rim.
However, the latest development in the war of creating the pizza to end all pizzas came right on its heels and is the pizza with cheeseburger toppings. I’m not kidding:
We Are Guilty, Too
Make no mistake, because we as consumers have our part in fueling this happy game as well. When people started eating pizza regularly, the unique culinary sensation faded away and something stronger was required to set off the fireworks in the taste buds. That gave more power to all those special sauces and doughs, the extra toppings and, yes, the hot dog crusts and cheeseburger crowns. The same goes for every other caloric behemoth that developed over the last years.
I still strongly remember that when I had my first Cherry Coke, the cherry taste was so strong it was fantastic. But after six months of drinking the stuff, it had almost entirely faded away, so much so that my friends and I speculated about the Coca-Cola Company having changed the recipe. In reality we had just become used to it. You can easily try this yourself: refrain from having your favorite fast food or sweets for a month or two, then eat it and note how different it then tastes to you.
If we want to stop the food industry’s escalation ladder of bigger, better, fatter and sweeter, we too can do our part. We can stop overindulging ourselves and savour our food more.
Many thanks to Shira for bringing the cheeseburger pizza to my attention.
Picture courtesy of “Haseo“.