Pizza: The Ultimate Rorschach Test?

It wouldn’t be even slightly unfair to suggest that I could sustain myself on a permanent diet of pizza and chicken wings from now until the end of time. In fact, if Coca-Cola, beer and the occasional bag of Sour Patch Kids were tossed into the mix, the suggestion would be closer to fact than hypothesis. So, it was with great joy that my friend Sarah suggested that we participate in a great pizza bake-off. The rules were very simple: go to the store, buy what you’d like, make a pizza… best tasting pizza wins.

I spent most of that week researching pizza recipes, debating the merits of making my own crust vs. buying one, etc. It’s amazing how intense one can research the art of pizza making when pride is on the line. Some time around Thursday afternoon I managed to finalize my pizza blueprint, eagerly anticipating what would certainly be a pie to rival even those from Pizza Hut (seriously, there is no greater pizza chain). With visions of children dancing at my feet, praising my culinary accomplishment by presenting me with rare bags of spices from far away lands, I hit the grocery store. Note: when opting for freshness and unique flavor (thus, shopping at Wild Oats) it’s best to take out a loan before hitting the grocery store.

The cook off ended as quickly as it began, with both parties scrambling around the kitchen to complete their recipes in a given span of time. Picture The Iron Chef, but with two people that could NEVER actually be on The Iron Chef. Picture The Iron Chef if that particular week’s theme was “Monkeys in the Kitchen!” A few minutes and a bit of luck later, the pizzas came from the oven and on to our plates. The verdicts were in, and here are the results (according to me):

Pizza #1 (Cory)

Ingredients: pre-packaged crust, homemade organic pizza sauce, uncured pepperoni, green & red bell peppers, marinated black olives, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh grated parmesan cheese, crumbled feta cheese.

Verdict: The store bought crust proved to be a mistake, as the “seasonings” in the dough seemed to consist of “ten pounds of oregano.” I’m a fan of oregano, don’t get me wrong… hell, I’m a fan of hundred dollar bills, but I’d rather not be crushed under a pallet from the U.S. Mint. The main problem with a faulty crust is that with each bite, it’s inescapable. You’re going to have a hard time eating pizza without it.

However, I redeemed myself with a tangy sauce and pitch-perfect blend of toppings. The peppers were flavorful without adding too much heat or becoming overpowering, the pepperoni and olives complimented each other nicely, and the addition of feta and parmesan cheeses gave the pie an additional layer of cheesy goodness. All-in-all, the curse of the hippie crust damaged an otherwise top notch pizza. Should have used fresh dough… a rookie mistake… you hate to see that.

Grade: B-

What My Pizza Says About Me: It was pointed out when the pies came bubbling out of the oven that they couldn’t really be more different. Perhaps our pizza says more about us than we realize? My pizza was filled with familiar ingredients, each slightly more interesting than your garden variety pizza. Perhaps it says that, like my pizza, I appear to have the common themes of the everyday Joe… but a look deeper sees something else. Or maybe I just wanted the bigger pepperoni.

Pizza #2 (Sarah)

Ingredients: (since I didn’t prepare this one, I’m going from memory) fresh rolled dough, creamy alfredo sauce, organic chicken, red onions, fresh picked basil (from her own garden), sun dried tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese.

Verdict: I say this with great pain… Sarah’s pizza was much better than mine. The alfredo sauce was a wonderful change of pace, and the chicken was melt-in-your-mouth tender. I never, under any circumstance, want to see onions on a pizza, but after being sauteed for several minutes with the chicken and alfredo sauce, they remained crunchy with a great flavor. The sun-dried tomatoes were the perfect way to give the old-school pizza flavor to a new-school pizza.

Grade: A-

What Her Pizza Says About Her: Sarah’s pizza was unique and adventurous, the kind of thing that’s either going to sink or swim. It had a more refined taste than your standard pizza, while remaining accessible. It’s hard to say whether or not hers actually took more effort than mine (since we both finished at the same time), but due to the fact that she brought out additional pans, she gets the point. Most of all, her pizza was girly. Very girly. The thick crust was a bit surprising on such a feminine dish, but it worked perfectly.

With the flour settling, there was one easy conclusion to draw… kitchen arrogance aside, it’s not easy to make pizza. Granted, we both went to unnecessary lengths to create specialized pizzas in an effort to topple the competition, but the process itself is no cake-walk. In fact, after this adventure I’d imagine that cake is also no cake-walk. However, despite the relatively surprising difficulty, it was as much fun as I’ve had in the kitchen in quite a while.

I’d suggest taking a good, long look at your next slice of pizza. Perhaps there’s a little slice of your personality sitting on that plate. Perhaps the answers to all of life’s questions lie before you, bubbling and covered in pepper flakes. Perhaps that piece of Italian Sausage has something important to say.

… or maybe you just like Italian Sausage.

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One Response to “Pizza: The Ultimate Rorschach Test?”

  1. Kevin Says:

    1. I now want to make a pizza.
    2. It should probably be noted that the winning pizza was also crafted by a woman sporting a severely injured limb.
    3. Sausage and pepperoni jokes are ALWAYS funny … much like fart jokes.

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