So pizzas are bad for you, are they? Well, who knew? There I was, thinking that Pizza was the healthy food group with magical weight-reducing properties. The one food guaranteed to lower your cholesterol.
Pizza is tasty. Pizza is nice. Pizza is packed full of every fatty heart-clogging thing we know, and that’s fine, because we like it and we take the chance. Let’s see now. Will this slice kill me or can I safely slurp it back and enjoy its delicious cheesy, tomatoey unturndownableness? Yum dammit yum.
The nicest pizza I ever had was about twelve years ago when I went to New York with my good buddy Wrinkly Joe. It was a hard journey involving a hop to Paris and a long Air France flight to Newark, where we were picked up by our host and transferred straight to an old converted bank in Brooklyn. What was happening there? It was a recording of a new album by the young Freedy Johnson in front of a live audience. There were barrels of iced water full of beer and assorted general coolness, after which our host drove us into Manhattan, pulled up on the sidewalk and we ordered lunch/dinner/breakfast from a street-corner pizzeria window.
It was the best pizza I ever had, with a thin base and an irresistible topping of mozarellla and pizzaiola sauce, with the added piquancy of jet-lag and New York never-sleeping coolness.
I know a little place in Croatia where another friend has an apartment. I haven’t been there in three years due to tightness of money but I’m hoping to get back there in 2012 with any luck. The proprietor, Dragan, serves you up a delicious 300mm pizza, bubbling and delicious with all the trimmings and toppings at a reasonable price. He does it with panache and aplomb, and he doesn’t have to charge you the earth because, unlike in Ireland, he’s not beset with silly health regulations and with insurance restrictions. He runs a clean, efficient restaurant and he does it well.
Meanwhile, back home, our restaurants have to comply with the most onerous requirements in all Europe because that’s how we do things. Our inspectors, unlike those in France, Belgium, Spain or even Germany, employ no discretion whatever. Your kitchen is one square metre too small? You must close!
That’s how they roll here in Ireland, despite being part of a country that prides itself on its anti-establishment stance.
But I digress. What’s all this about pizzas being bad for us? Well, according to Safefood, a 12-inch deep-base Hawaiian pizza contains more than twice the daily amount of calories, salt and fat required by the average adult. Even a thin-base Margherita has at least half the total daily intake of calories, salt and fat. As if that’s not bad enough, two out of every five Irish people eat pizza once a week, although if you exclude fat IT-support guys in Slayer T-shirts, that figure falls to one in fifty.
What does this say about us? Well, probably not very much. We’ve always eaten shit and while the shit we ate in the past was less fattening, that was only because we couldn’t afford better shit. We have yet to develop a culinary tradition, although that isn’t necessarily a guarantee of healthy eating. Have you ever seen the state of some Italians? Years ago, when I first visited Italy, the thing that struck me was the sight of fat little boys following their mothers by the hand. I’m not so sure about this Mediterranean diet.
Some people will tell you that this phenomenon is due to poverty but I have to say, I don’t swallow it. If you can afford a take-away pizza, you have enough money to make a nutritious meal for four people, if only you knew how. And therefore, I think the issue is ignorance. Is it that people don’t know it’s possible to cook good food cheaply or are they simply too lazy? Perhaps it’s a combination of both. I can’t cook but I can use a phone. Let’s call Domino Pizza.
What am I trying to say? Probably much the same as the Safefood people. Have your pizza every now and then. Enjoy it, but don’t do the complete hound on it.