Traveling the world to eat the best pizza, getting paid for it AND collecting frequent flier miles? How do you get THAT gig?
In the pantheon of Modernist Cuisine cookbooks, it seems that Modernist Pizza is the first one with a travelogue. And an engaging, tasty, myth-busting travelogue it is.
In an effort to find the best pizzas on earth, the Modernistas hit what they refer to as the first-generation pizza cities: New York, New Haven, Naples, Buenos Aires and São Paolo. They also ventured to the style-related cities like Chicago, California and Rome. The visited a lot of pizzerias—yet the journey covered only about one one-thousandth of a percent of the world’s total pizza joints.
And once again, there is the potential for fistfights. But it’s hard to argue with such a team of smart people with mad skills making the trek so we don’t have to. Even though we kinda wish we could.
MIDWEEK MODERNIST PIZZA MEMO: "Modernist Pizza on food snobbery, old-timer's disease, what is pizza, and victims of Culinary Stockholm Syndrome..." (PART II)
When we left you last time, we promised to explain Culinary Stockholm Syndrome, among other things. And shortly, we’ll be doing exactly that—and we’ll be speaking of some important philosophy from the Modernist camp. We just have to do a little more business before getting there.
So, our last “World Of Pizza” observation is that there is no true “Roman style pizza.” Roman “style” actually covers range of styles and lots of hype. The Modernistas believe this is unfair to Rome’s rich culinary tradition. So it goes.
One of the interesting developments here in the land of Modernist Pizza is something that I believe explains a lot of vitriol. There’s a widespread and vocal hatred of Chicago deep-dish pizza exhibited by many. For me, Chicago deep-dish is simply uninteresting. I’ve certainly never said, “I could eat a doorstop right now, but there aren’t any nearby. Where’s the nearest Pizzeria Uno?
MIDWEEK MODERNIST PIZZA MEMO: "Modernist Pizza on food snobbery, old-timer's disease, what is pizza, and victims of Culinary Stockholm Syndrome..." (PART I)
Stockholm syndrome: a condition in which hostages in captivity develop a psychological bond with their captors.
What does that have to do with pizza? We’ll be getting to that. It involves many beloved pizzas and their questionable veracity as exemplars of the craft. It’s all part of Modernist Pizza’s Volume 1, Chapter 2 foray into the "World Of Pizza."
And when they say “world,” they mean it. You can get pizza in almost every country on earth. And they point out the couple of places where you just can’t. (Doesn't that contrarian inside you just want to go to one of those two places and order a pizza?
MIDWEEK MODERNIST PIZZA MEMO: "Pizza History: How Much Of What You Know Is Wrong? Modernist Pizza Breaks It To You Gently."
Word for the day: Apocrypha-- /əˈpäkrəfə/ noun, writings or reports not considered genuine.
The lesson of Modernist Pizza Chapter 1, "Pizza History," could be called: “Beware The Apocrypha,” of which there is much about pizza. The history of pizza is a complicated undertaking—in part because there is very little recorded history of pizza before the mid-1900s.
Pizza is largely undocumented in Italy. That is how there are persistent myths about its stature in Naples. Myths are just about all there is. And those myths have been exploded by the team at Modernist Cuisine
Things historical improve somewhat after pizza’s migration to New York and New Haven. But those things you think you know about pizza’s surging popularity in the United States? They might also be wrong. (Do not credit the GIs who ostensibly experienced pizza in Italy during World War II—a time when there was no flour available.)
Modernist Pizza opens with a history of pizza pursued with a diligence that is impressive. From its roots as a food of the poor, to its disparagement by famous people who visited Italy and found it gruesome, to its evolution into a trendy food item in post-war United States, the team at Modernist Cuisine did their work here. Despite all the remaining question marks, they’ve pieced together a chronicle of everyone’s favorite food and the various styles that evolved.
The archival photography is excellent, especially if you’re interested in historical New York City. From the birth of the nation of Italy through pizza migration to, and evolution in the big pizza cities (New York, New Haven, São Paolo and Buenos Aires among them), this is an epic story stemming from a great Neapolitan diaspora.
Of course, Americans have done all kinds of things to pizza. Yes, that includes chain restaurants and frozen product. But it also includes making it better, making it gourmet, making it more desirable in Italy. (Even prohibition plays a part in pizza. No history of pizza is complete without alcohol.)
Yes, this is just the first chapter of an epic and sprawling multi-volume set. In this chapter, it’s a history book impeccably researched and illustrated. And Chapter 1, “Pizza History,” is comprehensive. It also takes up a full quarter of the entire first volume.
Next installment, Chapter 2: “The World Of Pizza.” Soon. When we get around to it. In a week, I hope.
Yes, your Free The Pizza geek is reading an amazing, $425, 36-pound pizza book so you don’t have to.
The amazing thing is a book. What’s inside? A brief history of pizza. A single recommended dough recipe. An explanation about how to bake pizza in your home oven.
If you’ve read Free The Pizza!, that description might sound familiar. But, it’s obviously not my book. In fact, it’s the complete opposite of my book. It’s also a stunning example of why I wrote my book in the first place: there's a lot of pizza information out there. Not everyone needs that much intel at the beginning.
But if you’re the right person, you may demand this book. I’ve just received and started reading Modernist Pizza. If you don’t know about this pizza epic, it is extraordinary. Weighing more than 30 pounds (including the 7 pounds of ink required to print it), Nathan Mhyrvold and Francisco Migoya’s masterpiece is a great idea—IF you know what you’re getting into. I thought I did.
Blaine Parker is the award-winning author of the new, unusual and amusing how-to pizza book, Free The Pizza. Also known as The Pizza Geek and "Hey, Pizza Man!", Blaine is fanatical about the idea that true, professional-quality pizza can be made at home. His home. Your home. Anyone's home. After 20 years of honing his craft and making pizza in standard consumer ovens across the nation, he's sharing what he's learned with home cooks like you. Are you ready to pizza?
When you click those links to Amazon (and a few other sites we work with), and you buy something, you are helping this website stay afloat, and you're helping us have many more glorious photographs of impressive pizza.