As I approach pizza this morning, I find there’s a chunk of a lyric from a Marcia Ball song stuck in my head: “A little too little and a lot too much.”
If you don’t know about the 6-foot-ish Marcia Ball, she of the dark hair with the white streak, the woman recognized as “Her Tallness” is a piano player and singer.
Miss Marcia’s music is something the Boston Globe once described as “an irresistible celebratory blend of rollicking, two-fisted New Orleans piano, Louisiana swamp rock and smoldering Texas blues from a contemporary storyteller."
That single line is a far more concise and invigorating a description than I could ever muster. Marcia Ball can tear the roof off the joint. Seen her do it many times, in front of huge crowds and in small clubs.
But the more pressing question is: What does any of this have to do with pizza?
Well, the song that started all this is called, “That’s Enough Of That Stuff.” It’s a story of house-party excess. It’s an ode to music from rock & roll greats like “Fats” and “the Nevilles” playing in every room of the house all night long.
In the story of the song, the landlord is on the warpath and wants to shut down the party. More generally, it’s a song about New Orleans excess: “Here in the city that care forgot, everybody parties a lot. The honky tonk, it's never shut. The band's still playing when the sun comes up.”
Interesting that this song comes to mind while I’m thinking about pizza. (Oh, who am I kidding. It’s inevitable. When am I not thinking about pizza?)
As Americans, we can overdo just about anything. Pizza could be considered prime among them. Americans eat about 3 billion pizzas a year.
And lately, I have friends who are bemoaning their own excesses in making homemade pizza. (Someone I know just got back his blood work. No more extra sausage for him! I feel his pain.)
Given all this, the April edition of trade journal PMQ Pizza Media magazine seems prescient. The cover story this month is, “The Feel-Good Food.”
The article covers a lot of ground similar to some I’ve been stomping about for years: Homemade pizza is not junk food. Far from it.
Pizza is a fresh bread made from minimally processed ingredients. It’s also topped with modest quantities of other minimally processed and healthy foods: cheese, tomatoes, animal protein and fresh vegetables.
There are all kinds of healthful things in pizza, from fiber to vitamins—even cancer-fighting lycopene!
Lycopene is found in tomatoes and (ready for this?) cooking the tomatoes helps them release their lycopene. Yay, cooked tomatoes!
Of course, (to borrow a Snoopy-ism from the late Charles Schultz,) if you regularly eat a 16-inch pizza without batting a lip, there are consequences.
See also: that last 20 pounds I can’t drop because right now I’m constantly making New York pizza and enjoying wine with it.
And to think I used to race triathlons and half marathons. At least I go to the gym. (Where the Food Network is on the TV, and I'm often listening to pizza podcasts.)
In the medically unprofessional opinion of this moderately athletic chunky man, a smattering of pizza once a week isn’t gonna kill ya.
And experts also say that the mood-enhancing qualities of pizza are well worth it.
To quote one of the dieticians in the PMQ article, pizza is soul comforting. And let’s not forget that the primary ingredients in pizza stimulate the production of dopamine.
Dopamine, lycopene and pizza, oh my!
But “a little too little and a lot too much”? Why is this song lyric sticking with me?
I suspect it’s not just because of the dietary concerns. It’s about all of the excess surrounding pizza.
The same issue of PMQ is letting us know 2023 is “the year of the pickle pizza.” And yes, I’ve been seeing many, many social-media photos of pizzas carpeted edge to edge in pickle slices. Excessive picklization!
Other great news! Diners are putting ever more ranch dressing on their pizza! The ranch dressification of pizza is up almost 10%! (Pennsylvania, you’re leading the charge on the ranch dressing pizza front. Be PA Pizza Proud in your ranch dressing excess!)
In pizza milestone news, Lenny’s Pizza in Brooklyn just served their last slice after an excessive 70 years in business.
You say the name “Lenny’s Pizza” doesn’t seem to mean as much as it might? Dial your memory banks back to 1977.
Think: John Travolta’s Tony Manero walking down the street to a disco beat while jamming two big, stacked pizza slices into the pie hole.
Yes, that pizzeria. The one featured in Saturday Night Fever. That was Lenny’s.
And Travolta Tony’s stacked pizza is merely one small slice of excess in Saturday Night Fever’s uniquely American ode to excess.
So what’s a pizza guy to do?
I say, just keep eating. But be mindful.
Yes, mindfulness can sometimes seem in short supply nationally. So it goes. I’m going to keep making pizza because it makes everybody happy. And can you possibly have an excess of happiness?
No, I’m not going to be carpeting my pizza with pickles because that’s just silly. And honestly, I’m not sure what the big pickle deal is. They’re just pickles, not a revelation. They will not change the world as we know it.
And the ranch dressing thing is not gonna happen here.
Yes, I understand ranch dressing is an emulsion, making it great for pizza.
Yes, I understand all the sugars and fat in it are appealing to many people.
Yes, I understand that some people love to dip their pizza into even more ranch dressing.
Yes, I understand some think ranch dressing makes pineapple on pizza even better.
That’s their cross to bear, not mine.
And just maybe, I’m going to play Marcia Ball’s music a little more. It’s rollicking and fun, it’s evocative, and once in awhile, it’s a soulful tear jerker. It’s a salve for the weirdness of our times.
Less social media, more Marcia!
Her music is a little too little and a lot too much, and there’s never enough of that stuff. And I like living in the mindful city that care forgot.
It’s joyful. Like pizza.
If you'd like to hear "That's Enough Of That Stuff," I personally believe the best version of it is on Miss Marcia's album Live Down The Road. It also seems I can't link to that for you to play unless you have an Amazon Music Unlimited account. The version that's freely available on YouTube is here. The album Live Down The Road is here, and is a quintessential good time party record.
But still this is about pizza. And if you'd like to learn more about having a lot too much of your own pizza, Free The Pizza: A Simple System For Making Great Pizza Whenever You Want With The Oven You Already Have, is right here.
Blaine Parker is the award-winning author of the bestselling, 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, pro-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?
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