By Judith Stafford
A trip uptown top-ranking to the newly opened Chicago Pizza Pie Factory, in 1980’s Covent Garden, was a racy night out. Hot, spicy deep dish pepperoni and dripping garlic bread was a novelty in those days, not to mention a total carb/calorie overload. But no one gave a flying Four Seasons about such nonsense then.
Pizza Express in Soho was cooool man, with live jazz on a Sunday. Kettner’s on Romilly Street, for pizza and champagne in an ornate chandelier lit setting, was the height of sophistication.
But then takeaway joints broke out like pomodoro pimples on every corner. It’s still beyond me why anyone would want to pay over a tenner for a flaccid lump of grease, delivered tepid, in a box from the bowels of a greasier moped.
The biggest rip, is one particular chain’s “diet” version. Apart from the emotional blackmail of its very existence on the menu, inducing guilt if you DON’T order it, you’re paying £12 for a pizza with a big hole in the middle! They saw us coming.
The French love pizza, snaffling almost as many as – and being second only to – America, where 350 slices are eaten every
second. In other words, about 21,000 slices are eaten across the United States each minute.
One might assume that a substantial proportion of that occurs in the White House. According to Stormy Daniels, the Orange One’s pizza topping of choice is….wait for it….lots of mini pizzas.
I’ll say that one more time.
A big pizza – topped with lots of little pizzas.
S’all I’m sayin’.
The French eat even more pizza than Italians – 10 tonnes a year, in comparison to the 9 tonnes consumed by their Latino bros.
However, a fact I find rather comforting, is that 30,000 tonnes of escargots are still slurped in France per year. And yes, there is a snail pizza.
Apparently les Français love of pizza is, apart from it being an easy and economical option, attributed to the fact that it’s great for sharing, which suits the traditional conviviality of La Table.
And of course, it involves cheese.
A lot of cheese.
France, naturally, consumes the most cheese of any country and fromage is proven to be addictive as it contains the protein, casein.
Further to this, the highly compulsive, processed combination of melted cheese, tomato and baked dough actually affects our dopamine system, which is linked to our senses of reward and pleasure.
This must be why a floppy, salty, oil soaked wedge is such a great hangover cure.
So I’m told.
Grace Dent, fabulous food critic for The Guardian, recently caused a riot of gastronomic controversy by saying how much she loves pizza finished with pineapple. To me that’s a prospect as enticing as a topping of pilchards and beetroot, or pickled egg and prune.
The most popular Gallic choice is “La Reine” closely followed by the classic “Margherita”.
It was so exciting to first discover that a French pizzeria will offer the option of “rouge” or “blanc”. How adventurous was it to order lardons, on a base of fromage blanc. Or chèvre with honey. ON A PIZZA!! Ooh la la.
Pissaladiere is the original French version – puff pastry lusciously smothered in sweet, sticky caramelised onions with the salted burst of anchovy and olive.
Pizza vans with wood fired ovens can be seen rolling up in towns and villages all over France. There are even vending machines incongruously plonked in the middle of nowhere, miraculously proffering dripping hot slices, like molten cheesy pie producing spacepods.
So for those moments when only a slab of crisp, powdered dough under melting stringy mozzarella will do (preferably in your pants, watching The Sopranos) there is more than enough to go round.
But keep those snails coming too.
“Chez Mwah” by Judith (Chris) Dowden, is out now on Amazon in paperback and ebook.