Las Vegas Sun

April 21, 2014

Currently: 75° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

J. Patrick Coolican: Death to pizza!

Image

Leila Navidi

Pizzas are shown at the San Gennaro Feast festival at the Rio last year. Pizza is an American staple that is almost universally beloved.

Click to enlarge photo

J. Patrick Coolican

I hate pizza. There, I said it. This isn’t an easy thing to admit, and for years — decades really — I suffered in silence.

As with most foods, I judge pizza both by how it tastes and by how it makes me feel after I’m finished eating. Pizza makes me feel terrible. I presume I now associate the smell and taste with sickness, so now it kicks in even sooner, but generally speaking, within 30 minutes I feel full of stomach and generally awful.

Adding to the misery, eating pizza is often accompanied by some celebratory occasion — a co-worker has won an award or a friend announces his wife is having a baby — marred by yet another painful pizza incident.

Until now, few have known my secret.

Why? Consider the central place pizza plays in American life. It’s basically inescapable. Across race and religion and class, we take fistfuls of dough, we cook it, and we top it with tomato sauce, bilious cheese, and vegetables and salted meats. We are a fractious and polarized nation, but on this, we are united — pizza’s greatness rivals the men on Mount Rushmore. In fact, many people would prefer Rushmore be made of pizza.

We eat pizza at work (an election night tradition in most newsrooms), at home (“I don’t feel like cooking — let’s order a pizza”) and while walking a city street (“Let’s stop and get a slice.”).

So now consider why I haven’t widely publicized my outré opinion of pizza.

Next time you’re at a party and there’s pizza (better than even odds it will happen this weekend), decline an offer of a slice and watch the expression on the host’s face when you explain that you don’t like pizza. You’ll be looked at like there’s something not quite right about you, like you haven’t seen “Star Wars” or you don’t think women should be allowed to drive.

What’s wrong with that guy? Who doesn’t like pizza?

So I glumly accept my slice of pizza or say merely, “No thanks,” and eat the salad.

Since coming out against pizza among a few friends and relatives, I have been offered diagnoses and potential treatments, like I have a strange disease (“Have you tried yoga?”).

A nutritionist friend said I could have a mild gluten allergy because I also feel ill after pasta, breads and — the absolute worst — bagels.

I was actually elated at this because it gives me a good answer when I hear the unanswerable question, “Why don’t you like pizza?” — even if gluten allergies, like attention deficit disorder, seem somehow suburban and fake. (The reality is that Celiac Disease, a full-on gluten allergy, is a big deal for those who suffer from it.)

And so I have been directed to gluten-free pizza and thin-crust pizza like that found at Settebello. (“Yeah, I know, I should try Settebello,” I’ve said a half-dozen times.)

So here I am Thursday, in my own personal Dante’s Inferno, the International Pizza Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center: the DOUGHPRO press oven, the Middleby Marshall PS670 Wow! Oven, vinyl table coverings for pizzerias, Pizza University: “Pizza is a precise science,” Hatco lamps.

It’s 10:30 in the morning, and a lot of people here are eating pizza — and chicken wings. The chicken wing people have smartly formed an alliance with pizza, like Robin glomming onto Batman.

“Pizza Today” is a trade magazine, and Jeremy White, editor-in-chief, gives me the rundown. There are 72,000 pizzerias, including 33,000 independent shops, in the United States doing $38 billion in sales, not including frozen ’zas. This is second only to hamburgers in food popularity.

(Most popular cause of American mortality? Heart disease.)

This is my first food convention, and though it’s not surprising, I find it striking how they can make food seem so industrial. A cheese boasts of its “functionality.” “Reduced moisture vegetables” offer “less water, greater value.” A company promises “innovations in baking and food solutions.”

I arrive at the booth of Venice Bakery, a decades-old family company that does regular and now a gluten-free crust. On the first day of the convention, they gave out 200 gluten-free pizzas, and it’s all the rage. They’re very nice people.

I take a small gluten-free slice, and sure enough, the usual sickness isn’t there. It has a thin, crispy crust and is not altogether unpleasant.

Still, I cannot betray my principles and will not relent from my cause: Death to pizza!

Do you suffer in silence, too? Share your pizza hatred story in the comments.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 6 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. My nephew, who was born and raised in Wisconsin, told me he didn't like cheese.

    I asked him why he hated cheese. You're from Wisconsin, the birthplace of cheese, for God's sake!

    I then asked him if he ate pizza.

    He said yes.

    I said most of pizza is made of cheese. Did you know that?

    He said, yeah, but that's different, that's pizza cheese.

    Enjoyed the article, Mr. Coolican.

    But I have to differ with you in this specific area of dining pleasures.

    You go against everything American, and I think you're a communist.

    (NOTE: Ill attempt at humor.)

  2. Is this Coolican's attempt at Rush Limbaugh style humor?

  3. Starting an article with "I hate pizza" is not the best way to keep an audience.

    Pat - you are 1. Aging. 2. Moving up the social/health ladder and away from the kid/college favorite food.

    Like moving from cheap American beer to European beer followed by Wine.

  4. Have to wonder: every FRIDAY, the school district offer PIZZA for lunch throughout the school year. You would think that students would be sick of it. They are NOT. When surveying my class for an award for Best Leprechaun Story written, what did they all agree on? PIZZA!!!!

    Today,we hare having the traditional corned beef and cabbage while students read drafts. Thankfully. The contest ends next week.

    Til then, the playground will flow of hidden gold pebbles for all the wee folk to glean and stir their imaginations.

    The MP Room bulletin board is full of shamrock wishes penned by hundreds of students and staff upon a rainbow fabric with a Leprechaun and pot of gold.

    Golden & Green Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  5. We have many names for pizza in the entertainment industry. The two used the most and almost equally is "Circles of Death" and "Second Meal" The first is self explanatory but the latter refers to the fact that on a set for a film/TV shoot we frequently need food at midnight for a hundred guys at the end of a 20 hr day it is 'always' delivered pizza as our second meal of the day. I am a no carb fan and well the toppings ARE the best part. :)

  6. Comment removed by moderator. Personal Attack