Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke

Friday, May 3, 2013

Reflections on a Frozen Pizza

Hey kool aid and frozen pizza / It's a work of art I ain't talkin Mona Lisa - Mac Miller

Frozen Pizza 007
We knew that last Sunday was going to be a “lazy day”. I had spent the previous day “Masoning”, Scottish Rite in the morning and reliving my past by participating in the installation of a friend’s son for DeMolay in the evening. Trish was at the annual Gala at Shea's.

We knew both of us were going to get less sleep than we usually got. We knew that Sunday we would be tired and planned accordingly.

As dinner approached it was obvious that cooking wasn’t going to be in the mix; at least serious cooking. Under these circumstances we would often choose takeout pizza, but Ellie and her friends had one the night before. As no one in this house ever objects to pizza, we went to the backup plan of pita pizza.

I am not beyond making my own pizza shells, par baking them and keeping them in the freezer, but they take up a lot of space. Pita is far more convenient and has many uses.

When it comes to pitas my first choice are those purchased from Pete’s Lebanese Bakery. That’s right, I would pick the pitas from Pete’s even over my own homemade pitas. They are experts, and their pitas always are wonderful.

My second choice though would be my own pitas, and when I do make them I try to make extras a store in the freezer. They rarely make it there. My third choice would be that Canadian brand that sometimes shows up in stores like Wegmans. Appearances of that brand are getting rare and you can’t count on them being there.

The problem is that to too much of the world a "Pita” is one of those round puffy things you fill with tuna salad and sprouts consider ethnic or healthy food. They’re more useful as a kitchen sponge.

Imagine our pleasure when we discovered that Dash’s was carrying Pete’s pita bread at their stores.
It was this discovery that sent Trish to Dash’s to pick them up while I stayed home and got the remainder of the fixings prepared. Unfortunately, it appears that those Pete’s pitas are only available at the Main Street location. Trish did not find them at the Dash’s she went to – the one closest to us.

So she traveled to Tops, in hopes of finding one of their prepared pizza shells. Long before making your own pizza became popular, tops was a trailblazer in having both prepared, partially baked pizza crusts, and bags of raw dough to make your own pizzas. Apparently, that is no longer the case.

But Trish had promised and I had promised the kids pizza.

And so with no other choices available Trish made a judgment call to buy a frozen pie. I would have opted for PB&J or grilled cheese. This was about fuel, not dining.

There was a time in my life when frozen pizza was a regular staple of my household, along with generic macaroni aFrozen Pizza 001nd cheese (six for a dollar), tins of tuna and Campbell’s Soup, and packages of ramen. These sustained me through the lean years of college and early bachelorhood. Those pizzas could be charitably described as having all the taste and texture of the box they came in.

Yet they served their purpose. If not nourishing or particularly satisfying, they were filling. Especially when mixed with copious amounts of beer. I grew up, and so did my taste buds. I learned to cook. I learned that with some pita, cheese, frozen sauce or some olive oil, and random stuff from the fridge you can have a nice, quick meal.

The “pizza” in question was a DiGiorno Rising Crust Pizza, a Supreme for Trish and I and a plain pepperoni for the girls. The ingredient list was as long as should be expected. It reads like the contents of a child’s chemistry set. A very advanced child.

Frozen Pizza
Some I needed to look up such as “Datum” (Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Mono-diglycerides, if you must know). Others gave me an odd concern, such as “flavor". Not natural flavor. Not artificial flavor. Just flavor.


Frozen Pizza 003
Out of the box, I had a couple of observations. The sliced pepperoni and cheese look like sliced pepperoni and cheese. The kind used at most pizzerias you’ll ever visit. The kind I use in my home. It is true that there are differences in quality, but those differences are not so noticeable to ruin the overall flavor of the pizza. In most cases.

The frozen onions and green peppers appeared to be frozen fresh onions and fresh green peppers, much like those I often keep in my freezer. The slices of frozen black olives are those tasteless California olives – equally tasteless fresh or frozen. As for the sausage I had no hope for it in the first place. While I am open to just about anything on a pizza, sausage is one of my least favorite choices. Frozen sausage is almost always a complete disappointment. The sausage did not prove the exception to the rule.

Thus the ultimate test of this pizza was going to be the intangibles. Things which could not be perceived with the eye – the flavor of the crust and of the sauce. Both are vital to a satisfying pizza.Frozen Pizza 005
The pizzas were placed directly the oven rack - according to the directions this would result in a crisper crust then using a sheet pan. If I have this to do over again (and I hope not to have that chance) I would place it directly on the stone.

Peering into the oven I noticed that the dough had taken an almost preternatural spring. Not to overuse the sponge metaphor but it was like one of those flat cardboard things which, when exposed to water, spring quickly into the form of the sponge. The ingredients listed both yeast and baking soda as ingredients, but this explosive expansion of the dough seemed more like that caused by a chemical reaction rather than the biological action of yeast.

The cheese melted and browned and the other ingredients baked as one would expect from a pizza. We sliced into it.

As Trish said it wasn’t horrible. It did not give me flashbacks to those cardboard-like nightmares of earlier days. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, it is. The crust did not taste like heavy paper. It didn’t taste like much at all. As I had no great expectations to begin with, it wasn’t as disappointing as say that tasteless crust from that wood-fired pizza from Rocco’s some months ago.

If the sauce had any flavor afraid it was lost on me. The addition of grated Parmesan, crushed red pepper and oregano added some flavor to the mix, but it tasted only of grated Parmesan, crushed red pepper and oregano.

Is it delivery or DiGiorno? It’s DiGiorno. The coldest, limpest delivery pizza I’ve ever had is still better than this. If not as awful as those from my past it still is something I would not choose.

I’d stick with that peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or better yet build a pizza on one of my Sunday bagels. That would be good.

‘Cause life’s too short to eat bad food.

No comments:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Life's too short to eat bad food -