Pizza and cheese sandwiches

niceties of food

A few Sunday mornings ago, the beloved Bill Geist did a story on “CBS Sunday Morning” about a grilled-cheese sandwich festival/competition in Los Angeles. (Americans have fetishized cheese sandwiches, just as they fetishize everything.) There’s a category in the competition for sandwiches with bread and cheese only; there’s a category for “exotic” sandwiches, with ingredients like pork ribs and pesto; and there’s a dessert category, which is a cheese sandwich incorporating something sweet.



Partner sniffed at the second category. “Those aren’t cheese sandwiches,” he said haughtily. “Those are rib sandwiches with cheese.”



“Why aren’t they cheese sandwiches with ribs?” I asked innocently.



He glared at me. “Obviously the ribs are going to overpower the cheese.”



I don’t get this. It’s a sandwich with cheese, so it’s a cheese sandwich. Who cares what else it has on it?



Evidently I am not a food purist.



This reminded me of something from Elizabeth David’s “Is There a Nutmeg in the House?”, but I couldn’t find my copy to give you an exact quote. Here’s a general paraphrase:



“I was looking at the menu of a local pizza restaurant, and noted that there were pizzas with bacon, and ham, and even pineapple. I am sure these are very interesting, but they are not pizza. I am not sure what they are.”



I worship the immortal soul of Elizabeth David, and would never disagree with her. But I have to disagree with her here.



“Pizza,” for me, is a thing that looks like pizza: sauce and cheese on a round flat bread-like crust. One of the original “pizzas” was the Neapolitan pizza margherita, which is red / white / green like the Italian flag: tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, basil. Another “authentic” Neapolitan pizza has an egg baked on top. (I love this, by the way, because I encountered it often in Tunisia, which is about six inches below Italy on the world map. Most of my American friends are either hilarified or disgusted by the thought.)



Sorry, kids: food is food. Pizza is pizza, whatever you put on top. Cheese sandwiches are cheese sandwiches, whatever you cram into them.



I just made myself hungry.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

4 Responses to Pizza and cheese sandwiches

  1. Egg on pizza sounds pretty tasty.

  2. starproms says:

    Well you made me hungry too Loren. I like the idea of the eggs on top. Are they grilled or oven baked, do you know? I also love the idea of the pizza being red, white and green to match the flag. That’s a great idea. Of course it wouldn’t work for my flag because that has blue in it (at the moment) and blue is a colour not often seen in food.

    • They just break the egg on top before baking. It often comes out a little runny, but that’s okay; you generally stir the egg into the toppings. I became very fond of it in Tunisia.

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