At some point in our country's history, it became socially frowned upon not to like pizza. Cheese pizza is the new apple pie. If someone doesn't like spinach or some other fibrous vegetable, people understand. No one questions children probing it on their plates. But if you don't like pizza, you're met with suspicious glares as if you suddenly announced to your friends and family that you're actually a Russian spy.
This is not something I tell a lot of people because of the aforementioned looks. Also, as a food blogger, I have a street cred I need to keep up. But I'm an enigma: I was born in America, socialized through the public school system, and yet I still do not like pizza.
I am not a freak. The taste buds want what the taste buds want.
Gastronomically scarred early on, my father would feed me what he liked to call "pizza" whenever my mother wasn't around. It was a toasted white bread slathered in pasta sauce with one slice of too-yellow American cheese melted on top. And then in elementary school, a square slab of crustless pizza was lifelessly thrown onto my styrofoam tray every Pizza Friday. Every other 8-year-old loved Pizza Friday -- it was a nice break from freezer-burned mystery meat nuggets -- but for me, it was too reminiscent of my father's so-called pizza with the shredded mozzarella microwaved on top and dripping in that unknown red goo.
The pizzas at birthday parties and sleepovers were significantly better, or at least I thought so, because they were ordered from chains like Pizza Hut and Papa John's and the cheese didn't look as microwaved on. But it was actually worse; chain delivery pizzas are almost always scarred with browned burnt cheese, giving it a chewy and tough consistency like a $5 steak.
And then there are the pizza bubbles. Most people don't look before they bite and chew right into them and don't acknowledge that they're actually chewing into the constipated farts of the pizza. It might be my neurotic attention to detail, but these innocuous bubbles definitely release a pocket of air trapped between the crust and the cheese as soon as you pop it.
In college, I was met with the drunk pizza craze. After a night of downing cheap PBRs and penny beers, the antidote to a hangover -- and any hope of making it to a morning class -- was at the end of a greasy slice of 3 a.m. pizza. Inebriated college students with their well-used fake IDs would line up around the block for a slice so big it needed two plates to support it and so greasy it soaked through onto their hands turning the white paper plates transparent.
The first time I told the girls on my floor from the freshman dorms that I didn't want drunk pizza, they stared at me as if I admitted to having an 11th finger. These were girls that I had been doing my laundry and sharing a communal bathroom with for weeks. And yet once I dropped the I-don't-like-pizza bomb, it was like seeing my social life flash before my eyes: I was going to be forced to sit by myself at the dining hall, have no one to taxi back to the dorms with, and probably be booted off our floor volleyball team and then eventually die alone in a cobwebbed corner.
So I came up with the worst lie possible: I was vegan. Suddenly it was cool and socially acceptable to not eat pizza but that also meant not ever eating anything with animal products in it. My cute leather skirts were now "faux" leather skirts. While the rest of the freshman population was gaining their allotted 15 pounds, I was losing weight from my diet of pale romaine lettuce and orange juice. (Whenever someone wasn't looking, I would manage a few secret bites from a burger.)
It was a rough time for me, but I eventually lied again and said I developed anemia. I realized, though, when someone is vegan or has a food allergy no one questions it. But if you don't like the taste of pizza, suddenly you feel like you belong as a sideshow circus act.
And it's not that I haven't had the right slice of pizza either. I've had obscure side-of-the-road dollar slice to fancy, cut-it-with-a-fork-and-knife pizza. I've had white pizza. I've had deep-crust. I've had stuffed crust. I've had four-cheese and vegetable and even Hawaiian (before of course realizing I was allergic to pineapples and not pizza, as I had hoped). And, yes, I've had pizza in New York. I've tried it all.
Now, when my friends order pizza, I go along with it. It's not worth making a scene. I split the price of a box and will eat two slices even though I'd much rather be eating a chicken quesadilla (extra sauce) from Taco Bell. One day I'll start a pizza-haters anonymous group for others like me (I know you're out there and I'm not alone), but until then, I'll just the ride the carb coma that follows and not question why it's come to the point where I have to ingest 450 unwanted calories a slice just to save my reputation. The world hasn't caught on that people who don't like pizza are people too.
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