The latest Real meals column:
For those of us not so much bitterly disappointed by the Obama presidency as predictably disillusioned (I knew he’d gone to the dark side when he snuggled up big-time to the lokshen soup lobby), the GOP primaries present a somewhat ambivalent spectacle. On the we-like side there’s the spectacle of one clown after another performing political pratfalls, but on the we-no-like recto is inscribed the saddening truth that to win against any of the current contenders – Gingrich included – would be like beating a dolphin at table tennis: it’ll say nothing whatsoever about the incumbent’s record except that he can, at least, hold a bat.
From the Real Meals perspective, the most important Republican candidate for 2012 has already quit. That Herman Cain got as far as he did says everything you need to know about the extent to which American democracy – so-called – marches on its stomach. If only Cain had simply gone on warbling “Imagine there’s no pizza . . .” every time he was popped a question, then he’d still be in the race – pepperoni being far more important than a mere peccadillo. Yes, Americans love their pizza with a deep-pan and all-consuming 15-inch passion, and while the idea of an actor being president still seems absurd despite the fact that it’s happened, no such cheesy whiff attaches to the notion of a former pizza company executive tossing dough balls about the Oval Office.
Hell, it wouldn’t even need to be an exec; given the oven-baked circularity of the American Dream, a pizza delivery boy – or girl – would certainly fit the bill. If only they didn’t require that tedious qualification of being a US citizen born stateside, I’d encourage the young man who delivered my Domino’s pizza the other evening to run. Encountered on the doorstep, he was courteous, nimble-fingered and open when I asked him about his travails: he worked, he said, a 12-hour shift most days, but on Fridays and Saturdays it could be 14. When not delivering pizza, he was far from idle, but rather scrubbing down steely surfaces, buckling cardboard and performing all the other labours that contribute to his employer turning over $1.5bn worldwide, while he putters along on minimum wage.
I thanked him and carried the boxes downstairs. My 14-year-old and I had already had a run-in about the vexed question of the cheese-stuffed crust – a revolting embellishment that he insisted was only available on the large 13.5-inch pizza. His little brother was content with 11.5 inches of “original” pizza, and I had the same of Firenze (Ventricina salami, pepperoni and Peruvian roquito peppers on a thin crust base – although what the fuck this has to do with the city of Dante is beyond me).
“That, boys,” I announced, “was the first time I’ve ever ordered food online.” Stuffed Crust stared down at me from the peak of his contempt: “I know, Dad,” he sneered, “because you sat in front of the computer in those stupid reading glasses of yours looking like some mad professor as you goggled at the screen.” This may have been true – but as I pointed out to him: “There was just so much choice!” Yes, choice between equally unappetising-sounding dishes, because I’d get on my moped and ride a long, long way simply to avoid a Meatilicious (pepperoni, ham, chicken breast, smoked bacon rashers and Cumberland sausage), let alone a Mighty Meaty (go online if you want to check out all the dead swine heaped on this dough bier).
The boys made free with their carbs, but I found my Firenze distinctly cardboardy and instead began to fixate on the box it had arrived in – densely corrugated, bold and smelling sweetly of melted mozzarella and tomato purée. I took an experimental nibble and found to my surprise that the box tasted perfectly all right, its texture paradoxically less cardboardy than that which it had formerly enclosed. My sons looked on appalled as I ate, tearing off strips and dipping them in the garlicky goo that had come in a little pot embedded in its lid.
For those of us not so much disillusioned by the Obama presidency as revolted, the discovery that a Domino’s pizza box is as palatable as a Domino’s pizza points the way to a sustainable future, and with the current Mega Deal – 7 Days of Crazy Prices! – you can get any size box delivered for a mere £9.99. You don’t have to be Herman Cain to imagine there’s no pizza.