IN THE early 1980s I met a charming American holidaying in the same hotel that my late partner Brian and I chose for our vacation in Barcelona. We got on so well that Tim extended us an invitation to stay with him, should we ever cross the pond and visit San Francisco.
Two years later I combined a business trip to the US with a week in California and arranged to use Tim’s crib as a base. On our first evening in ‘Fog City’ he took Brian and I to ‘the best pizza restaurant in all of San Fran.’
What we each got after queuing 30 minutes for a table was a circle of dough the size of a satellite dish and about four inches thick. A tractor tyre would have been tastier and more digestible. I pushed mine to one side in disgust and Brian did the same.
Tom, who’d scoffed his with relish, was not best pleased. ‘Something wrong?’ he asked somewhat sourly. Brian snapped: ‘Everything. The dough is undercooked and a starving mutt would run a mile from the topping!’
I shot Brian a disapproving look. He’d nailed it as far as the food was concerned, but this was Tom’s treat and he should have been more diplomatic.
The experience put me off pizzas for life, but on Day Fifteen of the COVID-19 lockdown, I discovered to my utter dismay that the selection of frozen fish and meat at our local store had been supplanted with an assortment of pizzas. So I bought two, just to test for taste.
What I hadn’t spotted was the word ‘mini’ on the boxes. So I ended up with 18 pizzarinas, eight cm in diameter. My first thought, of course, was to exchange them, but then I decided to pop three into my tabletop halogen cooker – the best kitchen appliance I’ve ever bought – to check whether they were remotely edible. Indeed they were. In fact, they were delicious, with a very crusty base. So, the next day, I legged it back to the store to lay in a supply of the grown-up version.
Another shock awaited me. They only had three pizzas left – and those were topped with chocolate! Just looking at the Dr Oetker box made me feel queasy and set me wondering just who invented such an abomination. More to the point, why?
I imagined the UK-based Gourmet Chocolate Pizza Co would have the answer, but no. All it says on its website is ‘the honest truth is that nobody really knows.’ It also mentioned, as an aside, that February 9 is ‘National Pizza Day.’
Wikipedia left me equally in the dark ‘The confluence of pizza and chocolate developed in parallel in several Western countries and has become a dessert purveyed in franchise and chain restaurants.’
Oh, Ok. A dessert. Terrific if you’re a puddings-for-dinner type. But I’m not, so I’ll leave them for Spanish shoppers, who, it would seem, can’t get enough chocolate or products that contain the stuff. A recent survey showed that Spaniards collectively spend around €180-m a year on chocolate, which is mostly eaten on Saturdays.
Note to self: read the labels more carefully when out shopping!