Tuesday, January 5, 2016

May the Pepperoni Be With You

With Star Wars dominating public consciousness I was thinking about the role pizza might play in a galaxy far, far away. On the day the new movie came out some of my co-workers were fully regaled in stormtrooper gear. While shooting a recipe video our test chef attempted to slice a pumpkin seed pizza with his light saber acquired in the WalMart Empire outpost here in Oxford, Mississippi, where the PMQ Deathstar orbits.

To be perfectly honest, I was always more of a Star Trek guy. Since my dad was a Naval aviator (that’s cooler than a mere pilot or even a Jedi Knight in my book) the Naval nomenclature in Captain Kirk’s universe had personal appeal. I remember when the crewmen, not to mention the crewladies in their 23rd Century mini tunics and boots, pressed a button and the fakey-looking rectangular door on the instant food replicator whizzed open to reveal trays of never-found-in-nature-hued nutrition blocks, maybe chased down with some blue Romulan Ale. Never saw them grab a smoking slice of pepperoni pizza out of that thing. Too messy, maybe?  Not enough heat produced by the dlithium crystals to bake really authentic Neapolitan crust? Politically correct concern for Vulcan dietary mandates?   Don’t know, but the Trekkies are missing the starship when it comes to good eats.

While I put this blog under the heat lamp during my holiday week off, I actually went to the theater myself (alone, yes pathetic) to view the new Star Wars blockbuster. I was hoping director J.J. Abrams would pay homage to the famous cantina scene from the first flick, and he didn’t disappoint. Still, no pizza! In fact, I didn’t notice grub of any kind, although a few of the patrons at Maz Kanata’s place did resemble grubs…or termites…or something equally intergalactically repellent.  Old (apparently thousands of years ancient) Maz is a dead ringer for a spectacled lizard herself, or maybe the (really) old wisecracking broad from Golden Girls. What’s Star Wars got to do with pizza, you ask. Well for one thing, I figure those legions of evil stormtroopers would be naturals to subsist on some 3-D food-printed version of the same staple that their Roman predecessors marched on while conquering Planet Earth. After all, 3-D pizza printing is already part of 2016 military planning as the DOD tests integrating America’s favorite food into the rations for today’s deployed GIs. When I was in the Air Force, the best we could hope for in our MRE (Meals Ready to Eat—but not enjoy) was reconstituted beef stew.

Now I love syfy, even if my tastes run to more authentically cosmic physics-aligned approaches like last year’s hit Interstellar. Even in Matthew McConaughey’s fifth dimensional, gravity-curved worm hole of a fun time there’s no time for pizza. Ditto my favorite mind-bending film experience from childhood, 2001 a Space Odyssey. The astronauts again feast on rectangular essence of real food. The mysteries of creation are found in a black monolith, but not one sliver of leftover pizza crust exists in the vast expanse of space.

I don’t buy it. Don’t tell me that any advanced civilization will be able to survive without a cheese dripping, meat and veggie-laden slice of doughy, saucy perfection. Nutritional convenience and tidiness may be important values for space travel, but great food has always been about more than existing. It’s family and fellowship and pleasure and art. When the force really wakes up—it’ll send the Millennium Falcon out for a space cruiser full of pepperoni pizzas.

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