January 30, 2012
Being a gumshoe gastronomer often involves questioning the seemingly immutable facts of food and cooking. Last week I defied the laws of baking by making cake in a crock pot. This week I’d like to challenge the fundamentals of another beloved food—pizza. Specifically, is a pizza’s identity inextricably linked with cheese?
I began thinking about questions of identity in college, when I took a course on Buddhism with Robert Thurman (yes, Uma Thurman’s father). Professor Thurman is an engaging, eccentric, and brilliant man, and every one of his classes had memorable moments. One in particular has stayed with me. Thurman was trying to explain the “universal self,” a Buddhist identity construct in which all beings are one and no person has an individual self. Many of us were struggling with this concept—this was, after all, an American university full of competitive overachievers. Confronted with the wrath of a particularly incensed student, Thurman used a graphic analogy to get his point across; as I remember, he asked the student if his face would still be his face if it didn’t have a nose.
So, now I will pose a similar and equally important philosophical question: Is pizza still pizza without the cheese? You may be thinking no, but I’m hoping my recipe for cheeseless Red Curry Pizza will convince you otherwise.