February 22, 2010

February 23: first loud, distracting power tools of the season! There’s still snow on the ground and I can’t walk outside without my coat, but if the calendar says spring it’s time to start making shrill noises that have no end.


Well, now you know why I’ve been so slow to update this site.

Also, I acknowledge in advance that a lot of this is generalizations and assumptions. The fact that I’m writing at length about frozen pizzas should tell you that I am a less than cultured individual.

What we have here is a deceased German medical doctor trying to sell an Italian product to Americans. It would be like if Yakov Smirnov started selling Yorkshire pudding to Indonesians. And you can say “uh actually Yakov Smirnov is still alive.” First of all, watch the attitude. Second, truly?

Then why, recently, on the television program 30 Rock[efeller Center], a show fond of pointless, improbable cameos, when it came time to cast in a brief role a bearded Europy-looking guy named Yakov with a funny accent who appeared to be in his 50s, did they choose… someone else? I checked his name in the credits but neglected to make a note of who it was. Whoopth. I am a student of counterfeit Yakovs, but hardly an authority. I wish my name was Yakov.

As long as I’m buying a pizza from a German doctor born in the 19th century, I might as well buy it from a German World War I fighter pilot with a historically inaccurate mustache.

So many decisions to make! Incidootily, I used to eat Red Baron pizzas, specifically the “deep dish” variety, all the times, until my mother stopped buying them because they cost the same as bigger frozen pizzas. When I finally had one again, I didn’t like it because I reminded me of the “pizzas” sold at the Saint Vincent de Paul school cafeteria I had eaten within a few times. The same size, the same weird cheese that will come off in one piece if you bite it the wrong way, the same bright red weird sauce, and most importantly, the same weird crust that when you bite into it appears to be comprised not of a crispy mass of expanded dough, but several flimsy white layers of a thing I cannot describe. I had somehow developed a revulsion to the sight of those layers and had difficulty finishing. Only my trusty red pepperoni cubes, the one aspect the school version lacked, kept me going. I would eat those, but not actual pepperoni disc slices. It has today been revealed to me by the internet that the Red Baron pizza brand indeed got its start as a school supplier, and only became called that when somehow the things were popular enough to justify supermarket expansion, at which point, compared to “Schwan’s School Cafeteria Pizza-like-object,” calling it Red Baron made an adequate quantity of sense. Kids will eat ANYTHING if you say it’s pizza, though. I thought I was more mature and wiser, but I wasn’t, because I then reverted to my interim Jeno’s brand pizzas, which had the exact same cheese, tomato sauce and cubes. The only difference in the actual product was the absence of the creepy layer-things. The bread-product itself wasn’t of any higher quality, it was just narrower, so that I couldn’t see how it was constructed. So easily I was taken in once more! I tell you, these things’ll be the death of myself.

I’ll show them: I’ll have my body cremated. My initial plan was to have my body fed to dogs, but after a lifetime of eating frozen pizzas, particularly one ended by that, I don’t think I’ll be very nutritious.

Back to my first non-point, the problem is that “Italy” is a stereotype. The populace at large assumes –or is assumed by advertisers to assume– that Italy is still lost in the 17th century renaissance and all food is prepared for days at a time by old ladies mixing tomatoes and garlic and that green stuff in pots and such while children chase chickens through the streets which no cars drive over constantly. In fact, Italy today is fundamentally indistinguishable from any other post-industrial nation. There are paved roads, security cameras, giant buildings and McDonalds’. The number one frozen pizza title means as much there as it does here, where I am told the leader, by a huge margin is DiGiorno, despite depicting its customers as naive oafs who can’t tell the taste of a frozen pizza from a real pizza.

The sort of person lazy and devolved enough to buy a pizza from a specially programmed remote control button, with devolved taste-buds to match. The Pillsbury people claim Totino* pizzas and not DiGiorno are the highest selling, so clearly this is a thing that anybody can claim. However, Totino’s, despite having the power to taste like both a cheeseburger and a taco, never claims to taste like a pizza and in any event does not have special deals with the satellite company, so I will not be buying their product.

As to what’s being ORDERED here, obviously you’re not ordering the pizza to be delivered to you off of the television. “It’s not delivery,” after all, and if it was you could do much better. No, you merely press select to ORDER your WOMAN to bring you your FROZEN PIZZA on a FROZEN PIZZA-SIZED WOODEN PLATTER, because YOU like PIZZA and BURGERS. You know, MAN FOOD. The signal goes through the tv to your lady’s punishment helmet, administering shocks until she gets up and does her domestic duty.

WLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! Eat that pizza! Eat it! Eat it while I scream at you from your home torture chamber! Sure, don’t even look! You didn’t have the torture chamber built right next to your kitchen with a convenient view window because you wanted to make eye contact with your victims, did you? You are the master of all: your television, your domestic propertner, your hostages. If you eat lousy pizza, it is because you CHOOSE to.


No doubt there are classical cities in Italy that have managed to retain or restore their old timey touristy appeal but… just imagine if everybody there imagined us Americonians all lived in Colonial Williamsburg and ate beans and grits every day. That’s what it would be like. And then we walk 2000 miles to Texas and hang around in saloons comparing mustaches.
Why would this fictional, frozen in time, Brigadoon-esque Italy give any dignity to the idea of frozen in grime pizza at all, much less rank them? Do we even have any idea what is considered good pizza in Italy? Do they ever EAT pizza in Italy? Does it bear any resemblance to the sort of pizza we eat here? Specifically, the sort we eat but that isn’t pictured in this site entry?

What is the quintessential “American” food? A hamburger? The number one selling hamburger almost certainly comes from a major chain, and even people who eat them will often gripe about the quality. According to a vague memory of mine I cannot substantiate the validity of, 7-11 sells more hot dogs than anywhere else. I’ve never even been IN a 7-11, much less associated the thought of the place with my occasional hunger for weird sausage with weird bread.

Hey, you, idiot off to the right: stop lifting that one slice out of the pizza before we take the picture! I don’t give a

pucky o’hare if somebody already cut around that one slice but not the rest of the pizza. Leave it alone!

But yes, Dr. Oetker pizza seen alongside another thing that should not exist: Mystic Pizza, precooked, frozen and mass produced.

Bring home the pizza that made the movie famous!®

Really? I think rather the movie made the pizza famous. Nobody would care, otherwise. This is not outstanding pizza. It just happened to come from a joint in a town that somebody thought would make a good setting for a forgettable romantic comedy. It could also be that I go into these places looking for my deluded idea of an Italian pizza when the people specialize in the Greek style. What they should say is “warning! we do not make Italian pizzas well!” but they don’t and present all the standard tomater sars/mozzarillo cheese options, knowing full well they cannot be trusted.

I’d like to go to Italy and eat some pasta, because I don’t like the store bought product so much, unless it has meatballs with it. Real Chinese food, however, does not need to come into my life.
As you may have figured, I will not, at this time, be ordering a Dr. Oetker pizza, Italy’s number one frozen pizza. Who eats frozen pizza while in Italy? The immigrants, evidently. And I would be if I went there, but I haven’t gone yet!

Oetker. With a name like that he should be selling snake oil or fighting Spiderm-An. True enough, more than a few supposedly competing American frozen pizzas are actually produced by the SCHWAN food company, including the famous baron (as well as Tony, who I am afraid searching for media relevant to will prolong this entry beyond a reasonable length), so perhaps I should praise the doctor for his honesty. But I won’t, because he says “ristorante” when babelfish assures me he means “Gaststätte” and an actual German speaker who left a comment on this entry tells me he just means plain old “restaurant.” Additionally, I recently started buying pizzas by Palermo, who assure me they aren’t owned by any of those other crumbumpanies. They make pizza and nothing else.

Palermo pizzas are so pure, they’re made at an authentic imitation Roman villa with a factory behind it. And so. I wanted to conclude on the line about dogs eating my corpse but we can’t always have happy endings.

*Totino’s and Jeno’s are both Pilsbury brands that produce nearly identical products but go to different stores, a fairly common occurrence. However, they are both purported to be named after actual people, so it seems reasonable to assume one resented the other.

3 Responses
  1. 1
    7:45 am, February 22, 2010

    Totino's brand frozen suffer sez:

    “Gaststätte” is a general word for any establishment which provides its patrons with food and beverage. Though by no means an uncommon term, it’s not really the sort of thing that regularly comes up in average, day-to-day conversations. The normal word for restaurant in German is “Restaurant”, pronounced more or less as in French (though some speakers may render it “res-tor-ahng” on account of nasalized vowels not being a normal part of German phonology). Fazit: though Babelfish has come a long way since the days where it would assume that the only possibly definition of “die”, regardless of how the world is used in a sentence, is a small, usually cube-shaped object thrown to introduce an element of chance into games, it is still not terribly good at picking up on context. Keep studying for that Turing test, Babey.

    Italian-style pizza, as I undertand it, is more decidedly breadoid in form, and without all of that extraneous crap they tend to pile on the American version. Though I have never been to Italy itself, and thus cannot claim to have ever sampled the authentic version, I have visited a few establishments in New Yawk ans Sydney which did their best to imitate this style, and the result was not unpleasing. Needless to say, it does not very closely resemble the items pictured above. My sister, however, tends to purchase expensive frozen pizzas from Whole Foods, which call themselves “Pizza Margherita” and whose box image tends to look rather like the Italian dish of the same name. The finished result, however, tends to be a rather flat, sad affair, and though by no means inedible, quite a far cry from the product it claims to be. I imagine this is more or less unavoidable when dealing with mass-produced, frozen goods, however.

    As regards the image of the romanticized, rustic Italy, my current area of residence is home to a chain known as Vocelli Pizza, whose advertising tends to revlolve around images of marble columns, quaint brick ovens and claims of “classic Italian quality” or “delivering Italy”. This is made all the more absurd by the fact that up until about seven or eight years ago, they bore the rather more proletarian name of “Pizza Outlet” and their advertising focused on screaming cartoon vegetables. It should be noted, however, that their pizzas are actually fairly decent (if decidedly in the American rather than Italian style). and moreover that their unremarkable name and public image probably was unnecessarily hurting their attempts at expansion, so name change was likely very good business sense. Nevertheless, it rather strikingly illustrates the artificiality of these public images as well as their ease of manufacture.

  2. 2
    11:28 pm, February 23, 2010

    Bridgeport and the case of the Free Coupons sez:

    I’ve always hated Barilla for the same sort of advertising campaign, i.e. “We’re #1 in Italy, thus we’re the BEST PASTA EVER”. No, Barilla, you taste like dried pasta. Your sauce tastes like generic pasta sauce. This campaign always drove me BATTY, because yeah, just because it’s #1 doesn’t mean it’s actually edible (See: Miss Marple and the Case of the American Cheese substance, available at amazon for 4.99).

    So to my DELIGHT, one day I discovered that Barilla had a deal going on: You do a thirty minute survey with them and they give you coupons for free pasta/sauce for a year. In said survey, they went through a series of advertisements and asked you to “honestly” comment on what you think of them.

    Years upon years of frustration towards advertising stupidity unleashed DIRECTLY TO THE MARKETING DEPARTMENT, oh my goodness. I didn’t cuss, I know that, but I know that I called the ad slogan insulting and insipid and other angry words starting with I. It felt GREAT, and they sent me the free coupons. Alas, two months or so later I found out that I had a condition that meant I couldn’t even eat said pasta, but to be able to yell directly at the corporation felt fantastic.

  3. 3
    1:14 am, February 24, 2010

    Rabivit sez:

    one who suffs:
    I was pretty sure the translation note would get your attention! I’m still no better at this sort of thing than I was.
    In New Haven or thereabouts there is a fairly upbeat yet utterly unappetizing place called “pizza land” or “super pizza” or some other generic Pizza Hut stand-in name that you’d expect to see in a cartoon. It isn’t the thing in the link but it might as well be. Whenever I pass by it I get sad. It must do fairly good business, though, since it has an electronic animated sign outside.
    I don’t doubt that the Italian front is good at luring customers, but once the pizza itself is made the truth comes out. Back in Eat Haven, my former region, there was a place called Silvio’s that I was none too impressed with. I attended a special pizza-themed gathering at another nearby joint known as Tolli’s which was similarly displeasing. I still ate an entire pizza worth of slices, but I had to work at it!

    Margherita is my favorite meatless special pizza. It seems irresponsible for somebody to adopt that as a brand name, though.

    port of bridges:

    Maybe you’re just allergic to bad pasta.

    All I know about Miss Marple is that some of the stories about her have been adapted for that show MYSTERY, with the splendid Edward Gorey opening sequence. That’s as much of the show as I’ve ever seen. I will trust her judgment based on that alone, however.

    Market surveys are rubbish, I hate them. My father used to sign up for those and I accidentally answered the phone for one, and it kept asking me for definitive ratings on things which were non-applicable to me. I’m sad to say I can’t recall the specifics, but I was constantly explaining to the surveyor that my answer varies based on circumstances or that I wasn’t qualified to give an opinion on it, because I don’t buy certain things because I only shop for myself, even though this made no difference and I could tell the woman was getting annoyed. She insisted I give numerical values for all things anyhow. My answers shouldn’t count, because they’re uninformed and irrelevant but now they do! And no doubt every “4 out 5 customers…” line ever presented as solid fact involved a lot of people like me who are too polite to give negative ratings to stuff they know nothing about. Bah.
    Anyway, at one point I couldn’t help but laugh and quite hard at the wording of one of the items, something like “please rate how Stop & Shop inspires you with its quality and freshness.” I turned the telephone away from my noise emission space, but I reckon I could still be heard. Somehow I got through that one, but when I asked the lady to repeat a subsequent, similar question merely because I had not comprehended it, she gave up and aborted the thing. Alas. The questions started out generic but once I named the store I shopped at I think I was transferred to a special list of questions chosen by the company itself. I wish I had said Wal Mart. That survey must be colorful.

    It makes me mad, I can imagine this sort of thing transforming into 5 out of 8 customers rate their shopping experience as at least “very good,” but honestly I hadn’t thought about it and didn’t care one way or another. It seemed rude to give a negative rating to something that I knew nothing about.

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Sorry, the comment form is apologizing at this time. Which probably means I got tired of deleting robot comments off this post. It is unfortunate, but generally very few actual people have anything to say to me.

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