Jon Stewart presents a world where there are only two different kinds of pizza: New York pizza and Chicago pizza. Except that Chicago pizza isn't pizza.
New York pizza for Jon Stewart is the only pizza. In Chicago, Chicago pizza is the best pizza.
Stewart took the debate further about Chicago pizza, proclaiming that it wasn't pizza. Probably in the same fashion that I made fun of the poutine fest for serving dishes that didn't resemble poutine.
The food revolution seems to be about taking what was and putting a unique spin on a dish. "Fusion" is a loved and hated word in the food spectrum.
But we often forget about what made that food great in the first place: simplicity.
A fish taco is grilled or fried fish with cabbage and mayo and garnish. I've seen some very cool fish tacos that deviate on taste, but present similar ingredients. The mayo is still there but now has a new spice kick.
New York pizza is similar to Italian pizza, but has enough variation. A really thin crust is subjective; some love the thinness, while others truly want a thicker crust.
Chicago pizza has crust, tomatoes, sausage, spinach, and cheese, but presents them in an inflated state. Pizza, yes, but more like pizza pie. Yes, New York pizza is often called pizza pie. But the Chicago version acts more like a key lime or banana cream pie. And unlike New York pizza, you do need a fork and knife to consume the pizza pie.
The sensitivity to poutine isn't about the ability to change the dish into something completely different. People should discover what poutine is first and then you can play with variations.
Whether you grow up in a large city such as New York or Chicago or a small town, you've had exposure to basic pizza. A national chain, a delivery, a small town treasure — all ways to be exposed to pizza. Bad pizza. Good pizza. But you learn pizza, at least the U.S. version of what pizza looks like.
A Italian from Italy would look at the U.S. version of pizza and laugh and/or cry. Turns out the "American" version of pizza isn't terribly authentic. Someday, I hope to try pizza in Italy and taste a true authentic version. Having had poutine in Montreal, I have a good idea about what poutine should be. Even attempts in the United States that try to stick to the classic formula fall short.
My variation on pizzas is out of necessity than vanity. Can't tolerate mozzarella cheese, so most conventional pizzas, regardless of geography, are ineligible for my palette.
While there are a few places that will help me out, my best option is make it my way. My usual go-to pizza is tomato puree on the crust, basil and red pepper for the spice, then I'll pile on sauteed mushrooms, green pepper, shallots, and, sometimes, garlic. Anchovies are optional, olives are occassional. Well-grown sausage almost always is on the pizza. A nice scattering of pecorino romano is a rare option, though not more than a light dusting.
Pizza lovers would look at my pizza and recoil in horror. You can actually see the ingredients on the pizza. New York pizza lovers would ask where the cheese went; Chicago pizza lovers would wonder if I needed to cover my pizza's exposed elements.
When I bite into my pizza, I can taste the ingredients and the rich combination of flavors. No mild cheese to hide things; no playing "where are the toppings." And when I'm done, I feel satisfied but not weighed down.
My pizza is still pizza. Their pizza is pizza. Yes, mine doesn't have cheese, but mine has tomatoes and toppings on crust.
Poutine has fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Some versions are minus potatoes, others include cheese but not curds, and the definition of gravy is iffy. If you want to descretate the original poutine, call it out as a variation. Southern poutine, red-eye poutine, and what most have them should be called, hipster poutine.
By labeling New York pizza and Chicago pizza, these people recognize that these are variations of pizza. But they have distinct titles. We know what we are getting with Chicago pizza and New York pizza. Using the "poutine" label should mean some form of fries, cheese curds, and gravy. And know that if you don't, you'll be called out as the poser you are.