“Here you go,” said Kurt, setting a plate in front of me, “one pepperoni, sausage, and extra cheese pizza with barbecue sauce.”
Thank you, Kurt, I said.
“And for the bitter old man, a ham and pineapple pizza.”
“Hey, I’m not old,” grumbled my friend, Karl. We were sitting at First Editions, a literary-themed bar, enjoying a late lunch. They had just installed a new pizza oven, and Kurt the bartender was eager for us to try it out. And since Karl and I couldn’t agree on the suitability of pineapple on pizza without stabbing each other — because it’s morally wrong, the pineapple, that is (stabbing is fine) — we agreed to get our own pizzas.
You’re sure bitter, though, I said. I’ve never seen anyone get so emotional about pineapple on their pizza.
“Can I get you anything else? Kurt asked.
Could I have a fork, please? I said.
“A fork?” Karl said as Kurt retrieved my fork. “What the hell do you need a fork for?”
To eat my pizza. What the hell do you need pineapple for?
“To make my pizza edible.”
How am I a snob because I want to eat my pizza with a fork?
“Because if you were a real American, you’d eat it with your hands.”
Actually, real Americans eat pizza with their mouths, but you do you, Cookie Monster.
“You know what I mean. We pick it up with our hands.”
Eight percent of Americans eat pizza with a knife and fork. I just read that recently, I said.
“Yeah, but you’re not using a knife.”
I don’t need it. I have strong hands.
“Kid, you’re such a snob, you make Downton Abbey looks like a Chuck E. Cheese.”
In Europe, they don’t slice the pizza at all. You just get a round pie and start eating it with a fork and knife.
“My original statement still stands, stronger than ever.”
I pick pizza up with my hands, I said. I just eat the first few bites with a fork because it’s hot. Plus, the crust is usually limp and the grease spills on my shirt. This way, I can get past the droopy part.
“Don’t let Kurt hear you say his crust is droopy. He’s kind of sensitive about it.”
“How is everything?” Kurt asked, appearing without warning. How much of that had he heard?
“Fine, just fine,” Karl said. “The Kid here thinks your crust is a little floppy.”
I never said that! I protested. I said I use a fork to eat the first few bites in case the tip droops and gets grease on my shirt.
“Uh-huh,” said Kurt, looking a little offended and stomping off to the kitchen.
Dammit, Karl, I said. Now he’s going to start charging me refills on Cokes again. He just quit doing that last month.
“Well, maybe you shouldn’t have blown off karaoke night.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
It IS a bad thing, you monster! What other culinary abominations do you have for us? You going to put strawberries on your steak next? Or maybe blueberries on a hot dog?
“People have been putting pineapple on pizza for years. Decades, even!”
It was invented in Southwest Ontario in 1962.
“See. Pineapple pizza is six decades old.”
Blurg. It tastes like it, too.
“Look, Kid, some people have sophisticated palates.”
Yeah, and the rest put pineapple on pizza.
“Oh, knock it off, you big baby. You’ve never even tried it. There’s something about the contrast of the sweet and the savory that makes it so good.”
Yeah, there’s something about it, all right.
“Come on, try a bite.”
Mm-mm, I said, lips sealed tightly like a child refusing to take their medicine.
“I promise you’ll like it.”
I promise I won’t.
“If you try a bite and you don’t like it, I’ll buy your lunch.”
How about this? If I don’t like it, you have to eat your entire pizza with a fork and knife.
Karl looked shocked for a moment, then he thought about it. “I find your terms acceptable.”
I used my fork to cut a bite off one of Karl’s untouched pieces. He raised his eyebrows at me but said nothing. I put the piece in my mouth and chewed. And chewed. And chewed.
“Well?” said Karl. “Is it everything you hoped for?”
What I hoped for was a meteor strike before I stuck this in my mouth, I said. But that didn’t happen.
“Yes, but did you like it.”
Well, I’m not upset about the meteor thing anymore. But that’s about as far as I’m willing to go.
“So you DO like it!”
No, I just said it’s better than a meteor strike on the planet. Don’t read a lot into that. I’d rather get punched in the face than have a meteor strike the earth. I still don’t like it. So ask Kurt for a knife and fork and finish your lunch.
“I think you’re lying, Kid.”
Hey, Kurt, I called. Karl said his crust is droopy.
Kurt handed Karl a knife and fork before stomping away.