The most ancient and revered Pizza maker in Naples offers two pies: their basic pizza is just dough and tomato sauce, and you can get it with mozzarella cheese if you like. In any American city they’d go broke in a week.
The cacophony of flavors that we subject our tongues to is a con. Why do we do it? Three things: Marketing, lack of experience, and dulled tastes.
Like our minds, our palates have an attention span as well. Focus is essential to understanding and enjoyment. No one can think twelve thoughts at once or taste twelve flavors.
And that’s why simplicity in flavors can be so useful when learning to eat, to cook, and especially when trying to do either on a budget.
What good are twenty-seven herbs and spices? Why put six cheeses on a pizza? Is four cheese Ravioli better than three? Well it is if we can’t taste, if we just read flavor off of the box.
Four cheese Pizza probably started as a last minute solution for a meager pantry which didn’t have enough of any one cheese left for a pizza. Or just for fun. But it’s no good if the four cheeses are no good, and if they are, then one works just fine. It’s somehow in our nature to think of four as better than one, and it gives the marketers something to sell.
It’s not that there’s no place for variations sometimes, but if we can’t taste, really taste, the simple variety, adding “stuff” won’t help us.
That’s the legacy of Television and packaging, and it’s a remarkable one.
Small children invariably prefer Junk food in colorful packages over the same foods in a brown bag. And why not? A Strawberry will get more attention than a kiwi.
The exquisite pas-de deux between predator and prey creates an endless variety of such examples. But, as complex, thinking beings, our duty is to look beneath marketing, to the culture itself, and to try to cultivate our tastes. Because once we’ve been trained to expect piles of ‘stuff’ on everything there’s no reason for any of it to be of good quality. That’s the cost of these bad habits.
And, as always in our upside down society, we have to fight to keep simplicity affordable, because there’s nothing fancy about pizza, and no reason that simple, pure foods should cost more than foods produced by gleaming laboratories, which traveled half way around the world, and cost more to advertise than to grow. It’s just because “that’s the way things are”.
But they don’t have to be.
It’s all about reorganizing our priorities and finding our freedoms. Freedom to grow simple foods as cheaply as genetically modified, patented, bio-tech, products, which are frauds on so many levels; freedom from subsidies for the foods that make us sick; freedom to harvest and recycle our seeds, instead of being forced to buy them from con-artists. And, freedom to eat simply and understand that the thing from a box, with six meats, 44 ingredients, (many, not even food), is a con: it will never have the complexity of truth.
That’s elitism, and that’s taste. It’s that simple.