Web-users love pizza.
Google’s Trends page for foods has pizza in the number one slot for July 2013, the same as the previous month, and further notes that it’s been in the Top 10 for 115 months. Three of the top four searches in “Quick service restaurants” are pizza places.
As the old joke has it, it’s got all of the
four five seven basic food groups (fats, dairy, meats, fruits, vegetables, grains) and it’s even high-fiber–as long as you eat the cardboard disk.
And, as usual, Americans are boring in their food preferences. Every survey of popular toppings I could find has “Cheese” in the first slot and “Pepperoni” at number two. There’s a little more variety after that, but “Bacon”, “Green Pepper”, “Olives”, and “Mushrooms” show up with depressing regularity.
So, in an effort to open a few eyes to the alternatives, and try to sneak a little variety into a pizza-focused diet, I present the following list of America’s Least Considered Pizza Toppings.
- Anchovies – They never seem to appear on any list of favorite toppings, yet almost every pizza place, regardless of quality seems to offer them. Americans’ love of salt takes second place only to their love of sugar, so why is there no love for the little fish with the big, salty taste?
- Seafood in general – You’ll occasionally see shrimp sneaking into a list, but as a general rule, Americans don’t care for fish and other ocean dwellers on pizza. It’s different elsewhere: How Stuff Works cites tuna, mackerel, salmon, and herring in Russia and eel and squid in Japan. I don’t see eel and squid ever catching on as pizza toppings in the US, despite the popularity of fried calamari as an appetizer, but why not salmon? It certainly goes well with tomato sauce (and I wouldn’t even try to steer Americans to any other flavor of sauce).
- Flavor Variations – As I noted earlier, olives and mushrooms often show up on lists of toppings. But it’s always the lowest common denominator black, water-cured olives and white button mushrooms. How about trying some different types? For olives, live it up a bit with kalamata or gaeta. For mushrooms, try the added flavor of portabellos or the unique texture of enokitake. Don’t try psilocybins: they may add a unique flavor to the meal–and to the rest of the evening as well–but it’s not worth the hassle with the FDA, DEA, DOJ, ATF, and all the other three-letter agencies.
- Cheese – Still wedded to the simple cheese pizza? No problem. Try adding a bit of variety in the cheese. Adding some shredded cheddar or crumbled feta can take the pizza in a whole new direction. If you’re really not feeling adventurous and want to start off easy, try a smoked mozzarella instead of (or in addition to) the usual fresh variety. Or if you really want to live on the edge, try some blue cheese.
- Spice it up – Add a little sriracha to the tomato sauce to wake up your taste buds. Or go in a different direction with some curry powder or barbeque rub.
- Fried Egg – As long as you’re clogging your arteries, why not go whole hog? Take a tip from the French, who came up with the idea of adding a fried egg before baking.
Too lazy to make your own, even starting with a pre-made crust? Try getting a ready-made pizza and adding your own toppings. I wouldn’t bother trying it with frozen pizza, but any of the “take and bake” varieties ought to work.
Me? My “usual” is spinach and pepperoni. I’ve always figured that the health benefits of the spinach should somewhat offset the health hazards of the pepperoni. Unfortunately, while I was doing the research for this post, I discovered that spinach is endorsed by Fox News as “the No. 1 most nutritional pizza topping”. Given their track record, I’m reconsidering my position; I may never put spinach on a pizza again. Thanks a lot, Fox News!