Ciao ragazzi, the Maestro here.
As a complement to the doc’s professional essay of yesterday, I wanted to take a few minutes to explain to you all why I think Pizza is the La bohème of food. Let’s start with its universality. Who doesn’t like pizza? or La bohème? Now, I know that there are some sad people out there who say “I just don’t like pizza,” in the same way there are few soulless individuals who insanely claim “I just don’t like La bohème.” On the whole if you don’t like something that I love, I’m just going to assume that we have different tastes, priorities, etc. But if you just flat out don’t like pizza (or La bohème), I am judging you. That’s right. Don’t get me started on people who don’t like chocolate.
Second, Pizza is a perfect introduction to food, just like La bohème is the perfect introduction to opera. If a Martian ever visited us, and came to Albuquerque and said, “Maestro, which of your human being foods should I try first, and then what opera should I attend first, in order to get the best/most accessible of your culinary/operatic offerings?” I would not hesitate to point them out to La Farina on Central, and then, literally, any one of the hundreds of performances this year of La bohème. If they don’t like pizza, they’re probably not going to like food, and if they don’t like La bohème, chances are, they’re not going to like opera. Why not point them out to our best specimens?
Similarly, both pizza and La bohème are great gateways into other things. Now, I know that pizza seems absurdly simple, and how can it possibly introduce you to more adventurous things? Consider, I was/am a very picky eater. As a little kid I had a horror of most non-pizza foods. Especially things including any kind of cheese or tomato. Now, duh, pizza is pretty much just cheese and tomato, and once I made that connection, the wonderful world of other cheese and tomato based foods opened up to me. I now could order a hamburger with cheese. I could now have a hot dog with a tomato slice. In short, my new found culinary bravery was entirely due to my experiences with pizza. Not to mention, I would never have even dreamed of eating a mushroom before having it on a pizza.
It is very hard (but not impossible) to screw up both pizza and La bohème. Puccini’s genius was to make the opera (almost) singer, conductor, and director proof. There have been productions of La bohème set in outer space, set in the 50s, set in caveman era, and, I am totally serious, a recent “zombie” production of La bohème I think in Sweden? People still flock to see it. It is the closest thing to a sure hit in the opera world. When we did it last season in Albuquerque it sold completely out. It is probably the most performed opera in the world, and it still sells out reliably. You can have a cast of dogs, conducted by a monkey, set in a human colon, and it would probably sell out.
Think of all the horrible iterations of pizza that have come our way. Broccoli? Pineapple! Not to mention Dominoes, Pizza Hut [sic], Home Run Inn, or the variety of frozen pizzas (Kraft being absolutely the most inedible). Pizza has still survived. Even the worst party imaginable is made somehow better by the presence of pizza. Who among us doesn’t get our Pavlovian groove on when we hear a doorbell ring at a party where we know the host has ordered 12 large pizzas? Bad Bohème/Pizza is better than no Bohème/Pizza (in most cases).
And finally, both pizza and La bohème are, for me, about love, but a tragic kind of love. During any (most) performance(s) of La bohème, I am usually just thrilled to be listening to this music, and experience the drama of two people falling in love for the first time. But we all know how it ends (she dies and his life is probably ruined), yet we still, time and again, go back to it, and experience the emotions and the misery, and laugh, and are elated, and weep till the bitter end. Call it wanting to experience life more fully, call it sonic/dramatic masochism. Call it what you will, but there is something compelling us to the music and the story over and over.
And pizza. It is the most delicious thing in the world while you are eating it. You can’t be grateful enough to the universe while you are eating it. You almost can’t believe there is something that is so delicious, and that you are able to experience it! And then when it’s over, the sadness begins. The sadness of not eating pizza. The sadness of your waist line. The sadness of bloat. The sadness of the dopamine rush wearing off. Yet, we still come back to it. Pizza, no matter how sick you makes us, we have loved you, and will continue to love you. Forever.