It’s Not Delivery, It’s…Oddly Disheartening Pizza.

The Doc here, kids. And tonight I’m mulling over a question that has vexed me for literally decades: why is frozen pizza so…depressing?

Tonight I had a Home Run Inn frozen pizza. I’d say I go for frozen pizza, eh, at least once a week. It’s usually pretty cheap; it’s straightforward to prepare; and, by its very nature, it doesn’t invite disproportionate expectations. Frozen pizza is emphatically what it is, no more, no less. No matter how much money DeGiorno’s pumps into advertising campaigns designed to make us think their product is indistinguishable from delivery pizza, I think we can all agree that failure to make such a distinction does not point toward some kind of amazing frozen pizza. It points to potential brain damage on the part of the evaluator.

That said, even with the diminished expectations that accompany frozen pizza, there is still often something oddly…depressing about it. And I can’t put my finger on exactly why.

Maybe it’s the way it just kinda lies there, limp, lifeless, comatose, before, during, and after the cooking process. I mean, at least with delivery pizza, there’s a pseudo-dramatic moment wherein you open up the box, and TA-DAH!, there’s your pizza, hot fresh, delicious. There’s no TA-DAH! moment with frozen pizza; you’re seeing it from the moment you slice it out of its plastic body bag, to the oven rack, to the removal from the oven and the slicing into pieces. (Side note: I own a pizza slicer, and literally every time I’ve tried to use it to slice a frozen pizza into pieces, it’s tuned into a fiasco of cheese adhered to the slicer tugging on other cheese seemingly from the other side of the goddamn pizza, until chaos and tomato sauce reign supreme, and not in a good way. I’ve had far better results using a pair of plain ol’ scissors to carve slices out of freshly heated up frozen pizza). Maybe I’m just grousing about the fact that frozen pizza, as far as pizzas go, contains fewer surprises and less drama than I need in order to keep my pizza experience interesting.

I suppose there’s also the fact that, by giving me the reigns of my pizza experience (i.e., by putting me in control of how long the pizza goes in, what oven rack it rests upon, how many slices and even of what shape to make those slices after cooking, etc.), frozen pizza introduces an element of Personal Responsibility into the pizza experience that somehow turns me off. I’m a psychologist and a Libertarian; I spend all day helping people find and nurture their instincts toward Personal Responsibility. But with pizza, what I want to do is surrender control, and let the experience wash over me– I don’t want to carefully monitor the thing to make sure the cheese achieves the optimal shade of golden brown. In all seriousness, I suppose it activates a different set of neural networks in my brain that, well, I want to be nowhere near when I’m about to enjoy some pizza. It’s not that it’s too much work, understand– it’s too much responsibility. Maybe responsibility’s a drag, and maybe that’s what’s blowing my trip.

But I don’t think so.

I suppose there are connotations to having frozen pizza vs. delivery pizza. As in, it’s easier to conceptualize delivery pizza as a social experience– we’re often ordering delivery pizza to have with our friends, to accompany something fun we’re about to watch, or even as a reward (my girlfriend fondly remembers BOOK IT, which I wrote about in one of the very first entries in this blog). Frozen pizza, on the other hand, more easily conjures images of a lonely man, baking his lonely pizza, in preparation for a lonely eating experience. Is that it? Does frozen pizza taste like loneliness?

Maybe.

But if so, then why do pizza rolls taste goddamn delicious, EVERY SINGLE TIME? Hell, I don’t think you can even GET pizza rolls delivered, and they’re infinitely easier to prepare than frozen pizza proper. If there’s Sad Lonely Person food, by all rights, pizza rolls should accompany frozen pizza on about the same point in the spectrum. But they don’t.

Meh.

I do acknowledge exactly one exception to the Frozen Pizza Bummer Rule: Totino’s makes this kickass, single-serving pizza, with this kind of crisscross, flaky crust. It seems to me that the name of the product has something to do with “party,” but that’s kind of nonsensical, insofar as this is definitely a one person product. Nobody’s having a party, except with one’s self, with this pizza. But this pizza blows my mind. As an undergraduate, I’d go entire weeks (and I mean that, entire stretches of at least seven days) primarily subsisting on Totino’s pizza. I stopped eating it around 2006, when I made some major changes to my lifestyle which included, for the moment, giving up pizza altogether; and it has literally just now occurred to me that, in the time since I’ve gone back to my sinful carb-o-holic ways, I’ve not remembered to go back and try out Totino’s again. Man, now I have something exciting on my to-do list as I recover from those blood clots.

Anyway. Readers of the Maestro and the Doc’s Chicago Pizza Project, I turn this question over to you: frozen pizza, yea or nay? Any favorites? Any cautionary tales? Does frozen pizza taste like loneliness to you, as it does the Doc? What about pizza rolls? And why the hell can’t I make my pizza slicer work?

Yep. These are the things I think about when the Maestro’s out of town. Let us publish!

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