What America Tastes Like

Pizza and Rap Music and Regional Evolution

Human beings are territorial. We can make pissing contests out of even the most beautiful things we create and share with one another. This results in both ugly disputes and beautiful evolutionary progressions.

Although many people don’t know this – rap music was originally invented to AVOID violence. It was a way to channel competitive, masculine energy. Neighbors didn’t need to shoot each other to prove which hood was the best. Representatives from each would channel aggression into boasting rhymes or feats of breakdancing. Pretty beautiful.

Once the whole country got into rap music, it had to split up and compete. The culture started celebrating what it had originally tried to escape. Representatives of each neighborhood forgot they were supposed to be boasting and dancing. By September 13th of 1996 Tupac was shot, and on March 9th of ’97 a drive-by killed Biggie Smalls.

Since then, the squabbles of rap music have grown through more peaceful contest, and interpollination between diverse regional evolutions has pushed the development of the form as a whole.

I’m glad that nobody got killed in the East Coast VS West Coast Pizza Wars.

Its hard not to feel strongly about regional pizza styles, though. The East has some skinny pizzas. (“And that’s bad!” or “Good!” or “The One True Pizza!”)

Although come to think of it, California is skinny, too.

In fact, just like the average citizen of the region, Midwestern pizza is the fattest of all American pizzas.

So we have a sort of metaphor for America in pizza. Heavy in the middle.

I decided to explore this whole “East Coast” thing, in the land of Connecticut, where the pizzas are EVEN SKINNIER than in New York.

It seemed to me that the most Easty, or least Midwest and Westy of pizzas, would not only be skinny but have no sauce. An mollusks sitting on it, to boot. “Frank Pepe’s” serves a famous one just a few miles from Yale college.

This is a super crisp crust. A deeply satisfying chew surprises you after the crisp initial bite. That well-tuned combination makes for a truly compelling experience.

White Clam Pizza – The textural yin-yang of crust has obviously been refined over decades, and it makes a perfect vehicle for carrying simple seafood flavors. The brine and mineral of fresh clams, with only a slight umami tweak from a meager sprinkling of parmesan, is all you need for a clam-pizza.

Perhaps this is the best shellfish pizza ever, although I would point out that my expertise lies far outside such clamtastic claims. “Seafood pizza” is not my wheelhouse, yet I cannot imagine clam flavor or texture pairing so well with any other crust.

However, this needs to be said:

I ate a $22.50 medium pizza, and then noticed myself eyeing the food trucks we passed on the way home.

What pizza is “real pizza”? I am the biggest fan of Detroit or Chicago or whoever gives me a lot of quality pizza on top of a pizza. If you will provide me the highest-grade toppings in the most abundance, you have made good pizza. For me, crust is what carries a pizza to my mouth. I am the heathen who would eat pounds of melty fresh mozzarella and unnecessarily complex seasoned sauce on top of most any crust.

East Coast pizzas do remind me of a fifth of a pizza. So the fact that this big clam cracker still impressed me is significant.

157 Wooster St
New Haven, Connecticut

“What America Tastes Like” is an exploration of sub-cultures in the US by way of food. Eating is something all people do, and it also happens to be one of the few expressions of “difference and diversity” in culture that just about all people are ready to celebrate. Regardless of our politics and religion and ontologies, we all like to eat food with our mouths.

Food makes family happen.



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