We each have our own definition of what might be bizarre when it comes to what we eat. To some, llama hoof in black bean sauce might seem bizarre, but to others, that is sustenance
Here in the city where I dwell, there is ample evidence of peculiar, even exotic, eats. In this new segment of Fried Neck Bones…and Some Home Fries, I intend to wander the city streets, mostly aimlessly, searching for the unusual, the weird and wacky.
Weird—wacky—odd; these are all subjective terms when referring to food. What I think is bizarre, or downright disgusting, others might thoroughly enjoy, and even indulge in regularly. So I promise not to judge. I pledge to do my best to respect my fellow man’s questionable taste in food stuffs. If I slip and begin to preach or moralize on the food choices of others, please don’t hesitate to call me on it. Sometimes I just need to be reminded.
In my decades of devouring pizza, I have heard tell of an unusual slice called “The Hawaiian.” I have even seen it on display at various pizzerias; the pineapple being the prominent ingredient sitting, unappealingly, on top of the crust surrounding by cheese and ham, the combination repellent to my pizza snob sensibilities.
I knew that in pursuing the bizarre foods of New York there would be challenges. I now needed to search out a slice of Hawaiian and summon the courage to actually sample it.
My first stop was 2 Bros’ Pizza, a chain of 99 cent-slice pizzerias, They advertised the “Hawaiian,” on a display menu. I perused the pre-made cold pies on display but saw none with the customary pineapple.
“Do you have the Hawaiian?” I asked the African man behind the counter.
“The Hawaiian,” I said again, this time pointing to the reference on the list of pies.
He went to the same display of pies I had inspected and returned shaking his head. “No, we don’t have the Hawaiian today.”
“Will you be making any?”
“Not today,” he said.
“Ever?” I inquired hopefully.
“Yes, maybe tomorrow we make it.”
I thanked him for his help and exited.
My next stop was a Chilean-run pizzeria I knew of on the Upper West Side called Freddie & Peppers. I have had their pizza in the past and knew they usually offered very unusual combinations of slices. They just might have the Hawaiian.
I checked out the pre-made pies behind their counter but again, didn’t see any with pineapple. On their menu, there was a mention of a “Hawaiian.”
I asked the South American man behind the counter if he had the Hawaiian.
He looked perplexed. “No, we don’t have that,” he said.
I could tell from his look and the way he responded, that the Hawaiian was not something they made very often or at all anymore. I didn’t press it further or suggest that maybe it would be a good idea to remove it from their menu so as not to disappoint a driven man on a ridiculous quest.
Finally, I stopped at Maria’s Pizzeria further uptown. I double-parked and peered in. On the window was a menu. I saw it there listed as The Hawaiiana.
I ran inside. There it was: a slice adorned with pieces of ham, mozzarella, and, of course, pineapple.
I quickly ordered it and took it home for a family sampling.
After reheating it, I cut the slice into pieces, one each for the 8 and 12-year old, another for my discerning wife, and a piece for myself.
The 8-year old looked at it, made a face and shook his head.
“Try it,” I said.
“I don’t want to,” he said. This is from a boy who will eat eel and now calls Part One of the Fazool Trilogy Pasta e Ceci one of his favorite pasta dishes.
“It’s just pineapple.”
He shook his head and left the kitchen.
The 12-year old didn’t hesitate, but he rarely hesitates on anything pizza-related. He ate it heartily. “What do you think?” I asked.
His mouth full, he gave me the thumb’s up.
“Would you order it?”
“No, never,” he said after swallowing.
He eyed his brother’s uneaten piece. “Can I have his?”
I said he could and he stuffed it down.
Now the more mature palates sampled.
“It tastes like it came from a can,” my wife said.
She was right. The pineapple had a metallic flavor to it and its sweetness overpowered the ham and cheese. Though I could find no visual evidence of tomato sauce, there was a hint of it in the slice. How it got there, I don’t know.
The Hawaiian was edible…at least to all of us but the 8-yar old. No one gagged. And we all swallowed what we chewed. Still, I wondered, what would motivate a chef to think to put slices of canned pineapple on a pizza? Did he/she think the sweet would meld with the salty? Maybe some people just need a little sugar on their pizza? And if they do, who am I to deny them that gratification.