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A la Carte: Pizza, pizza

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By Rachel Hergett EBS COLUMNIST

There are some people who can happily eat pizza every day: I am not one of those people.

So when wandering around Westfork Meadows recently, I was surprised to be reeled in by the aroma of the Blue Moon’s pizza oven. 

I’m no stranger to pizza. What American could be? Though Italian in roots, Americans have long claimed pizza as their own. When Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) first meets Frenchman and Formula One racer Jean Girard (Sasha Baron Cohen) in “Talladega Nights,” the Frenchman asks what America has given the world aside from “George Bush, Cheerios and the Thighmaster.” 

“Pizza,” Bobby confidently says, while his teammate chimes in with “Chinese food” and “chimichangas.”

The movie is a farce, sure, but there is a kernel of truth there. Americans have taken pizza and made it our own. While options abound for Italian-style pizza—thin and crispy with pockets of mozzarella and sparse ingredients possibly baked in a wood-fired oven—most American pizza cravings seem to lean heavily on the goo factor. In America, crusts of (place-dependent) variable thickness are heaped with toppings and oh-so-much cheese. You can see the commercial now, some wide-eyed kid is pulling a slice from a box, its cheese holding strong to the slices around it in a ropey net. This is American pizza.

As America has taken this Italian staple and made it our own, our corporations boost its image, further spreading the American pizza ideals to a global audience. Chains like Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Dominoes have locations around the world. Somehow, American pizza is the pizza of the global masses. Ingredients do, however, differ. 

While living in England, my team of student admissions representatives would be rewarded with a pizza party after each evening of cold calls, diving into the boxes slung around a conference room table. There would be the standard pepperoni, or plain cheese, but also something that felt very foreign at first. The English pizza of choice features sweet corn—kernels of corn, usually with a white sauce base and cheese. It’s plain and simple and quite delicious. 

As to where I stand on the pineapple debate, I’m firmly for pineapple on pizza. I always grabbed for the Hawaiian slices at pizza parties as a kid, savoring the sweet fruit and ham combo. Later, my mind was blown when I tasted pepperoni and pineapple (consider upping the alliteration factor and making it a pepperoni, pineapple and pepperoncini pizza). In college, when I was slinging pizzas as a server at MacKenzie River, my go-to was the hot Hawaiian pizza, with chicken, bacon and pineapple over barbecue sauce (add a layer of honey below the sauce to give it a little something extra).

I’ve tried many pizzas in my life. With respect to my Windy City friends, Chicago deep dish isn’t for me. It’s just too much—especially the disc of sausage at Lou Malnati’s. Instead, I love a classic margherita on a thin, crispy crust. For me, it’s the simple things that make a pizza spectacular. 

At Blue Moon, which has been in Big Sky for more than 30 years, it’s the herb-heavy marinara that serves as a base for the toppings. And it’s the smell of the house-made crust, twisted to perfection around the edges of a pan, drawing me in for a slice as it bakes. 

Rachel Hergett is a foodie and cook from Montana. She is arts editor emeritus at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and has written for publications such as Food Network Magazine and Montana Quarterly. Rachel is also the host of the Magic Monday Show on KGLT-FM and teaches at Montana State University. 

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