There’s No Wrong Way to Eat a Pizza with the President

By Carrie Kuchling, esquire

The future American President could end up being distant kin to Italians, in a project funded by the American people and nobody’s fingers have touched a dime of it yet. We’re talking pizza. The buzzy project “Let’s Eat Together” is an app that plots out dinner plans for you, your friends, and your soon-to-be sister-in-law from across the country in every locale imaginable. My friends and I are familiar with the double-D-Italian pizza trend of 2016, and we’re not sure that my future President will love the wood-fired crisp of the winning contender. But it is beautiful: It’s the evolution of the box and embodies what I believe the Democrats’ anti-Trump messaging should be all about: There is no middle ground between voting for blue and blue AND MAGA.

At first glance, pizza with massive crusts and long tables would be more complicated than it looks. But I think Italy, on the whole, has a normal understanding of about how long a long table is. Maybe I exaggerate. But in the last five years, neither the Middle East nor Europe has thought long tables were important. Maybe these days Italian informality has taken over and grilled meats are just sort of fine.

I love pizza and like to eat out. I have never, ever participated in such a cross-country group meal before. Where does Italy fit in in all of this? But clearly it does. It doesn’t even matter who comes from whom. The features line up perfectly. But when we showed up to the first location with our Italian friends, the initial disappointment of Americans and Italians doing a group meal together struck. Italians aren’t gregarious (so different from our culture), and most of the conversations weren’t happening; several Italians were taking turns in the center and people wanted to sit wherever they wanted. It was a missed opportunity to discuss the finer points of Milanese life, much less Italian political and legal affairs. And I suspect that’s okay. Italy looks in the mirror at its best: It’s where the women wear sensible shoes to the opera and casually weep in the elevator. Italy’s menus are full of misshapen bites and grilled meats and sweets that taste like they just finished a very long meal. It’s the land of big cities and grimily beautiful love scenes.

It’s not a swipe through Italians’ lives or a shot of their pasta at the mall. But as an American, I now have foodie appreciation for the food culture that existed in Italy before we walked into it. I can tell you about the canned vegetable capsicums and fresh-picked cherry tomatoes and handmade t-shirts, and the minute olive oil starts being applied on my plate I know that Italians have consumed it. It’s not a stereotype, so much as it’s a shared experience. If we learn about the traditions that continue, we can be a little more appreciated and welcomed. That’s the first step.

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