I am not a fake food virgin. I grew up with Lik’em Dips, Bottle Cap Candy, Pixie Stix, and Kikapoo Joy Juice. And yes, I liked those things and even today I have nostalgic reverence for their sugary flavours and novelty.
But that was then, and this is now. When I was growing up smoking was cool, not deadly. Nobody was allergic to peanut butter, and cancer, diabetes, heart disease, ADHD (did that even exist?) and other maladies were not linked undeniably to the food choices we make.
Now things are different. Now we know. Yet it appears that we are still hellbent on killing ourselves with food. I don’t understand.
Feast your eyes on this abomination, which showed up today on my Facebook feed. This, apparently, is the “Crunchy Cheesy Bites Pizza” from Pizza Hut. (Note that they had to use the word “cheesy” instead of “cheese”. I wonder why. )
I’ve witnessed the Baconator and the 14 patty T-Rex from Wendys, the KFC Double Down, and Taco Bell’s Fries Supreme (with only 32 grams of fat per serving). I shouldn’t be surprised. But for some reason this thing disgusts me beyond belief. The perfect slivers of green pepper could be nail clippings from Shrek. Those things around the edge look like diseased sexual appendages from some alien life form, with crusty growth on the outside and ooey gooey processed blaghhhh oozing from within. How does anyone consider this food?!?
Is this what it takes nowadays for parents to get kids to eat? It’s no wonder that today’s kids don’t know where milk and eggs come from… nothing they eat resembles anything that grows in the natural world. Would it be such a crime to put something on a plate that looks like a vegetable and tastes like it, too? Does cheese really have to come as strings? Does fruit really have to be rolled up? Why are people so afraid of real food?
To every parent who’s ever purchased a Crunchy Cheesy Bites Pizza (or reasonable facsimile), I offer you this challenge. Take one hour this weekend and go to a farmer’s market. Buy real cheese, buy pepperoni, buy a green pepper and some mushrooms ( yes, you’ll have to cut them up yourself, I’m sorry). If you can find someone who makes pesto, BUY IT! Heck, even buy some spinach. Talk to the people who produced it and find out what goes into making wholesome food. Take your bounty home. Get the family together and MAKE a pizza (don’t worry, I’ll give you an easy recipe for the dough). Load it up with the good things you bought at the market, including the spinach. Savour the time you spend with your kids; shopping for the ingredients, learning from the producers, getting your hands dirty and making your own food. Let your kids tear smiley faces into the pepperoni. Eat your pizza together with the TV turned off. I double dog dare you!
Your kids won’t go to school the next day and talk about how awesome that Pizza Hut pizza was. It will be long forgotten before it even makes its way through the digestive tract (if they’re lucky not to suffer the consequences). But the trip to the market and the cooking lesson, now those are things they’ll remember. Teach your kids that food doesn’t come from a box. They have a right to know, and so do you.
Easy Peasy No-Rise Pizza Dough
Preheat the oven to 475°
- 3/4 cups warm water (warm, not hot)
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/2 teaspoon yeast
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (you can also use 1 1/2 cups of white and 1/2 cup of whole wheat if you’re really adventurous)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
How to make it happen
- Stir the honey into the water. Sprinkle the yeast on top.
- Put all the other ingredients in a big bowl and mix together.
- When the yeast is frothy (and it will get frothy), stir it into the water.
- Stir the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients.
- Get your kids to stick their hands in the bowl and mix everything together like crazy.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it some more. When all the lumps are gone and it feels nice and even and stretchy, it’s ready.
- Roll the dough out nice and thin, place it on a pizza pan or cookie sheet and then top with pizza sauce or basil pesto.Grate some cheese and place half of it on the dough, throw on the toppings of your choice (or arrange artistically, up to you), then sprinkle with the remaining cheese. NOTE: Unless you absolutely insist on drowning the pizza in cheese, you can get away with a lot less by layering like this.
- Put the pizza in the oven on a middle rack and bake for about 12 minutes. Turn the pizza around at about the 6 minute mark so it can cook more evenly.
- Let your pizza cool a few minutes before slicing. Pour yourself a locally brewed craft beer. Enjoy!