Desiree Koh's Reviews > Pizza: A Global History

Pizza by Carol Helstosky
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's review
May 10, 10

it was ok
bookshelves: chow
Recommended for: Obsessive pizza lovers
Read from April 28 to May 10, 2010 — I own a copy , read count: 1

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore! When a book shits on your brain like a pile of stale crust, that's a bore.

I know a lot of pizza, but I don't profess to know everything, so I read the pizza volume in the Edible Global History series. Maybe Ken Albala set too high of a standard with his "Pancake" edition, because nothing else has been very good since. The author Carol Helstosky is an associate professor of history at the University of Denver, but you wouldn't have guessed it, because the book reads like somebody's thesis on pizza. One that was written in 24 hours fueled by lots of bad coffee.

While the information and history presented is rich and well-detailed, the proofreader in me picked at every nitty gritty faux pas of literacy in the book like anchovies off a pizza - and I hate copy editing. I frequently ran into the exact same phrase re-used like a ratty old paper bag - sometimes EVEN less than a paragraph apart. This is sloppier than bad mozarella - I am sorry, but even if the writer didn't come through, did the editor not catch it? Commercialized, standardized pizza is for the lazy, post-beer slug to order by phone, but a theoretical and insightful book about pizza (supposedly) should be a lot more conscientious in style. And speaking of style, the writing is certainly akin to an offering from a Pizza Hut, as opposed to a Verace Pizza Napoletana certified wood-fired pie. (See, I did learn something good from the book.)

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, there were some fine toppings. I enjoyed reading about how margherita pizza was invented, and Professor Helstosky makes some fine analyses of the status of pizza – the conventionalization of pizza was what made it popular, even as purists decried the mass production and consumption. If not, there might not be cultures all around the world using “pizza” as an umbrella term to describe anything made on flatbreads. The fact that some of the universe’s top pizzaiolis are NOT Italian is proof that, as Helstosky expounds, fact that the world is flat – just like a pizza. There’s a fine chapter on the globalization of pie and how it has been intricately woven into pop culture. In fact, does pizza even fit into any category now? It’s on its own pie-destal.

And since it is, despite its redeeming points, I truly expected the subject to be placed in a brick oven up high, blazing in glory as a poetic pizza paean was painted. I mean, who wants just a cheese pizza when you can get truffles and gold dust, or at the very least, a Chicago deep dish?

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Reading Progress

04/28/2010 page 60

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