I happened to come across a summary of the Southern Foodways Alliance 2012 Symposium devoted to barbecue the other day, and I was struck by the soothing, tranquil (somnolent?) topics on offer. A dose of history, a pinch of immigrant experience, a dollop of poetry and lyrical love letters to barbecue, and plenty of richly deserved rewards for lifetime achievement. But where is the controversy, the food fights? No pork vs. beef, Memphis vs. Carolina, ribs vs. brisket, sliced or chopped.
Usually when there’s smoke there’s fire. But no more. Has complacency set in? Is the South so comfortable with all the foodie attention and tourist dollars that they no longer strive for excellence? I know. Fightin’ words.
But you can count on New York City to keep the battle lines drawn. Pizza guru Patsy Grimaldi can’t use his name on his new pizzeria having sold an earlier incarnation to a nearby competitor. His motive to reopen is revenge over an insult suffered years ago from the guy who bought his business. Grimaldi wanted control over the pizza-making after he was no longer owner, so he got tossed from the premises—go figure.
Meanwhile the new owner is involved with multiple lawsuits with the landlord and, according to Grimaldi, has allowed his pies to go to hell along with the rest of the pizza traditions.
Ask him who in the city makes a proper pizza these days, and he will shrug and answer: “They all died”.
But the New York pizza controversies still live. Family pizzerias still refuse to share recipes or eat at each other’s restaurants.
“I don’t eat anyone’s pizza” says Louise “Cookie” Ciminieri [the proprieter of Totonno’s] in Coney Island. “Because then they turn around and say Totonno’s eats my pizza!”
At least someone knows how to start a good food fight—and keep it going!