There are important questions human beings must answer if we are to make sense of our lives. Is there a coffee so great that none greater can be conceived? Is God made of soap? Can someone be happy if she discovers her sole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others?
But the Atlantic Monthly manages to trump even these very serious questions with an ontological puzzle that would have stumped even St. Anselm:
Is Pizza Hut’s Hot Dog Pizza actually pizza?
Can this latest brainchild of the international conglomerate that is Yum! Foods—an Italian-German fusion dish that puts the “frank” in “Frankenstein’s monster”—really count as A Pizza at all? At what point does a particular food product veer so dramatically from its historic origins and its Platonic form that it requires a new category altogether?
After consulting several experts the linked article gives us this pearl of wisdom:
A pizza, basically, is a food product that is also a state of mind. One of the beauties of pizza as a form, Wiener points out, is that it is so flexible and permissive—a genre, really, rather than a strict category. That lets pizza-makers, whether they’re working at home or in restaurants or in the labs of Yum! Brands, exercise ingenuity. And if that ingenuity includes a crown of reconstituted pork products … hey, still pizza. “The crust,” Bello says, “is a canvas for creativity.”
Not even Derrida could have said it better; pizza is anything you want it to be. But of course if everything is pizza, nothing is pizza since the word “pizza” draws no contrast with anything outside its orbit.
So nothing is pizza?
Thankfully, the French philosopher Sartre, who believed the absence of something is still something, comes to the rescue.
“Nothingness lies coiled in the heart of being – like a worm”, he writes
Ah well, then. Pizza is like a worm, except a worm would be more appetizing.