Feta Margherita

YOU WAKE UP UNDER a slowly rotating fan, the sweat pouring from your body onto the sheets of the bed you barely remember sleeping in. A tatty venetian blind casts narrow shadows across the room in sepia. One of The Doors’ songs, naturally, plays slowly, as you give a monologue describing your mental disintegration, and the progress of your terminal journey through another country’s trauma.

Shit. What cuisine can I traduce today? What creative horror can I bring into the world, what program can I split from, how far can I step off the reservation? What would Dennis Hopper cook?

Margherita pizza with feta replacing mozzarella

Here’s a margherita pizza, with crumbled feta replacing mozzarella. Never get out of the boat, unless you’re going the whole damn way.

---

/

Add a comment

This is a gravatar

Casey · 29 January 2013, 18:08 · #

I just finished watching the Sopranos. The whole thing. You’d be wondering why I bought that up, bear with me. Now, apparently, Italian Americans have this thing called Marinara Sauce. It has no seafood in it. It is, in fact, Napolitana sauce. Indeed, sauce/sugo with meat, they call Sunday Gravy. Really? Furthermore, I understand from the Sopranos, that they consider Columbus some kind of Italian hero. What the what? (Here it comes) Truly, this dish belongs to the cuisine of the Sopranos, cause no way in hell this is Margherita – are you dreaming? What country’s trauma could possibly compel you to do this? Care to explain?

---
This is a gravatar

Fyodor · 29 January 2013, 19:19 · #

Si, Cristoforo Colombo, da Genova.

Don’t get me started on the Sopranos. What’s with the fucking gabagool references? Are these Americani so degenerate they can’t say capocollo properly? It’s a beautiful word, and they make it sound like a cricket zombie.

---
This is a gravatar

j_p_z · 29 January 2013, 22:59 · #

Yeeeeeeaaaah, boyeeee, now that’s what I’m talkin’ bout.

By which I mean, Who in their right mind would consider that abomination a pizza? I don’t even know where to start! (which is a Freudian way of saying, THANK you, Liam!) I’m quite sure you think this about America too, but sometimes Australia seems like an imaginary country I would make up for a lark on a Sunday afternoon. Yellow jeans?! Slathering blobs of ketchup on pot pies?!? What rough beast, etc etc?

“What the what? (Here it comes) Truly, this dish belongs to the cuisine of the Sopranos, cause no way in hell this is Margherita”

Well not only is it not Margherita, it’s not of this earth: I think it’s something out of HP Lovecraft or Arthur Machen. But you’re quite mistaken about the Sopranos and their cuisine (not that I’m a fan of the show, you understand). Come to Joisey some time and I will give you a pizza tour that will make your head spin. And marinara sauce has more than one etymological derivation: seafood not required, and yes, I make a mean one.

“Are these Americani so degenerate they can’t say capocollo properly?”

WARNING! ACHTUNG! AMATEUR SOCIOLOGIST ALERT!

As I’m sure you know but have forgotten, Terwilliger, Italian-Americans, under the pressure of old-fashioned “assimilationist” (bless its pointed little head) melting-pot ideology, took to lopping off the vowels at the end of Italian words to make them sound more American. So in Brooklyn and Jersey we somehow say things like “mozzarell” and “antipast” instead of pronoucing it correctly. A linguist would be fascinated because the rule is irregular: people always say “fettucine”, although they also pronounce that wrong, and I’ve even (this is rare, though) heard people say “spaghett”. Somehow pizze escapes this slaughterhouse, who knows why.

---
This is a gravatar

Casey · 30 January 2013, 11:59 · #

“Come to Joisey some time and I will give you a pizza tour that will make your head spin. And marinara sauce has more than one etymological derivation: seafood not required, and yes, I make a mean one.”

I’d love to visit Jersey, believe me. It’s quite fascinating. I wouldn’t say no to the Marinara either. The chopping off of the vowels also comes from various Italian dialects, no? The Sopranos Italian is Neapolitan dialect? Gabagool is a great word. I take it you have no love of dialects then, Fyodor? Dialects are so so funny to me. The Calabrian/Sicilian dialect, for instance, has diminutives everywhere. You cannot get out of saying something without making everything hilariously cute and you cannot help but laugh at the incongruity of it all. It is a language which takes the piss out of itself. And Venetian is another dialect which chops off its vowels. eg, “fogolin” means little fire. Part of the fun of watching the Sopranos is working out the words. I really loved the name of the boat, “Stuguts”, which took me a bit to work out but I got there. But my favourite word was “Gumar”. Do you know how Neapolitan sauce came to be called Marinara JPZ? I asked my resident Neapolitan chef in the family and he thinks the Italian Americans are nuts and refused to discuss it any further. But I love to know how it derived … and why are you not a Sopranos fan btw? So many questions, so many, that I might just forget that Liam put freakin feta on his pizza. (Feta from the Italian Fetta meaning slice. Words are so interesting.)

---
This is a gravatar

j_p_z · 31 January 2013, 11:42 · #

“The chopping off of the vowels also comes from various Italian dialects, no?”

Perhaps, but the Italian-American influx is overwhelmingly Sicilian, which is a culture of its own. I often kid my Italian friends by refusing to acknowledge that they’re even Italian at all; they have no claim to Verdi and Michelangelo and Dante; to my mind they’re Sicilian. It’d be like calling an Irishman (like moi, for instance) a Normanized-Anglicized-Brittanically-adapted Englishman.

“Do you know how Neapolitan sauce came to be called Marinara JPZ?”

I have no claim to accuracy on this point, not being a good scholar, but coming as I do from a long, long line of mariners and sea-faring men* —fishermen and sailors and Navy men and of course, the Corps— my instinct is to say that “marinara” sauce is more properly thought of as “mariniere” sauce. That is, just as the Brits discovered the lime, and the Germans used pickled cabbage (which is why we call them “krauts”), to cure the dietary problems of shipboard life, sauce marinara is tomato-based, i.e., rich in vitamin C and a help against scurvy and the other ills associated with a diet of ship’s-biscuit and salted meat. Not only do I make a mean marinara sauce, my gazpacho is out of this feckin world.

*— there’s so much salt water in my blood, that literally, I’m not making this up, the first book I ever read by myself, aged 5 or so, was not “The Cat in the Hat” or some such, it was The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Which just happened to be lying around in my house for no particular reason, among my grandfather’s conch-shell collections.

---
This is a gravatar

Liam · 31 January 2013, 11:53 · #

Proper gattopardo you are, Zeta.

---
This is a gravatar

Fyodor · 31 January 2013, 15:04 · #

“The Sopranos Italian is Neapolitan dialect? Gabagool is a great word. I take it you have no love of dialects then, Fyodor?”

Au contraire. As you know I’m apoplectic for dialectic. It’s just that, as the inimitably aquatic Japezter put it above, the Italo-American slang isn’t so much a dialect, as a bastardised lazy pronounciation of the original Italian. If Neapolitans are going to call capocollo by another word, it’s usually “coppa”, not “Gabagool”.

[unbunches panties]

---
This is a gravatar

j_p_z · 31 January 2013, 18:36 · #

By the way, does anybody here know how Doctor Cat is doing? Her blog has gone dark for many months now. Perhaps this little life-raft of LP refugees knows what’s the rumpus with the good Doc?

---
This is a gravatar

Casey · 31 January 2013, 18:45 · #

Oh how interesting JPZ, thanks. It is a bit of a mystery. Although I would say modern day Italians from the North have as much claim to Dante, etc, as do Irishmen and Sicilians, or Americans and Australians.

Oh Mardonne F, of course gabagool is not Neapolitan, more’s the pity, pass the ziti ( Sicilian/Calabrian meaning bridegroom). Really I find coppa rather gabagool myself which probably explains why I so like the word. However, how does gabagool sound more American – a product of assimilation – as the newly imagined IRISH japerz suggests? All those Southerners – Calabrians, Sicilians and Napolitaaaans never spoke the language of Florence to start with – you know, the one you say is being traduced. Rather, they spoke those southern dialects which do cut off the vowels (Gumar is case in point – that’s straight out of all the Southern dialects). As a descendant of Southern Italians, I’m gunna stick with the experience of being able to trace most of those initially inexplicable Soprano words straight back to the Southern dialects I know and say it has nothing to do with being lazy and everything to do with not coming from Florence. Florence gets to own Dante. New Jersey Italian is the most definitely a child of the lower Stivale.

---
This is a gravatar

Casey · 31 January 2013, 18:52 · #

Sorry, ziti is plural and it means ‘bridal couple’, strictly speaking, however, I’d say the tubular pasta particularly represents the masculine half of the equation.

---
This is a gravatar

j_p_z · 31 January 2013, 19:32 · #

“However, how does gabagool sound more American – a product of assimilation”

Hmm, ‘fraid I must apologize for both laziness and imprecision (these / two things are one). I didn’t click the link on gabagool so I missed an important detail of the conversation and don’t know what’s going on there, but it sounds (ta-daa!) like a good old-fashioned consonant shift, which has not a whit to do with immigration patterns, it’s just a thing that naturally occurs in languages over time. I was only talking about the vowel elisions, but perhaps Casey’s Old World linguistic ‘splanation is better than my sociology one, maybe I’ve just fallen easily for a just-so story. Wouldn’t be da foist time.

“as the newly imagined IRISH japerz suggests?”

I’m confused. Are you suggesting I’ve imagined a new identity recently, or are you newly imagining me as some sort of preposterous character in a David Lean movie, wearing a cable-knit sweater while a cable-knit furrow wrinkles his brow, staring with Great Historical Importance over the windswept landscape of the Cliffs of Moher as a pastiche of Elmer Bernstein soundtrack music engulfs the theater? Or maybe just some flea-bitten drunk sitting in his own puke on the side of the road to Inishmoreen-na-Fiddle-de-dee?

---
This is a gravatar

Casey · 31 January 2013, 20:16 · #

Japez, here is Australia we Italian-Australians grew up as Irish Catholics. Our saints were Irish and we went to school with the Irish descendants and felt Irish when we weren’t being Italian other. In the end, we loved the Irish as much as we loved our own peculiar culture. Who knew you were Irish ? Irish is rather a good thing to me.

---
This is a gravatar

j_p_z · 31 January 2013, 21:46 · #

“Our saints were Irish”

Well I should certainly hope so! I’m not aware of any other kind! :-)

OK, actually I am. By way of crude transition, this is totally OT “but I’m gonna do it anyway, and then I’m gonna GIT right outta town!” Since you’re all so graciously sharing your Australian awesomeness, and in the spirit of that insane pizza above, here by way of thanks is a link to some authentic American insanity. We have a great unspoken tradition over here of having our really great art be blisteringly shocking and quite mad (Moby-Dick, North of Boston, Death-letter Blues, Autumn Rhythm, Eraserhead). In that vein, here for your, um, enjoyment if you can think of it like that, is the second-greatest song ever recorded:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjZDhPqdcdA

He’s probably not talking about the state of Vermont, I think he’s talking about Vermont Street in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles, but who can really say?

Just keep telling yourself: it isn’t an accident. Every note is deliberate. They worked really hard to make it sound exactly like that on purpose, damn them.

In case you want to be even more surprised, here is the first-greatest song ever recorded, only better because the shock is more, um, well….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYdjQCrO_xM

Let the devil burn,
And the beggar learn…

But most of all that first line, the greatest opening line, and the most true, in all of music….

---
This is a gravatar

Fyodor · 31 January 2013, 22:06 · #

I reckon I’m gonna gall this gal a guidette* from now on.

“Are you suggesting I’ve imagined a new identity recently, or are you newly imagining me as some sort of preposterous character in a David Lean movie, wearing a cable-knit sweater while a cable-knit furrow wrinkles his brow, staring with Great Historical Importance over the windswept landscape of the Cliffs of Moher as a pastiche of Elmer Bernstein soundtrack music engulfs the theater? Or maybe just some flea-bitten drunk sitting in his own puke on the side of the road to Inishmoreen-na-Fiddle-de-dee?”

Why choose? It’s the same bloke, anti/post a [**] night on the lash. A bit like your man here.

*Like the Smurfette, but tangerine instead of blue.
**See what I did there?

---
This is a gravatar

j_p_z · 31 January 2013, 22:21 · #

“I reckon I’m gonna gall this gal a guidette”

You neglected to point out what you did there, Vercingetorix.

Me, I’m back to “Sun Zoom Spark”. You can do as you please.

---
This is a gravatar

Pav · 31 January 2013, 22:25 · #

O brave new world that has such Greek cheeses on such Italian pies eliciting such madcap converse in it. JPZ, I have skedaddled to Facebook, which is easier. That would be Ballyinishmoreena-Fiddle-de-dee, wouldn’t it? I’m three-sixteenths Irish meself.

**Yes.

---
This is a gravatar

Fyodor · 31 January 2013, 22:55 · #

SHE LIVES!

---
This is a gravatar

Pav · 31 January 2013, 23:02 · #

Awesome frock. Want.

---
This is a gravatar

j_p_z · 31 January 2013, 23:13 · #

I ask you… What sweeter words could there be in the English language than “Ray Harryhausen Presents”?

---
This is a gravatar

Fyodor · 1 February 2013, 12:12 · #

Heh. A propos, one word: Aardman

---
This is a gravatar

j_p_z · 1 February 2013, 18:28 · #

Aardman. Pfft. You’ll discover steam next.

---
This is a gravatar

David Irving (no relation) · 4 February 2013, 21:31 · #

Pizza is not just Italian. (Sorry, Casey, but it’s true.)

My favourite pizza is Sardenara. Thick tomato sauce, anchovies, and olives. That is all. Occassionally, if I have it, I add fetta, but it’s not … correct.

My second favourite is a Leb-style one. It just has a meat sauce, lamb mince with a shitload of sumac (and a few other things).

Both stolen from Elizabeth David’s definitive book on bread.

I’ll have to try the fetta next time I make a Margherita. Thanks, Liam.

---
This is a gravatar

Casey · 9 February 2013, 10:02 · #

No of course it’s not Italian, do what you like. After all, if the Art Gallery of NSW is suggesting that Michael Angelo is a variant of Michelangelo, then put lamb freakin mince on it, what the frack do I care what you do? Next time, picture though. I like to look at those things.

http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/about-us/history/faq/#faq-79

---
This is a gravatar

David Irving (no relation) · 9 February 2013, 16:14 · #

Sorry, Casey. Usually I’m too busy eating the things to take photos.

---
This is a gravatar

j_p_z · 26 February 2013, 02:17 · #

DI(nr) — I get what you’re saying, but dig: some certain comestibles, for reasons we can’t really understand (see under Arthur Machen), take on a metaphysical quality, whilst others do not, and who can say why.

For instance, Scotch and red wine are metaphysical, vodka and white wine are not. Even if they’re really high quality. Bourbon is metaphysical, even though IMO it isn’t very good. A Japanese would claim that sake is metaphysical, and even though I drink sake more than bourbon, I would tell him to his face that he is wrong. Clam chowder is metaphysical, chicken soup and matzoh ball soup, though equally excellent, strangely are not. These are somehow objective categories, not opinions: in my own personal opinion a good lamb dopiza is metaphysical but that’s simply my opinion, and an Indian chef might disagree, and I’d be forced to concur. Hot dogs are metaphysical and hamburgers are not, even though I prefer hamburgers; barbecue of course is the metaphysical meal par excellence, a way of doing philosophy using food. I’m sure there are certain types of Australian cuisine which I don’t know of that are metaphysical, and they may not be the ones you think.

In this same way, pizza for some inexplicable reason is also metaphysical; I have no doubt that the various types of well-flavored flatbreads which you’ve cited are highly excellent in their own right, and yet… they are not pizza, in the same way that that regrettable abomination known as Chicago deep-dish pizza is not pizza, even though it has the exact same ingredients.

True pizza can only be found in a very few places, maybe not even in Italy any more, ironically. It has nothing to do with reason, it has to do with magic. Mostly its natural habitat is in Brooklyn and certain spots in Manhattan; some say New Haven, too, but this is debatable. Many think it has to do with the peculiar quality of NYC water. This may or may not be true, as the quality of NYC water, though still superb, has been subtly declining for years. Also the replacement of actual Italian-American pizza practitioners by low-paid Mexican stand-ins who try hard but don’t understand this particular type of magic, probably has an effect.

It is my fear that true pizza is slowly disappearing from the face of the earth. The other very delicious facsimiles available around the world may be quite adequate, but it’s a bit like comparing true actual magic with legerdemain, card tricks, or CGI.

Oh well. Sic transit etc.

---
This is a gravatar

j_p_z · 26 February 2013, 02:33 · #

Whoops, I forgot to add…

“some say New Haven, too, but this is debatable.”

Many things in New Haven are debatable, including that farce of a university that they’ve got packed in storage up there.

It’s a ritual, it must be said, what can ye do.

---
This is a gravatar

David Irving (no relation) · 27 February 2013, 21:19 · #

I reckon your classification of foods and drinks as metaphysical (or not) is totally subjective, japerz. As an aside, I don’t think we have an Australian cuisine as such: most of what we eat here (aside from my grandparents’ generation’s overcooked everything to the point where you could only guess what vegetable you were eating from its shape) has been brought by waves of reffos, or stolen. I blame the English.

We still have actual Italians making pizza in Australia, btw, although I have seen (but not eaten) something called a Mexican pizza. Made by an Italian, I’m sad to say.

---
This is a gravatar

j_p_z · 28 February 2013, 01:34 · #

DI(nr) — I hope you’ll forgive me for making a complicated joke when I say that your perception that my taxonomy is subjective, is entirely subjective. If I tell you that I’m simultaneously half-joking and also completely serious, well, where I come from that is a species of being completely serious.

A while ago I was talking to an Ethiopian chef (yes, I am friends with Ethiopian chefs) and she told me that a big problem for Ethiopian restaurants in America is that you’re almost forced (by economic circumstance and the realities of the labor pool) to hire a lot of Mexican sous-chefs. The problem with the Mexicans is that they’re good, but they’re trained to follow a recipe exactly, because to them it’s a job and a profession, not an art: what they want (and what is generally expected of them) is reproducible results. They’re generally not interested in magic, except when it comes to Mexican cooking. A real Ethiopian cook, she said, would treat the recipe as sort of a friendly suggestion, and would continually taste things throughout the process, add and subtract, swerve off the road, make it new every time to a certain extent, and that this was “true” Ethiopian cooking.

That is a part of what I was getting at, but not entirely; for instance if you try hard enough to re-invent pizza, what you wind up with is… well, feta margherita.

Why is a hot dog metaphysical, but a hamburger is not? Because the secret to a great hamburger is simple: don’t fuck it up. Whereas it’s hard to make a great hot dog. Everything has to go right, there has to be this perfect confluence of correct ingredients, technique and imagination, or else all you get is a dirty water dog.

You can make a brilliant lamb dopiza by simply not fucking it up. You can’t make brilliant pizza, or bourbon, or a toasted cheese sandwich, just by not fucking it up. You need more. You need metaphysics.

OLIVIA: Open it, and read it.
CLOWN: Look then to be well edified, when the fool delivers the madman. [SHRIEKING] By the Lord, madame!!
OLIVIA: How now! Art thou mad?
CLOWN: No, madame, I do but read madness; an your ladyship will have it as it ought to be, you must allow vox.

— Twelfth Night or What-You-Will, act five

---
This is a gravatar

David Irving (no relation) · 1 March 2013, 13:13 · #

That was very enlightening, japerz. I can see what you mean (although I still reckon your classification is subjective).

---
This is a gravatar

Casey · 2 March 2013, 14:47 · #

Japez, you DO know LP is coming back? Yes indeed! For the Australian election is to be held this year, where a very strange man will be most certainly elected, and therefore, this will give LP a further lifespan of about 3 years. It is necessary for lefties to have a place to outrage themselves, for otherwise we should die, as you well know. Personally I cannot see this strange man who is to be elected lasting beyond that, but what it means is more fun and games at the purple palace. I look forward to seeing you there where you will be at your sparkling best and offer pearlers like the ones above.

Yours, etc, love and spells, Casey.

---
This is a gravatar

FDB · 4 March 2013, 11:02 · #

Jape-easy, it seems to me that your distinction between metaphysical foodstuffs and the rest is, at its simplest, that between a sausage and a steak (respectively).

The problem in applying this schema to pizza is that the boundaries of pizza are very fuzzy. You may not wish it to be so, and I can sympathise. A soi-disant “pizza joint” has recently opened near my place of work in Fitzroy which quite self-consciously proffers a product much similar to Brooklyn pizza. It’s excellent, but no true Scotsman would claim it’s the only pizza in town.

Incidentally, for an Australian metaphysical foodstuff, you need look no further than this very blog.

---
This is a gravatar

Fyodor · 4 March 2013, 16:17 · #

“Japez, you DO know LP is coming back? Yes indeed!”

Marky Mark’s putting the Bahn back together? “I can quit any time I want.” Yeah, sure you can.

“For the Australian election is to be held this year, where a very strange man will be most certainly elected, and therefore, this will give LP a further lifespan of about 3 years.”

“Very strange man”? I think you’re confusing the GE with the Papal Conclave.

Speaking of which, strangely enough, LP really hit its straps with Papa Ratzi’s original election:

http://larvatusprodeo.net/archives/2005/04/20/habemus-papam/

Full circle.

Back to the food thing, and Japezter’s comment on Mexican sous-chefs. I once met a Mexican chef who had a tried and failed to get a Mexican restaurant off the ground in Sydeney. With much disgust she despaired over Australians’ preference for Tex-Mex over the real thing, which circles back to the original post* and the inability to find real Gong Bao Chicken in New York or “Mongolian Lamb” in Hong Kong.

*SWIDT? You betcha.

---
This is a gravatar

j_p_z · 5 March 2013, 05:35 · #

FDB— “your distinction between metaphysical foodstuffs and the rest is, at its simplest…”

Well there’s your problem mate. We live in the world; not everything reduces to its simplest. Often there is no simplest. As proof I refer you to the reality around you.

“With much disgust she despaired over Australians’ preference for Tex-Mex over the real thing”

You haven’t understood. Tex-Mex IS the real thing… but only with respect to real Tex-Mex, which is a coterie affair. And I’m sure you can grok the multilingual pun about what is the “real” thing, too. [And I reserve my doubts that you’re getting proper Tex-Mex in Australia under any circumstances. It is likely that you cannot get true Tex-Mex in Australia, just as it is likely that most Australians have never tasted actual pizza, but merely flavored flatbread, and so have no real idea what I’m talking about.] It isn’t the ‘real’ Mexican thing with respect to say Oaxacan cooking, or Guadulajaran, or the national melange which we agree to call “Mexican”. (New England chowders and fruit pies, Carolina barbecue, Texas barbecue, Wisconsin brats and California fusion are all “American” as a matter of convenience, but…?] “Mexican” is a stupid, opportunistic, and inaccurate label, politically, ethnographically, and a la cuisine.

You do realize that there are many people living in Mexico who can’t speak Spanish. Why an Olmec or a Mixtec would think they are “Latino” when they’ve never heard of Rome, or that they have a claim to Arizona because a bunch of Spaniards killed a bunch of Hopi and Navajo, is an enduring mystery only solved by moronic leftist hand-holding and wishful thinking.

---
This is a gravatar

j_p_z · 5 March 2013, 06:23 · #

Casey — thanks for your kind thoughts. Granted I’m rather far away, in many senses, but when you say “this strange man” do you mean Tony Abbott? (I can’t think of any other “strange men” in Aus politics, which in general strikes me as far more sane than the American variety). I suppose I’d be rather surprised to hear he’s on the way in. On the one hand, I don’t think a conservative turn in Aus politics will be a catastrophe (it could be a better or worse idea depending on the landscape, but since you good people impress me with your general sanity, I have a hard time viewing it as a catastrophe, in the way that both Bush and Obama have been catastrophes for America), but whether it’s a good or bad thing is not mine to judge. All the same, Tony Abbott makes me feel like he’s a bit of a crackpot, no matter what side of the aisle he’s on. The dude just seems bizarre, and bizarre is not the right fit for a head of state. My main problem with both Bush and Obama: they are/were both very weird individuals, and weird isn’t cool at that level. I like weird when I hear it on a record or see it in a theater or read it online; but I don’t like weird when it commands the forces of government, which ought to be boring and highly predictable, with an extra helping of boring. Obama (and Abbott, too) should be the head of a wacky experimental theater company in New Hampshire or NSW, not be preening around the planet fussing with budgets and legislation and the armed forces, none of which he really understands.

---

Commenting is closed for this article.