I Figured Out Why I Hate Taco Pizza
My family went to a popular pizza-based buffet restaurant recently. As we sat enjoying our first round of plates piled with food, a person from the booth next to us came back from the land of heat-lamps, nearly running, to report to their group that it was there.
Fresh from the kitchen, taco pizza was ready for the enjoyment of all mankind. When my daughter and wife heard this, their eyes went wide with equal excitement and they dashed off to claim their share of the hybrid treasure.
As this was happening my eyes went into a massive involuntary roll right out of my head.
"Taco Pizza? Gross," I said, a little too loud.
Loud enough to get a bit of side-eye from nearby diners.
My son, who was equally unexcited about taco pizza, but not harboring quite the same personal hatred as me, asked why I don't like taco pizza so much. And I was stuck.
Sure, part of the issues is lettuce. Just like with a hamburger, if I want a salad, I'll get a salad. I had in fact just enjoyed a delicious plate of greens from the salad bar. Taco pizza always seems to be made up of six inches of iceberg lettuce (basically green water in stasis) on top of a cracker.
Another problem with taco pizza is that it is usually prepared for, um, shall we say, a less exciting pallet. Mexican food is my favorite genres of eating. All the different combinations of cheese, spices, peppers, meat, beans, vegetables and tortillas are the reason we have taste buds. I'm pretty sure you could put chili powder on anything and make it better.
But, the taco pizzas I have come across in my travels are almost uniformly bland. Boring crust covered with flavorless beans, a dusting of unmelted cheese and that six inches of lettuce. If you're lucky there may be a sauce on there that tastes like it sat close to some spices in the pantry and had a bit rub off on it.
But, all those are just reasons why I don't like to eat something. I don't like liver. It's equally gross to me. But I don't have a visceral reaction whenever anyone mentions it. I don't take personal offence when an Iron Chef breaks out the organ and the commentators go on about it's rich, deep flavor. I just think, "That's not for me," and move on.
But, for so long I couldn't figure what my deal was with taco pizza. Then YouTube came to the rescue.
Last night I lost about an hour going down a rabbit hole of commercials from the 1970's and 1980's on YouTube. I love watching old commercials from that time when I was a kid. It's a mix of nostalgia and fascination with the production styles, selling techniques and fashion.
As I was making my way through Happy Meal toys commercials, discontinued pain revilers I'd forgotten about and outdated tech announcements (30 megabytes for only $1000!), I saw this and all the pieces fell into place.
My opposition to taco pizza comes from childhood.
When I was growing up in a small-ish western Nebraska town in the 80's, the place for families to go out to eat was Pizza Hut. This was in the days before delivery when Book It was in full bloom.
Pizza Hut was the casual, sit-down dining experience for us. Mom would get the salad bar, dad would get coffee (and we couldn't leave until he had finished his last cup). There was a flat-top Q-Bert video game and a jukebox where we'd play "Karma Chameleon" on a loop.
These visits to Pizza Hut were a highlight of my month. To this day the taste of Pizza Hut pan pizza crust will flood my mind with the same level of good feelings and memories as the smell of a roast in grandmas house. We were a busy family and these meals were an important moment when we were together doing something special. It was also where I learned to not drink all my pop before the pizza came. And of course, I loved the pizza.
But, every once in a while, things would get crazy and my parents would order a taco pizza. I think they liked it, and my siblings did too. I may have even been excited at the time of ordering. But, what I really remember is the crushing, for a 10 year-old, disappointment when I realized that this is what we we're eating, and I'd be missing out on that divine combo of cheese, sauce, and meat.
Because we were getting ONE pizza. Us kids might have been asked our opinions on the choice, but the decision was made at the parental level.
Every taco pizza became a symbol of missed opportunity. We were here in the house of tomato and Italian spices. I was getting to eat the sacred food of fables and commercials.
But every time we'd choose the taco pizza I'd be excited, then realize what I was missing, then be crestfallen when the bland smear of refried beans on a cracker, under that six-inches of lettuce was all there was for dinner.
Over the years that nugget of childish disappointment of missing out on a baked cheese and sauce fiesta has grown into a loathing of taco pizza. Because I'm not a pizza purest. I'll enjoy a BBQ pizza, a nice pie with white sauce, a delicious slice of buffalo chicken pizza, or even a refreshing veggie pizza with cream cheese. I've just always harbored this weird, dark resentment towards taco pizza. Thanks to YouTube I finally figured out why.
OK, now maybe I can try this culinary hybrid again, free of my childhood resentment. But, I'll probably have to bring my own hot sauce. Luckily I rarely travel without it.