I just finished reading the book Everybody Loves Pizza
, by Penny Pollack and Jeff Ruby. I was especially interested in the book inasmuch, as I reported in an earlier post, I had spoken with Ms. Pollack as she was putting the finishing touches on her book to discuss some of the challenges in using the Caputo 00 flour in a home setting. At the time, I gave her the URL for our forum and suggested that she visit the forum so that she could get a better insight into the process of making pizzas in the home. In reply, she indicated that she would take a look but that the book was not going to emphasize that facet of pizza making. As I read the book, however, I couldn’t help but notice that the book does contain a chapter on making pizzas in the home, along with several recipes.
The book basically attempts to cover all bases--from the early origins of pizza in antiquity to its subsequent evolution from Naples to the U.S., and the adoption and popularization of pizza by the major pizza chains, and the frozen pizza, home delivery, and take-and-bake industry segments. The development of the NY, New Haven, Chicago and California pizza styles are also covered in great detail, along with the individuals and luminaries who were largely responsible for their success. The book also contains several lists, including these: The top ten pizzerias in America, “10 great pizzeria names”, a directory of 546 “great American pizzerias”, “10 great pizza web sites”, and “11 great children’s books about pizza”. There are also “factoids” and other tidbits about pizza, humorous and otherwise, liberally scattered throughout the book. Unfortunately, there is not a lot to tie everything together. The book struck me more as a disparate collection of topics on pizza, more or less standing on their own without a unifying theme.
I was of course disappointed when I didn’t find pizzamaking.com in the list of the “10 great pizza web sites”. However, when I got to the chapter that included the recipes and how they might be used, I found this parenthetical statement: “(And if you need help along the way, don’t worry: Check out www.pizzamaking.com, a Web site dedicated to the art and science of pizza making.”)
On the next to the last page of the book, I also found “pizzamaking.com” under a section entitled “WEB SITES”. So, it appears that Ms. Pollack did take notice of what I told her about our forum, although I suspect she added the forum name as an afterthought just as the book was being readied for publication.
The book as a whole is an easy reading one, and can be finished within a few hours. Of all the chapters, I found the chapters on the historical aspects of pizza, including the key participants, to be the strongest and the one on making pizzas in the home to be the weakest. I may be burdened with knowing too much about making pizza in the home, but I found that chapter to be too brief, superficial and incomplete. I laughed when I read that San Marzano tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella can be found at “any grocery store”. And in some cases, as with advice on the use of salt (the authors say Kosher only) and “rapid-rise” yeast (the authors say to avoid it), I found inconsistencies with other parts of the book, especially the chapter with the recipes. The recipes themselves (a total of 13) lean toward the gourmet category and are similar to recipes found in many other pizza cookbooks.
The list of the top ten pizzerias in America was interesting, and although there are some very good pizzerias on the list, I couldn’t identify the criteria behind the selections. There were only brief descriptions of the pizzerias and their pizzas. The directory of 546 pizzerias represents a good part of the book in terms of pages--over 40. I am sure that creating such a list was a very difficult and time-consuming task, involving an enormous amount of research and fact checking. I concluded that this directory may well be the best reason to own the book, particularly when traveling around the country and looking for good pizzerias to try out. That is how I plan to use the book.