In one of the recent episodes of Big Bang Theory, Leonard, Penny, Sheldon and Amy spend a weekend in a rural cabin and to amuse themselves in the evening, play a drinking game called ‘Never have I ever……’.
The rules are quite simple. Someone starts off the sentence and adds something they have never done and if anyone else has actually done so, they have to take a drink. So for example, I could say ‘Never have I ever ordered a takeaway pizza’ because I never ever have. And if I were playing the game for real, anyone else who had done so would take a swig of whatever’s in their glass.
I use that example advisedly because I’m aware it’s something that most people these days have done at one time or another but I really never have, not even when I lived in the States for 5 years in the 90s where it’s practically a condition of residence! It’s even more quirky when you consider that I love pizza as much as the next person, maybe more, and truly believe that if you want to eat well in the US you should visit an independent pizza parlour; even stranger, although almost everything I eat is home-cooked and although I’m perfectly capable of producing a decent pizza bread dough, I have never bothered to do so. I have occasionally bought a ready-made frozen product, though I invariably end up adding more Italian topping to what always seems a bit of a stingy offering to my mind, and usually nowhere near the good-enough-to-eat picture on the box or gone the whole hog and bought frozen pizza bases to really personalise it: But I really never have ever ordered in.
I blame shows like Big Bang or pretty much any American non-Apocalyptic movie where pizzas are invariably ordered and consumed. The sight of congealing dough and topping sitting in a soggy-bottomed cardboard box has never appealed to me – pizza is something I want fresh from the oven or not at all. So thanks, but no thanks – I can’t see myself breaking my long-held record anytime in the future.
Now I guess many of you reading this will be thinking how fussy and finicky I am, how I’m missing out on a ready-made treat and how I should take advantage of the joys of home delivery but believe this item of news from the United Kingdom might make you eat your words – see what I did there! This piece from The Mirror newspaper reveals the findings of a small but significant random sample of a few pizza outlets in one English county which revealed suspect pizza ingredients in an astonishing nineteen out of twenty pizzas analysed:
‘A trading standards department has revealed EVERY takeaway they investigated in a recent inspection has been selling customers pizzas containing “fake cheese”.Officers visited 20 outlets in Lancashire for the food sampling operation and performed tests on ingredients used in hundreds of pizzas sold to customers.Each premises failed on descriptions of the ham, cheese, or both.The report revealed 19 out of 20 samples were found to contain “analogue cheese” - an artificial cheesy substance that is much quicker and cheaper to produce than real cheese.
Inspectors found 10 out of the 15 pizzas that purported to contain ham actually contained turkey DNA. Four samples that were advertised as containing pepperoni were found to contain “species in addition to beef or pork”. Paul Noone, head of Lancashire County Council Trading Standards, said: “We tested 20 takeaways across Lancashire to check that the ingredients used in their pizzas matched those on the descriptions. “However, we found that substitutes for things like cheese, ham and pepperoni were being used. We’ve written to the owners telling them they must correctly describe the ingredients they use in their pizzas. Our next step will be to work closely with takeaway owners and wholesalers to ensure everyone understands how products should be labelled. “We will also carry out re-sampling in the future to make sure the businesses are compliant.” ‘
Sadly this survey proved to me something I’ve always suspected – that fast food is often suspect, poor quality and of extremely dubious provenance. I avoid it like the plague, and considering the findings of the above, the plague I just want I might end up with from some of those dodgy offerings. When I prepare something in my own kitchen, I know exactly what went into it and more importantly, what didn’t, I know it was prepared in hygienic conditions, I know that no suspect animal DNA could ever creep in undetected and I know that if cheese is called for, cheese will be added, not some nasty plastic substitute.