Sunday, January 21, 2007
Egg Everything Bagels and the Grand Prix Pizza
When I was a kid my parents used to get a dozen bagels and everyone except me used to go straight for the egg everything bagels, but something about them turned me off. I finally realized why I hated egg everything bagels while reading this post on the Boonville Blog. The egg everything bagel is a failure of the bagel imagination. Eating egg everything is saying that the sheer number of different things stuck onto the bagel is more important than the taste or quality of any individual ingredient. The egg everything is the bagel for the truly tasteless. It's the bagel that whatever the closest bagel shop is to that window where they film The Today Show is probably serves to the tourists from Jewless states when they wander in looking for mayonnaise sandwiches. The concept of just sticking everything in the bagel shop thoughtlessly onto one bagel really speaks to the failure that some people have to appreciate the delicate balance of flavors that one finds in an onion bagel or a raisin bagel.
It reminds me of the first time I ever made kimchi chigae (or kimchi stew, pronounced chee-gay). Typically consisting of kimchi, water, pork of canned tuna, a pinch of beef bullion, and some sliced onions, my first kimchi chigae also included dumplings, carrots, tomatoes, a fried egg, ramen noodles and oregano. It was declared by my Korean friends to be unworthy of the name kimchi chigae. Of course now having developed my palate a bit, I can understand why my lame attempt at fusion was derided by all. I was unable to appreciate the simplicity of the soup in it's original form. The same was true of seolleongtang (pronounced as if you're seeing off a Chinese friend, "So long, Tong"), which looks like milky water and is made by boiling cow bones for days and days and putting a few scraps of beef and diced leeks in it before serving. Until I developed a taste for it, it tasted like steam and hot water with left-over pot roast floating in it. Now that I get it, I'm big into it.
So thinking about the egg everything bagel brings to mind the latest innovation in the koreanization of the pizza. Mr. Pizza (slogan: "Only for woman") has recently introduced the Grand Prix pizza, which I valiantly ate with my wife last weekend. One half of the pizza has boiled skin-on potato slices, sour cream, bacon, nacho chips, and something I couldn't quite put my finger on. The other half of the pizza had green peppers, olives, shrimp, ham, Domino's style sausage chunks, corn niblets and other assorted things. The crust is a sweet pastry somehow grafted around the rest of the pizza. The whole pizza comes with hot sauce, parmesan cheese powder, garlic diping sauce and a little tub of blueberry jelly for use with the crusts. Miyoung and I found that we couldn't even consider eating the crusts at the same sitting as the rest of the pizza, and let them sit a few hours before tackling them separately. The experience was similar to eating a crustless pizza befouled with cake and later eating sweet crullers with bits of sausage and black olives stuck to them. The whole experience brought to mind the question "Who would possibly prefer this inelegant, complicated eating experience to the pure pleasure of a New York pizza with a single topping, let's say, mushroom?" The only plausible answer, it would seem to me, is people who don't have the developed sense necessary to appreciate the details of a nice, simple mushroom pizza.
I'm sure that things like avocado roll and
volcano roll disgusted the Japanese the first time they saw them. "Dear gods, look how these barbarians have perverted our beautiful traditional food!" is, I'm sure, a close approximation of what they thought or said. In the end, I suppose this kind of culture perverting is the inevitable outcome of spotty cross-cultural transmission. Is there a single counter-example, in which something was imported from abroad and developed into a deeper, more exacting incarnation?