In celebration of dairy- and meat-free pizza, tomorrow has been dubbed Vegan Pizza Day. While I could probably never be vegan myself, I am vegetarian and have many vegan friends, so am happy to support an event like this. The official VPD site is pretty cool, with listings of places that have vegan pizza, run downs on vegan-safe frozen pizzas, and other such resources.
I don’t agree with the claims on the site that vegan pizza is “the most awesomest food ever”, however I have had some delicious vegan pizza in my day. Many pizzerias offer simple cheeseless pies under the name “Marinara”, with just sauce and a few other minimal condiments or toppings, like garlic, sea salt, or olive oil. If they’re not vegan-safe as is, they can usually be made so easily. These pies are often neglected because they look boring as hell on paper (i.e. on the menu), but if done right with good ingredients these pies can rival their cheese-laden counterparts.
There’s also the topic of vegan faux cheese. I have yet to have any fake cheese which really does the job for me, but if used with a bunch of other toppings, it can add something to vegan pizza that might otherwise be missing.
In the video below, John Joseph – singer for the legendary 1980s NYC hardcore punk band, the Cro-Mags – talks about his favorite veg spots in NYC, including Viva Herbal Pizzeria. It’s all framed around Joseph’s new book Meat Is For Pussies.
Pizza isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you think about threats to the well-being of planet Earth. Nonetheless, choices about pizza, from the way ingredients are farmed all the way through the boxes they’re delivered in, can affect the environment.
With this in mind, I’m glad to be seeing some smart moves being made in the pizza industry lately. Some are clearly just weak attempts to jump on what seems to be a “green” bandwagon, but others do seem to actually be more than just weak marketing gimmicks.
Most notably is probably a francise called Pizza Fusion, whose motto is “saving the earth, one pizza at a time”. Among other things, they aim to clean up the act of pizza making by using organic ingredients, delivering with hybrid cars, using biodegradable containers, etc. There’s a PBS video about the company on YouTube which gives a good idea of what they do.
This whole idea of earth- and health-conscious pizza as a business move isn’t limited to only big corporate pizza either though. Not too long ago in Boston, TJ’s House of Pizza probably noticed how well their next-door neighbor, Grasshopper, was doing by serving all-vegan Asian fare (their “No-Name” special rules my dreams). For a while TJ’s offered vegan options as an alternative to their otherwise-standard pizza and subs menu. Apparently that went well, and the store eventually had a total transformation, changing their name to TJ Scallywaggle’s, painting their walls green, and switching the menu to all vegan-safe pizza, subs, etc.
Similarly, I was at Vinnie’s Pizzeria in Brooklyn not too long ago when I overheard the following conversation between the guy serving slices (who was presumably also the owner) and a drunken jock…
Jock: Where are all your meat-covered slices? What’s up with all this vegan shit? I want some meat! Slice guy: Hey man, believe me, I love meat pizza. But the vegan stuff sells. This is a business, so if something sells, we’re gonna take advantage of it. Jock: Fuck those vegan pussies. They need to man up and eat some meat! Slice guy: *laughs*
Regardless of whether or not the person offering the greener or healthier pizza really cares about such stuff beyond how much money it can make them, I’m pretty glad to be seeing more of these kinds of things being offered. While I am vegetarian and do care about environmental friendliness I don’t quite have the time to maintain my own pizza garden, so it’s nice to have these kinds of options.