Could we take just a second to talk about Pizza Hut's new pizza? Which fits, in form, the basic definition of a “pizza”—a flat, circular disc of leavened dough, topped with sauce and cheese, baked to bubbling gooeyness—but which is, in practice, so much more? (And possibly so much less?) The pizza (or, possibly, “pizza”) whose crust is crowned with 28 cocktail wieners that radiate out from a molten center like the rays of a dairy-cored sun? The pizza (“pizza”?) that comes, in the continental style, au jus, the jus in this case being a hefty squirt of French's mustard?
This week, Pizza Hut announced that this particular food product, a version of which has long existed in Asian markets, will soon become available in the U.S. And reactions to the chain’s latest publicity-stunt-in-the-guise-of-a-foodstuff were, predictably, as diverse and dramatic as the foodstuff itself. Is the thing that has been dubbed, uncreatively, the “Hot Dog Bites Pizza” a “monstrosity that signals the downfall of Western civilization”? Will it “help put you in an early grave”? Or is it simply “a good way to avoid that all-too-common dilemma: pizza or hot dogs”?
Such wonderings, however, elide the bigger, deeper question that lurks among the nuggeted pork products in the “hot dog bites” crust: Is this marvel of modern food-engineering, ultimately, even a pizza? Can this latest brainchild of the international conglomerate that is Yum! Foods—an Italian-German fusion dish that puts the “frank” in “Frankenstein's monster”—really count as A Pizza at all? At what point does a particular food product veer so dramatically from its historic origins and its Platonic form that it requires a new category altogether?