Eating Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Pizza and Accepting the Absurd
Photo by Ryan Cady
Let's just get one thing out of the way before we begin, alright? I'm not gonna hyperbolize here: the new Pizza Hut Hot Dog Bites Crust Pizza is just plain okay. It's not a revolution in flavor -- although, in my opinion, it does sound the war cry for a new renaissance in fast food: the acceptance of the absurd.
So, before I get all unnecessarily analytical, let's talk pie. The Pizza Hut Hot Dog Bites pizza is a large pepperoni pizza and with a crust made of 28 pigs in a blanket. The dogs are nothing special; I grabbed the Pretzel Dog crust, but I hear the ordinary Hot Dog crust is virtually indistinguishable. Whatever - it's exactly what you'd expect. The wieners are low quality but not disgusting, and they don't really pair well with a pizza, but they don't clash, either. It's really more like taking one bite of a pizza and then taking another bite of a hot dog - which, of course, I'm all about. Variety is the spice of life.
Photo by Ryan Cady
They give you an absurd tub of French's mustard, which if you haven't noticed, has nothing to do with pizza. The intended M.O. here is to tear off a bite-sized hot dog, dunk it in mustard, eat it, and then repeat until you've got a crustless pizza to dive into. To be fair to the flavor engineers over at Pizza Hut HQ, the crust maintains its integrity remarkably well. So why am I excited about something that really didn't taste all that special? Because it signifies a change - or rather, a return.
Think back a year or so ago, when food trends really began shifting towards the artisanal. It was the rise of the mid-level hipster burger joint, and the all-organic overpriced local chain eatery was king. Fast food wanted to cash in on that, as you do, and so the whole food environment began to change. Taco Bell championed their "Cantina Power" menu, and Carl's pushed the Thickburger line, and Pizza Hut rolled out a bunch of "high quality," fancy-flavored crusts for their pizzas.
But here's the thing - fast food will never be able to match the quality of food provided at Urban Garden Burger #53, even if they up their prices, and that's okay, because at the end of the day, the high quality food scene is boring.
Drop those pitchforks, kids, because here's a some truth - all those trendy little eateries with rotating menus, pretty, tattooed alternative kids on staff, and fusion names referencing obscure literature? They're just as stuffy, just as unimaginative, and just as redundant as the fancy cuisine joints they aim to rally against. Their food has great ingredients, really, and they put together some beautiful looking dishes, but at the end of the day, the meals they turn out work better as art pieces than tummy stuffers.
Photo by Ryan Cady
But perhaps most damaging about that environment was how fast food tried to emulate it. You know what's fucking awesome? A cheeseburger loaded with grilled hot dogs and potato chips. That's fun. That's honest and goofy and experimental - that's you and your friends giggling in the kitchen and just trying to make shit that tastes good. That's the kind of thing you can really only do in one place, nowadays...fast food. In fast food, you can make chicken nuggets shaped like French Fries. You can fold up nachos into a tortilla. And yes, you can even make a pizza with hot dogs for a crust.
Even if the hip joint scene wanted to embrace that sort of unbridled, acynical style of culinary creation, they couldn't - because you can't easily do that sort of Kafkaesque creating within that environment, with those ingredients, to that market. Those people? They sneer at chicken fries. They consider ranch dressing plebian. And for awhile, fast food bought into their bullshit, but no more.
Consider the crust of Pizza Hut's pizza to be the ultimate battleground, a microcosm of the recent battle for fast food's soul. A year or so ago, the Hut gave into the trend, introducing a line of "artisanally" flavored pizza crusts, a minimalistic new website, and artsy red delivery boxes. And it was boring. Pizza Hut should be greasy and chewy and doughy - not some vain clone aspiring to an impossible standard of authenticity (which is its own load of bullshit).
But those fancy crusts - where are they now? Sure, you could still get them, but are they advertised? Hell no. You don't get to even think about them until you're at the ordering stage. Because that was fruitless, and it was panderingly insincere, which was exactly why it failed.
Because at the end of the day, in order to survive in a world where mid-level cuisine demands arbitrary (and ironic) notions of "realness," fast food stands alone as a bastion of fun in cooking. Of ridiculous and whimsical culinary concoctions that answer to no one, because food doesn't have to answer to anyone. Do I enjoy the kind of food that comes out of that scene? Of course. But it's not the end all be all, and I can't imagine how absolutely bland the entirety of food would be if every menu looked like the one you get at Urban Plates or Shake Shack or Tender Greens. I can't handle another bite of that boring junk that follows all the rules.
Keep your umami, your pork belly, your grass-fed-locally-grown-tastes-just-like-every-other-café-in-LA bullshit - give me a Hot Dog Encrusted Pizza.
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