Pizza Pizza

We subscribe to two ‘general interest’ magazines in my house — one is The New Yorker (my choice), and the other is Fortune (my wife’s choice). For awhile I used to boycott Fortune and stick to 10,000 word articles by Louis Menand, Adam Gopnik, and co. But over time I’ve started to flirt more with the other side — especially when I only have a few minutes to read. Over cereal this morning, I came across an article in the ‘other’ magazine about American Pizza chains competing in India, which contained the following paragraphs:

It’s not all that surprising that pizza is big business in India. The product itself is similar to India’s native cuisine. Unlike Chinese and Japanese, Indians eat leavened bread (naan), and a popular traditional version slathers it in butter and garlic – not unlike garlic bread, the most often ordered side dish at both Domino’s and Pizza Hut franchises in India.

Cheese (paneer) is ubiquitous in India’s northern cuisine. Tomatoes and all kinds of sauces are prevalent everywhere. Combine these ingredients into one gooey, oily, tasty dish that you can eat with your hands – as Indians traditionally do – and you have a hit.

It’s estimated that 80% of Indians are vegetarians, so pizza suits that Indian cultural aspect too. Both chains are scrupulous about keeping “veg” from “non-veg” in their kitchens and invite people in to see the separate prep areas. There are even pizza options for India’s 5.2 million Jains, followers of a religion that prohibits eating onions or garlic. And stores in heavily Muslim areas don’t offer pepperoni. (link)

First of all, I don’t think 80% of Indians are vegetarians in the absolute sense (i.e., no fish), probably not even close. (I remember seeing someone pose 50-60% and falling in a comment thread some time ago).

Secondly, mozzarella cheese is like paneer? And: “A gooey, oily, tasty dish” that Indians like, because they eat with their hands? The author is on thin ice with some of this stuff. Instead of coming up with these questionable sociological stereotypes, she could just as easily speculate that pizza is popular in India because it’s new, and different from what people are used to/bored with.

(Anyone hungry for pizza now? I am. I think I might get a slice, and eat it while reading The New Yorker.)

55 thoughts on “Pizza Pizza

  1. I celebrated my 21st birthday at a Pizza Hut in Jaipur. It was fun- I got to get up on a table while the Pizza Hut employees clapped for me. I also had a large Kingfisher.

  2. Those Desi-fied pizza’s that you get in the Bay Area are DELICIOUS! I love the paneer ones….they also have tandoori ones as well.

  3. On a related note, the sky-rocketing price of durum wheat (used for making pasta) has been linked to the “higher demand from fast-growing economies, India and China for European food” The Italians even went on a hunger strike recently, according to the Times of India. See Pasta stir sparked by India?