eating your words

eating your words: "sissy pizza"

“Is pizza a vegetable?”  The fact that anyone thought to ask this question is perhaps the most ridiculous food news in recent American history.  Even if tomato paste does have some nutritional value, the fact that anyone actually voted in favor of the "pizza as a vegetable" ruling is inconceivable.

But while the sane sit shaking their heads over this international PR gaffe (Um, can someone please start taking our country’s reputation abroad seriously?) – Herman Cain is out adding insult to injury, over a nice hot slice with GQ.

Now I understand Cain’s appeal.  Our lack of faith in politicians and the whole politic system has reached an unprecedented low, so we figure they might as well entertain us.  In fact, he’s given me something to write about today, so I guess I should be thanking him.

But “good stories” aside, no intelligent person can take Cain seriously.  Which is perhaps why he can say offensive things without anyone batting an eye.

I’m talking about “sissy pizza”:

Chris Heath: What can you tell about a man by the type of pizza that he likes?
Herman Cain: [repeats the question aloud, then pauses for a long moment] The more toppings a man has on his pizza, I believe the more manly he is.
Chris Heath: Why is that?
Herman Cain: Because the more manly man is not afraid of abundance. [laughs]
Devin Gordon: Is that purely a meat question?
Herman Cain: A manly man don't want it piled high with vegetables! He would call that a sissy pizza.

First of all, what adult professional uses the word “sissy”?  And are we really giving airtime to a man who believes that your “masculinity” is defined by pizza toppings?  Because the last time I checked, that extra-pepperoni is going to turn you into more of a dough-boy than an wood-chopping, game-killing Adonis.

But let me be clear – this isn’t a question of health.  This is about a public figure reinforcing a backwards – and, unfortunately, pervasive and widely accepted – message about masculinity in America.

In an age where Mario Batali (a public figure, yes, but not someone running for president) gets blasted for a well-intentioned, but poorly-chosen statement about the current financial system (“Hitler” just does not work as a casual, pop culture reference) – why are we not raising more of a stink over Cain’s macho pizza theory?  I mean, at this point, I’d rather elect someone who forgets the name of a government department than someone who is just downright narrow-minded.

Even worse, unlike Batali’s flub-up, Cain proudly returns to the “manly pizza” motif throughout the interview.  And though he does have a few redeemable moments where he references “taste” and the “quality of ingredients”, Cain’s outright celebration of his lack of qualifications for public office pretty much sums it up:

Chris Heath: What are they trying to put in people's minds when they call you the pizza guy?
Herman Cain: That I haven't had experience holding an elected office. That's how they're trying to paint me. And guess what, I give them the brush and the paint. Want to know why? The American people love the fact that I haven't held an elected office. They love it— [Another pie arrives, covered with meat.] NOW THAT'S A MANLY-LOOKING PIZZA!!

In an ironic twist of fate, it’s actually the arugula pizza that Cain prefers.  Perhaps his tongue should stick to eating and stop the talking.

Cheers to Chris Heath for turning a simple pizza story into a truly revealing interview.

11.28.11 - Update : Herman Cain's "sissy pizza" comment is only the tip of the food/gender issues iceberg.  Men's Health publishes a list of the Manliest Restaurants in America (note that none of them are "healthy").