Sometime around 50 BC Julius Caesar and a few thousand soldiers marched into Gaul, present-day France, and took over. The Romans stayed here for more than four centuries. They built towns and cities, arenas, temples, and plantations. Then, around 450 AD they up and left for Rome again. They packed up and left behind empty towns and cities, temples, arenas, and plantations. Apparently what they didn’t leave behind was the recipe for pizza. The French have been trying…unsuccessfully, I might add…for some 1500 years to figure out how to make it. They are still trying.
Oh, every town and village has any number of establishments selling something round and flat that they call “pizza,” but…not to put too fine a point on it…it ain’t pizza, it’s crap. Or, as one poster, likely an American, wrote on a Trip Advisor review of one place here in La Fleche, “How can they get it SO WRONG?”
A fine question, indeed. One that is partly answered by the fact that the French have a specific world view of what pizza is. In most of the civilized world, or at least along the East Coast of the US from Boston to Washington, DC, the heart and soul of pizza is The Crust. If you don’t have a good crust, goes the premise, then you don’t have good pizza. It is The Crust that people ooooh and aaaah over, savor and discuss like fine wine.
In France, the crust is merely a delivery system for what goes on top. It might just as well be a slab of cardboard. The crust is an inconvenience that must be navigated in order to get to the toppings. And what goes on top of a French pizza is so often, just wrong. For openers, allow me to inform you that when you order a French pizza you should be prepared for crème fraiche. And potatoes. And barbecue sauce. No kidding.
From the menu of one of the local “pizza restaurants” I can offer you The Rustique, which includes smoked sausage, potatoes and crème fraiche. Or The New York (they love to name their “pizza” romantically) with crème fraiche, barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, and ground beef, among others. “New York?” you may ask. Indeed.
Then there’s the “Cap Horn” which includes raclette, crème fraiche, and tuna. Tuna! Yummm.
Or, one of my personal favorites, The Louisianne, with barbecue sauce, chicken, ham, and curry. To which one can only ask, “Pourquoi?”
There are more, of course, but no need to continue the misery. You get the point.
Sitting here thinking maybe they’re feeling The Purchase was a rip off, and the Louisianne is their response. It seems odd to me though, that of all of those Italians who immigrated to the US over the years, not a single one of them passed through France along the way to set the French straight on pizza? If so, then I am holding my grandparents at least partially responsible