Food has the power to save us or kill us. Chicken salad or fried chicken? Sliced apples or French fries? Yes, we should be eating healthy and live omnivore lifestyles with walnuts, granola and grapefruit but, dammit, if I want a bacon-wrapped grilled cheese meatball sandwich I’m going to have it. Whatever your nutritional values, food invokes our communal nature to come together as people with a common goal: getting a great meal.
Fellow food lover Colin Atrophy Hagendorf took his infatuation for pizza and made it the centerpiece for his memoir, Slice Harvester: A Memoir in Pizza. While chronicling his life as a self-proclaimed punk wandering around New York City, Hagendorf sets out to have himself a slice at every pizzeria in New York City. Crazy, I know. Fantastic? of course. But why pizza?
And that’s exactly the question we posed to Hagendorf in this latest installment of our ‘One Question and Answer’ series. Here’s what he had to say:
Question: Food is a way for us to escape, to find comfort, and to bring us together. What was so important about pizza that you had to make it the central focus of your culinary adventures in New York City?
Colin Atrophy Hagendorf: So a few summers ago I was in this pizza parlor, can’t remember which one, and there was this Wolf of Wall Street finance bro in front of me in line. He was vacillating about what he wanted in this genuinely annoying way, and the pizza man wasn’t doing any work to hide his chagrin. The Wolf finally settled on a buffalo chicken slice. I remember because while I’ve enjoyed the occasional incidental buffalo chicken slice, it’s not something I would ever order.
The pizza guy picked the slice up and threw it in the oven. Wolf of Wall Street totally lost it. Started shouting, “I can’t believe you just touched that with your bare hands! It’s disgusting! I want a new slice!” I could tell he was flexing on the service person for failing to curtail his irritation earlier in the interaction.
Pizza dude was like, “You know how hot that oven gets? It’s five hundred sixty-five f*ckin’ degrees in there. Any germs that mighta been on my hands—and my hands are clean—but any germs that mighta been on my hands are burnt to shit in that heat.”
The Wolf refused to budge. “I don’t care. I’m the customer and I want a new slice.”
So my man behind the counter goes, “OK, I get it, I get it. You want a new slice.” He rubbed his chin and furrowed his brow like he was thinking, “Well, you know what? You can’t have a new slice. Matter of fact, you can’t even have this slice. Hey buddy,” at this point he turned to me, “you want a buffalo chicken slice?”
I shook my head yes, went and grabbed the slice. The finance bro looked at me like I had betrayed him, as if I had been on his side in the first place. He fumed for a minute but ultimately left, muttering something about a Yelp review. He seemed to enjoy his role in the interaction, a martyr savoring his righteousness. The handful of other people in the pizzeria cheered when he left. And in case you were wondering, the slice was delicious. I didn’t get sick from any hand germs either.
I know you asked me about bringing people together and I’m telling you about a guy getting kicked out of a place, but like, that guy was an asshole, you know? Plenty of wholesome stuff happens in pizzerias—teens go on dates, little league teams celebrate, families come together. But it’s also important to remember that we don’t have to tolerate belligerent, entitled jerks. In most facets of the culture, the rich jerks always win. But sometimes in the right pizzeria, things can feel a little more equal. I like that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Colin Atrophy Hagendorf is an adult punk rocker and aspiring long-term soberdog. He loves eating pizza, working to dismantle systematic structures of oppression, and carefree afternoon naps. He collects obscure riot grrrl 7″s and 70s paperback editions of Sam Delany novels. He is the creator of the blog Slice Harvester and the fanzine of the same name, in which he reviewed a plain slice from every pizza parlor in Manhattan.