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The Pizza Collage

Energy that tastes good

My personal history contains an unusual conjunction between touring and pizza, which began during my very first tour, in 01993. On the morning of July 21, just as I was passing through the town of Port Huron, Michigan, I was forced to stop when several spoke eyelets pulled out of my rear rim. In those days, I didn't know how to choose quality bike components, and even less about how to deal with such a mechanical problem. Feeling slightly despondent at my misfortune, my mood quickly improved, however, when I looked up and noticed that I had stopped literally right across the street from Alpine Cycles. The mechanics there took good care of me, and assured me that I would be moving again the next day, which helped a lot. Since I then had an unexpected free day, I decided it would be a good idea to try and wash my clothes, and asked them if there was a laundry nearby. The directions I received lead me to an establishment that was flanked, on one side, by an ice cream parlor, and on the other by a pizzeria. Jackpot! In the early days of my first tour, I was still operating under the foolish belief that cheap, tasteless food would be the best source of energy during a long tour. However, on that day, I decided to indulge myself and devoured a delicious pie. After all the bland food I had eaten during the previous weeks, that simple disc of crust covered with oregano, tomatoes, and pepperoni, seemed like the pinnacle of the gastronomic arts.

From that point forward, at every milestone I passed on that tour, I chose a pizza as my personal reward. Once the tour was complete, to take the idea to an even more preposterous level, I kept its spirit alive by modifying my personal dining habits. Since then, the only time I will eat a pizza is on the final day of a tour. Somewhere along the way, I extended this odd tradition to include taking photographs of said pies while they were still fresh out of the oven. Of course, on a tour as long as the Tour of Gondwana, no one could be expected to wait until the final day, so I reverted back to my original idea of a pizza at each major milestone. Alright, who am I kidding, I had one whenever I felt like it, which was just about all of the time.

Thus was born the Tour of Gondwana Pizza Collage. All of the pies you see before you were consumed, in their entirety, by me during the tour.

Feast your eyes:


A Global Food

With the possible exception of French Fries (a.k.a; Chips, Finger Chips, Pomme Frites, Papas Fritas, Batatas Fritas), which really cannot be considered a meal, pizza is probably the closest thing to a truly worldwide food. As it is simple to prepare and easy to customize to local tastes, it is not hard to understand why. Not restricted to locations frequented by mainstream tourists, at least a rudimentary example can often be found in the most out-of-the-way places. However, whether in a tourist place or a remote village, assurance of a top-quality product is never guaranteed. To my discerning palate, the three most common flaws found in the international versions of classic dish are, in my opinion:

~ poor-quality crust

~ insufficient amount of, or flavorless, sauce

~ cooking at too low a temperature

There are additional regional differences that one needs to be cognizant of when sampling versions from various far-off locals. One example is Argentina, which has its own unique style of pizza, which, somewhat unfortunately for me, typifies all three of the deficiencies listed above. It is not really true that their crusts are of a poor quality, they are simply different than what one might expect, being made with more of a bread-like texture. Likewise, the other two factors aren't really a problem, they just create a dish that is different from what a pizza connoisseur form another land might expect. Another case is in India, where the spicy meat toppings found in most other parts of the world are not present due to cultural practices against eating beef and pork. Vegetarian options are prominently featured on the menus there, but meat lovers can still be satisfied by alternatives of Tandoori Chicken or lamb.

As you can see, my tastes never strayed very far from the traditional pepperoni pizza, though, now and then, I ventured slightly towards more exotic choices. I was actually a little surprised at the lack of unusual local specialties available in most places, where the selection of toppings was often identical to what one might see in New York City. Here are a few of the more distinctive combinations I observed:

Kakadu N.P., Australia

~ Cajun Spices
~ Roasted Tomatoes
~ Capsicum
~ Sour Cream
~ Kangaroo Filet

Melaka, Malaysia

~ Onion Rings
~ Satay Meat
~ Peanut Sauce
~ Cucumber

Reggio di Calabria, Italy

~ Wurstel
~ Mozzarella
~ Buffalo Milk

Swellendam, S. Africa

~ Curry Mince
~ Banana
~ Pineapple