Monday, April 23, 2012

Pizza Hut gets it

Posted By on 04.23.12 at 08:46 AM

This one probably even has a buffet
  • M.O. Stevens/Wikimedia Commons
  • This one probably even has a buffet
Those who are in disgusted awe at the recent news that Pizza Huts in the UK will begin rolling out a hot dog stuffed crust pizza obviously haven't been paying attention to the pizza-slinging mogul's pinpointed marketing strategy over the past decade—and they should be ashamed of their inattention. On the heels of Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Taco and not far removed from KFC's Double Down, Pizza Hut reminds the world that though it's run out of exotic cheese combos to stuff in crusts, they ain't afraid to bake a whole damn hot dog right in there—and, to hell with it, drizzle some mustard on it too.

I delivered pizzas for Pizza Hut off and on throughout my blurry four (or so) years of undergrad in the early aughts. And though I played into the pizza delivery dude stereotype, I have no shame. Working at a pizza joint during your late teens/early 20s is the best job ever—all I did was drive around, listen to suburban punk, smoke Camel Lights, and bring home free pizza to mooching (yet thankful) roommates. I worked three days a week and made plenty of money to support a happy and unhealthy lifestyle.

While there I was privileged to experience firsthand what the brain trust of pizza idea men could concoct and later convince the American public to consume. Each zippily named invention involved an inordinate amount of (hidden) cheese, because as the engineers of the Stuffed Crust pizza, Pizza Hut's greatest concern is cramming and smushing more cheese into whatever nook or dough excess it can locate. Plus, who's really going to say no to more cheese? Not me. Kudos to them for tapping into the public's collective id and smothering it in mozzarella.

Let's quickly revisit a pair of the chain's more formative pizzas:

The Insider was one of the more memorable pizza bastardizations. An inadvertent take on Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza, it featured a blend of six cheeses sandwiched in between two thin pizza crusts. The whole thing was then covered with more cheese and other toppings. Perhaps not as revolutionary an idea as Pizza in a Cup (The Jerk reference had to come somewhere), the Insider milled around for a while and actually made a reappearance or two if memory serves. Bottom line: never underestimate the demand for a cross between a pizza, a quesadilla, and a grilled cheese.

Pizza Hut's Chicago Dish Pizza may have been my favorite of the weirdo pizza mutations. A national pizza chain's clone of the famous Chicago-style cheese pie, it included a tall, way-too-buttery crust and two slices of provolone that acted as the ground floor to a tower of toppings, more cheese, and chunky tomato sauce. Though a knockoff's quality will always pale in comparison to the original, what made the Chicago Dish so attractive was that I didn't have to regrettably gorge myself on breadsticks while I waited 45 minutes for the pizza to cook—it was in and out of the oven in 12-15 minutes. That's what they call streamlining the product, people. (It's crucial to note that I did not live in Chicago during the short reign of the Chicago Dish time because, really, my love for this pizza would have jeopardized the very fiber of this great city. It's also important to note that I was fat.)

Other gimmicks have included the Cheesy Bites pizza, Big New Yorker, and the Double Deep pizza, which featured double the cheese and double the toppings (brilliant!). And now hot dogs and pizza crusts have finally found each other (though only in the UK, for now). I admit that when I first read the news I stumbled over my fingers as I hurried to post the news link to Facebook and Twitter with some clever tag like, "Civilization's slow decline installs turbo." But after thinking about it for a second, the brilliance of the new pizza dawned on me. I was letting my disgust obstruct the fact that, like preparing a sandwich that utilizes fried chicken breasts as buns, cooking a hot dog into a pizza crust is so objectionable and ridiculous that you have to order it at least once. Otherwise you'd be cheating yourself out of speaking two special sentences: "Remember when Pizza Hut stuffed its crust with hot dogs? I actually ordered one once." I know I'd be impressed if a friend told me that, and I also know that I would want him to tell me all about it.

While McDonald's has concocted some gnarly foodstuffs over the years, they've always taken themselves too seriously. A low-fat burger, a burger for adults, McLobster? McDonald's screwed the pooch with each of these because they were either trying to display and legitimize their reach or reinvent a classic hamburger when they should've been fucking with the template by stuffing the burger with Funyuns or something. You'd go to McDonald's if you knew you could buy a hamburger stuffed with Funyuns, wouldn't you?

So to all the suits at Wendy's, Pizza Hut, McDonald's, KFC, Jack in the Box, White Castle, and Arby's, please keep pushing the bizarre. I know what's healthy and unhealthy, but I don't necessarily know what's edible and inedible. Help me understand.

Go ahead and take the next logical step, Pizza Hut, and stuff some cheese into the hot dog—yes, the same hot dog that's stuffed in the pizza crust. It only makes sense. I'm sure Burger King and its recently introduced Bacon Shake will support you. (I worked at Burger King, too, but I'm going to save that for another day.)

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