I really like pizza, the majority of people in the western world like pizza. There are some who don’t and some can take it or leave it, but if you’re trying to feed a large group of people with varying tastes and lifestyles, pizza has pretty broad appeal. But it’s not as simple as it might seem.
Pizza, five letters forming an Italian word defined as flat dough, typically covered in savory sauce and cheese, which may include other toppings of meats and vegetables, then baked. When we say pizza we initially agree on what the word means and what it is. Then we start getting more specific and things get complicated. Round or square? Thick crust or thin? Tomato sauce or Alfredo? Cheese, veggie, pepperoni, sausage, supreme? Or some real controversy; pineapple? Many words have different meanings, but pizza has just one, yet it still means many different things to different people. Give someone from Chicago a piece of authentic Italian pizza and they will look at you like you’ve lost your mind.
Pizza has three primary ingredients which until fairly recently, went basically unchanged and unchallenged. Bread, tomato sauce, cheese. People started adding other stuff to this once basic food to make it into a complete meal. Different trends in topping combinations and crust types come and go and develop in different areas. Now we have cauliflower crust, cheese crust and different kinds of sauces, dessert pizza, pizza rolls, the list goes on. Virtually anything, baked in thin flat layers can be called pizza.
The meaning and image a word (almost any word) conveys, is greatly dependent on the listener. Even in the same generation and culture they can have vastly different implications. Each person has their favorite kind of pizza, that’s the image they embrace when they hear “pizza”, whether it’s meat lovers stuffed crust with extra cheese or gluten free vegan. But you won’t often hear people disagree about what original, traditional pizza was and is, we accept that the differences we’ve come up with are our own preferences based on personal tastes and though we may jokingly argue about it, leave others to their own and are probably quite willing to eat their favorite.
The point here is, the meaning of a word, a simple noun, can be argued even when the meaning of a word is agreed upon. Christians have argued the meaning of Jesus’ words for nearly 2000 years. We have dissected and interpreted every morsel we have evidence of in an attempt to grasp it’s meaning and implication. From begrudging compliance to bloody wars we have disagreed about nearly everything he uttered at some point. We live and die by our own self righteous sense of understanding a man who’s closest friends and family seldom understood.
To be continued…