>You likely are familiar with the concept of New York style pizza and Chicago style pizza and maybe even the loose category of pizzas that might be considered California style. But what you may not be familiar with is the concept of Iowa style pizza. Thing is, neither are Iowans.
I define Iowa style pizza in two parts: First, it must be a standard midwest medium crust pizza that is inspired very literally by a sandwich. Second, the weirdness of the pizza must be matched by the normalness with which it is attributed amongst Iowans.
For years, I have been going back with Sarah to visit her family for various holidays, birthdays, weddings, or other family gatherings. From time to time, pizza gets ordered. The local favorite in my wife’s family is Happy Joe’s, which I frequently confuse with Taco John’s, for reasons I don’t quite understand.
A Happy Joe’s, we typically order at least one cheese pizza, one sausage pizza, and one taco pizza. A taco pizza replaces the pizza sauce with a mild taco sauce. Then there’s cheese, then there’s shredded iceberg lettuce. Then there’s crushed Doritos. Yes. Crushed Nacho Cheese Doritos. Presumably, when Doritos went through its superlative phase, the crushed Doritos were of the Nacho Cheesier variety. This “pizza” is then served with a handful of taco sauce packets thrown in the box. I have been eating these for years now. It’s weird and delicious and weird.
This summer, I had the pleasure of eating a BLT pizza. At first, I thought, this can’t possibly be too weird. Bacon is not that unusual a topping. And, given my taco pizza experience, I was familiar with the lettuce being on top. I mean, it looked pretty much the same as the taco pizza. Little did I know that, instead of pizza sauce, there would be mayonnaise. Mayonnaise!
The second prong of the Iowa style pizza is that, if you are from the east coast and have never had these sandwich inspired pizzas, Iowans will look at you funny, as if you told them you had never had pepsi before.
On the last night we were back in Iowa over the Christmas holiday, Sarah and her high school friends all got together. One of the pizzas that was ordered had sauerkraut and canadian bacon on it. I remarked that I had certainly never had any pizza like this.
My host for the evening then asked, incredulously, “Then what would you ever eat sauerkraut on, if not on a pizza?”
“Hot dogs,” I replied.
“Oh. I guess people do that, too.”
We then got into a discussion about how I had not grown up with taco pizza or blt pizza or a sauerkraut and canadian bacon pizza (which tastes like a cheese bratwurst, incidentally). Everyone was delighted because, for them, these kinds of pizza were so commonplace they considered them a universal part of the human experience.
Having missed out on these pizzas in my childhood, however, I felt somewhat like the foreign exchange student in this conversation. But in a good way and not because I was the only Asian in the room.
Then, one of Sarah’s friends remarked that she prefers the Chicken Taco Pizza from Pizza Hut, but she gets it with regular pizza sauce instead of the refried beans it would otherwise come with.
That sentence. Blew. My. Mind.