‘It just feels weird’: the pizza topped with 10 cheeseburgers
Pizza Hut’s cheeseburger pizza comes in at 2,880 calories. The company also offers a pizza with a hotdog in the crust. So what does a group of teenagers make of it?
From left, Cillian McAuliffe, Conor Doyle, Alex Chapman, Grace Chapman, Eoin Hughes, Dara Hughes and Max Lagana. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Pizza Hut’s cheeseburger pizza. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Pizza Hut’s hotdog stuffed-crust pizza. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
‘Oh God,” my friend Anne wails. “Not only is it disgusting, but my children like it.” This is all my doing. As people gather in Ballymaloe this weekend to talk about all that is best in slow food, I have brought the worst in fast food to her home for her teenagers and their friends to taste.
We’ve had two Pizza Hut cardboard boxes delivered. They smell of peppers and not much else. One of the pizzas has hotdogs baked into its crust. The other is Pizza Hut’s cheeseburger pizza: a deep-pan pizza with 10 mini-cheese-burgers baked into its doughy crust. The cheeseburger pizza, launched by Pizza Hut last year, contains 2,880 calories. When I ring to order it, the man offers a special deal to include chips and garlic bread with the order. For just under €20 I could have two day’s worth of calories for an adult woman delivered to the door. Instead we’ve gone for the two-pizza deal, which comes in at just under €30.
A flyer on the table shows the company shot of the cheese-burger pizza, a puffed-up beast smothered in cheese. Inside the box, the reality is a lot sadder. Lots of the “burgers” have no cheese on top. They’re rubbery, biscuit-sized patties of vaguely spiced ground meat. The vilest parts are the pale, shiny patches of dough underneath the burgers. The slices drape themselves over your hand like damp cardboard when you lift one up to eat it. The cheese has all the flavour of wet elastic.
Anne’s son, Alex, is the first in the group of seven teenagers to munch his way through a slice and get to the burger. “It’s normal till you get to the end.” He is watched by the gathering as he reaches the burger bit. There’s a pause. “It tastes like a proper burger,” he says. His mother despairs. His sister, Grace, is less impressed. She has just hit the hotdog in the other pizza and come to a full stop. “Not nice,” she says, putting the slice down and stepping away from it. Alex later extracts the orange dog from its blanket to show it to the table. It’s a pale and wrinkled specimen.
Around the table, six teenage boys munch and think about what they’re eating. For a few minutes the only sound is the photographer’s camera shutter taking pictures of this oddly subdued pizza party.
“The hotdog one is definitely not nice,” someone says. There are still two slices left. The lid is closed over the box because there are no takers. The burger pizza box has been emptied, but not with any huge enthusiasm.
“I don’t like the burger one,” say Eoin. “They’re not supposed to go together. It just feels weird eating that at the end.” Is it not a case of two good things coming together to make something amazing? “No it’s the complete opposite,” he says. Two really good things combine to make a rubbish thing.
Cheeseburger over hotdog
As the least worst option, the cheeseburger pizza has won the “battle of the crusts” that the Pizza Hut flyer encourages. “I didn’t mind this burger pizza,” says Conor. “I wouldn’t buy it myself, but I didn’t think it was so bad. But this one with the hotdog in the crust was really disgusting.”
Grace is the only girl there. I ask her if her friends would eat the cheeseburger pizza. “Definitely not. Pizza yes. But that? No. I think meat’s kind of more a boy thing.” What would be her takeaway food of choice? “Pizza, but not that.”
Max, who is half Italian, doesn’t rate the hotdog pizza. “I don’t like hotdogs anyway, but that hotdog’s soggy.”
Would they order either pizza again? “No. You can get bigger ones for a tenner and they’re much nicer,” someone says. Domino’s and Apache Pizzas would be their pizza supplier of choice.
Alex’s father, Jeremy, clears the boxes away.
“There’s a bit of a sick feeling after it,” someone says.
“They do sort of lodge just down there,” Jeremy agrees.
I phone Pizza Hut’s London headquarters twice to try and find out how many cheeseburger pizzas they sell in Ireland. No one phones back.
NOW FOR SOMETHING HEALTHIER: BALLYMALOE LITFEST THIS WEEKEND
I’m bringing a jar of home-made sauerkraut and a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty to Ballymaloe today. Cheeseburger pizzas aren’t on the menu. Instead there are more big names, food workshops, interviews, debates, tastings, and demonstrations than you could shake a cinnamon stick at.
SATURDAY Noma chef René Redzepi – fresh from being crowned the world’s best chef once again – will sit down for a conversation with John McKenna at 9.30am. The mother of Mexican cooking, Diana Kennedy, will give a cookery demonstration at 10am. Food writer Simon Hopkinson will talk to Rory O’Connell about his book Roast Chicken and Other Stories. Elsewhere Lilly Higgins will talk about her book, Dream Deli. Our own John Wilson will talk about the fascinating history of Spanish wines. At 1.30pm Redzepi and Guardian gardening writer Alys Fowler will bring the lucky people who booked early on a foraging walk.
On Saturday afternoon there will be a talk about forgotten skills with the head of the Nordic Food Lab, chef Ben Reade; fermentation guru Sandor Katz; Diana Kennedy; and journalist Joanna Blythman. Saturday rounds off at 7.30pm, when guests will sit down to a €110 dinner prepared by Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
SUNDAY In the morning, Ottolenghi and Tamimi will talk about the food of the Middle East and follow up with a cookery demonstration in the afternoon. Food writers Tom Doorley and John McKenna will talk about the writing of Elizabeth David. The politics of food and wine will be discussed by a panel led by John Bowman. Chefs Martin Shanahan, Catherine Fulvio, Paul Flynn, Thomasina Miers, Rachel Allen, Ross Lewis and Donal Skehan will cook and talk food.
Irish Times food writer Marie-Claire Digby will live-blog the events on irishtimes.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @mcdigby. There will also be interviews and news reports on irishtimes.com.
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