On a recent episode of The Talk Show with John Gruber, his guest was Craig Mod, a person with whom I was not familiar. The entire episode is worth listening to, but the one thing that stood out to me the most was the discussion around pizza toast. If you're not familiar with this classic Japanese delicacy, and as someone who spent 7.5 years working for a pizza company who was not aware of this dish, then I highly recommend you watch the video to learn a bit more about it.
The story Craig told on the podcast was how, in post WWII, Japan had severe shortages of many staple goods, but a surplus of American soldiers. From that combination was born pizza toast, a simple dish, attempting to satiate the palates of servicemen.
Many were the details which stood out to me during my initial watch of making this dish, but the process, something which was clearly well practiced, stood out to me the most. It is clear that the proprietor had done this many times, producing a superior process for the meal. It wasn't what you'd call an efficient process, but it was extremely effective.
Watch how the knife slices into the bread a perfect depth and with exacting placement. The additional slices just inside the crust are to ensure that the edges get a better crunch when biting into the meal. A detail like that indicates significant experimentation to determine what process will generate the desired outcome for the meal.
Craig discussed in the podcast how, as Japan's culture evolves, this dish has fallen out of favor, and this type of restaurant will likely not last much longer in the world. While everything has its season, the artistry that goes into something like this makes me mourn its passing. The passing of this experience would be a loss for us all, even those of us like myself who were previously unaware of its existence.
Watch as the artist, because that is what this man is, slaps the heel of the loaf back on top, before sliding the plastic wrap back up the bread. Pay attention as he spreads the cheese to the edges, ensuring good coverage all the way around. Notice how he individually places every single topping so that, when the pizza is sliced after the bake, they are each in the perfect spot for a single bite. The time it takes to do each step isn't quick, but it is most definitely right.
After many viewings, what strikes me the most about this video is something that we might miss with only a single viewing, and that is the wear and care in every item in the restaurant. Everything is clearly worn with age, but not worn out. It is a lived in, loved and cared for by its proprietor. Every inch of that place is known by the one charged with looking after it. He knows where it all goes and has but to reach out a hand to find it right where he knew it would be. It is as much a part of him as his own nose.