2019 Pizzas #16: Pizza Express Margherita

To clarify, this is the Pizza Express oven pizza that you can buy in supermarkets, not the one at the restaurant! I had one at the weekend when I was in Colne.

Pizza Express Margherita
Pizza Express Margherita.

This is a nice oven pizza – tasty with a good sauce. The standard size is a lot smaller than most supermarket options, which makes it a good choice for a lighter meal.

My mother-in-law gave me and Geth another one to take home, so we’ll be having that as a post-weigh-in treat tomorrow afternoon.

2019 Pizzas #15: Asda Take Away Cheese Feast Stuffed Crust Pizza

I had this oven pizza with the in-laws when I was in Colne over the weekend. I was so hungry that I forgot to take a photo of the actual pizza, so here’s the box instead!

Asda Take Away Cheese Feast Stuffed Crust Pizza
Asda Take Away Cheese Feast Stuffed Crust Pizza.

I’m not usually a fan of multi-cheese pizzas (plain old mozzarella is my preference) but this one was really good. The stuffed crust was nice as well – not too rich like I sometimes find stuffed crusts to be.

Definitely a good choice for a hungry day!

2019 Pizzas #14: Zizzi Classic Margherita

I had this pizza at the Zizzi in NEC Resorts World the night that we arrived there for UKGE. Much needed after a long drive to Birmingham!

Zizzi Classic Margherita
Zizzi Classic Margherita.

I had extra olives and peppers on this one to make it a bit more interesting (and get a slight amount of speed food in via the peppers!). I’m glad I did because the base pizza itself was fairly bland – it was the toppings that were the tasty part. Anyway, it filled a hole, which is the important thing after a long day.

2019 Pizzas #13: Barrel & Stone Rustica

This is the pizza that I had from room service in my semi-awake state after the London Marathon. Never ingested such necessary calories before!

Barrel & Stone Rustica
Barrel & Stone Rustica.

I just sort of inhaled this one as I was in such a daze, but I did note that the sauce was amazingly delicious. Will try it again next time I’m staying at the Thistle – hopefully I’ll be at least marginally more alert!

2019 Pizzas #12: Barrel & Stone Garden Party

I had this pizza at the Thistle City Barbican the night that Geth and I arrived in London for marathon weekend. Pizza is a must-have for a hotel restaurant as far as I’m concerned!

Barrel & Stone Garden Party
Barrel & Stone Garden Party.

There was a little bit too much rocket on this one for me (I prefer toppings that are cooked with the pizza – when it’s covered in rocket after the fact, it’s just a salad getting in the way of my unhealthy eating moment!), but the sauce was absolutely delicious. Really glad that they’ve got this option at my favourite London hotel!

2019 Pizzas #11: Pizza Punks DIY

I went to Newcastle restaurant Pizza Punks for the first time last week, but it will definitely not be the last time! Both the pizza and the music were great and I will be finding excuses to go back again.

Pizza Punks DIY
Pizza Punks DIY.

The pizza wasn’t actually this strange red/pink colour – that’s just an effect of the neon strip lighting used in the restaurant.

It was a really good pizza – it had a lovely textured base and the best tasting sauce! I had a DIY/create-your-own with tomatoes, onions, olives and potato. If you’ve not tried potato on a pizza, I really recommend it if you can find it in a good restaurant – it’s a bit difficult to get it right at home.

2019 Pizzas #9: Goodfellas Pizza Romano Chargrilled Vegetable & Pesto

This is another oven pizza I had last week. I’ve been falling into the habit of oven pizzas again recently because they’re nice and easy to cook when I’m tired from a long run. It’s a habit I will need to get rid of as soon as I’ve done the London Marathon and I’m no longer doing very long runs all the time!

Goodfellas Pizza Romano Chargrilled Vegetable & Pesto
Goodfellas Pizza Romano Chargrilled Vegetable & Pesto.

This one has a great base (not too crispy) and a great sauce – it’s a really solid Mediterranean vegetable pizza. Definitely one to have again.

My twenty-year veggieversary

It’s fairly cliché to bemoan the fact that 1999 doesn’t feel like twenty years ago, so I won’t dwell on that. But even though it’s hard to believe it’s two decades since Easter Sunday, 4th April 1999 – the day I became vegetarian – I think twenty years is something worth marking.

1999 – the year I started making my way through the world as a vegetarian.

I was fourteen then. A child to my eyes now but a fully-fledged adult as far as I was concerned at the time. I’d been weighing up the pros and cons of vegetarianism for about two years, and took the leap because it seemed there weren’t many cons left worth considering. I’d always been uncomfortable with the fact that meat was actually just rotting animal corpses. I didn’t like most red meat dishes anyway, hated seafood, thought poultry was utterly cardboard-tasting. Pretty much the only remaining drawback was that I wouldn’t be able to eat gummy sweets because of the gelatine, and that seemed like a small price to pay for having a good excuse not to eat burgers (blech) or anchovies (double blech) whenever I was out for a meal.

I wouldn’t say it was hugely difficult to be vegetarian in 1999. Restaurants did always have at least one veggie option on the menu, even if it was usually lasagne. But it was a world away from 2019, where even vegans have a range of choices in many restaurants, and dishes are clearly marked. The most difficult thing was eating out in continental Europe, which was not (and is still not particularly) veggie-friendly, and threw up the side challenge of attempting to make a successful meat-free food order in a different language. I ended up developing a list of standby options that I knew were safe: spätzle in Germany, galettes and crêpes in France, tortilla española in Spain, margherita pizza in Italy. These have served me well to this day.

It’s funny how vegetarianism has become so second nature to me over time. I never feel deprived from not eating meat, or like there’s something missing, and it actually feels quite jarring when I have to explain to somebody new that I’m veggie – because it feels like such a normal thing not to eat meat. Standing in the meat aisle at the supermarket when Geth is choosing bacon feels like looking into a subculture I don’t understand – the animal flesh on display looks cold and clinical and completely unappetising – and because I’ve never eaten meat as an adult, I’ve never learnt how to cook it, so it just feels like something completely removed from my world.

I’ve been thinking about the above a lot over the last few months, because I’ve been trying to compare it to the experience of giving up alcohol. It would be nice to think that in twenty years’ time, I won’t miss alcohol at all or even think about its existence most of the time. However, I’m not quite that optimistic, as it’s not a totally comparable situation. I was never the biggest fan of meat anyway, and it’s not an addictive substance. I’m hopeful that sobriety will get easier, but I don’t think it will ever be as easy as vegetarianism.

I know I said I wasn’t going to dwell on the ‘where does the time go?’ stuff, but it is weird to think that I’ve not eaten meat since the 20th century. I still remember vividly the taste of the meatstuffs I did like – bacon, salami, real haggis – and maybe that type of memory won’t fade, but I’m happy for it to remain a memory.

Over the last twenty years of vegetarianism, I’ve been stricter sometimes and looser sometimes. I’ve occasionally had gelatine lapses, though I can say for certain that I’ve not eaten animal flesh since the 4th of April 1999. I’m not as strict with rennet-derived cheese as I used to be. Sometimes I’ve eschewed leather products, sometimes not. I’ve occasionally considered going fully vegan due to my increasing discomfort with the dairy and egg industries, and I’ve occasionally considered dialling it back to pescetarianism (despite my dislike of seafood) in an attempt to get more protein into my diet.

But on the whole, right now, I’m very happy being a common-or-garden lacto-ovo vegetarian, and I think that’s where I’ll stay for the foreseeable future.

2019 Pizzas #8: Dr Oetker Ristorante Mozzarella

I treated myself to this oven pizza on Thursday night, because Geth was out boardgaming and I wanted something quick to bung in the oven when I got back from Pilates.

Dr Oetker Ristorante Mozzarella
Dr Oetker Ristorante Mozzarella.

This pizza should not be confused with the Dr Oetker Ristorante Margherita, which also has mozzarella, tomatoes, and herbs on, but differently. I’m not sure if they still make the Margherita as I’ve not seen it for a while.

Anyway, Dr Oetker Ristorante pizzas have been my absolute go-to for oven pizza for a good decade or so. Geth usually has the Speciale for meat ‘n’ mushroom purposes, and I tend to favour the Mozzarella (they did use to do a nice spicy veg option called the Vegetale but it seems to have been discontinued now). It’s not quite the Italian restaurant pizza experience claimed by the TV adverts, but it’s still the king of oven pizzas.