The pizza deliciousness scale runs the gamut from the orgasmic, iconic New York City slice to the this-is-not-freaking-pizza defrosted atrocities delivered in thirty minutes or less. Here’s some unsolicited advice: real pizza, that is, really, really, good pizza--the kind of pizza that makes you choose it instead of sex--never ever comes with a coupon. But I’m getting sidetracked.
What makes a pizza a pizza?
Things I know aren’t pizza: There’s “raw” pizza where sprouted nut and seed "crusts" are topped with chopped fresh tomatoes and oregano and only exacerbate one’s cravings for doughy, crispy, burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth greasiness. Here in California we love to top pizzas with salad greens. Maybe they soak up the grease? Swedes put bananas on pizza. Indians top it with curry. But at least that’s better than fish pizza (stop it, Russia). There are the aforementioned couponed pizzas that may smell and look like pizza but contain so many preservatives and artificial nasties they’re automatically disqualified even if they taste closest to the real thing.
A real pizza is a simple one: handmade dough, top-secret family sauce recipe, toppings, cheese (I take mine vegan). It's made in a pizza shop with a big front window so you can watch the pie maker from outside as he tosses the dough, ladles on the sauce and toppings and then slides into the oven, gently turning it with that big wooden paddle every few minutes until you think you just can't stand it and you're going to faint before it comes out. But then it arrives, piping hot and perfect, you're still on your feet and you can't remember a moment when you've ever been happier. That is pizza.
But how will we rate 3D-printed pizza? We need to think about this because it is a real thing now and I know you’re not yet able to grasp just how crazy that is, so I’m here to walk you through it: 3D-printed pizza is pizza made with pizza ingredients, inside a robot that slowly extrudes it out of itself into a pizza shape, and then you’re supposed to eat it and act like its NBD, just like it’s a pie from Joey's Pizza Shop down the street that you've been eating every week for the last 25 years.
It's not that robots are inherently bad at making pizza. I mean, at least WALL-E could probably flip your dough in the air and splatter sauce everywhere, right? And I would actually like to try a pizza made by a Transformer. With that kind of shapeshifting ability, I'm curious to see what they can do with a gluten-free crust.
But how can a 3D-printer do pizza? How can it get the (again, amazing vegan) cheese to bubble and brown, and the perfect crust to be both thin and chewy at the same time? These aren't just hypotheticals, people. There's a company planning to retool pizza as we know it.
BeeHex, a B2B-focused company that says it designs and builds 3D food printers to be used with its proprietary software and apps, is taking on America’s most sacred food. And lest you think it's just some far-fetched sci-fi type of daydreaming, you should know BeeHex just raised $1 million to do it.
If you think pizza made by a printer sounds way too technical or sterile to be good, that’s because it probably is. The BeeHex printers were part of a NASA project intended to not only simplify food production for astronauts in space, but make the food healthier to adjust for life in forced oxygen zero-gravity jaunts through the solar system. And, yes, of course, astronauts should have space pizza. I mean, that's probably one of the reasons why they became astronauts in the first place--so when they're video chatting with their friends back on earth, everyone will ask what they're munching on and they'll be able to reply with a sly smile, "space pizza." But it's also why most of us aren't astronauts. We simply love real pizza too much to settle for anything less.
So, while computers and 3D-printers could be helping to solve some major food crises like blights and viruses threatening our food supply, or supporting the growing trend to make meat better and without the animals, these machines, are focused instead on mastering mozzarella and oregano. Granted, with 3D-printed pizza, that means no greasiness and burned crust, right? It's ersatz perfected; no human errors, either--no extra sauce when you asked for extra cheese. No right-out-of-the-oven-too-hot-but-you-bite-it-anyway goodness? Probably not.
But here’s where it gets rather interesting (er, gooey): the concept behind the BeeHex 3D-printers is to give the customer the ultimate control over their pie. So, if you like it extra greasy, extra crispy, or extra saucy, then you’d be able to program that into your printed pie, theoretically. (I’m an extra sauce gal myself.)
More than that, though, they may be able to help battle what seems to be the inevitable decline of nutrient-rich food. Users would be able to adjust the nutrition profile to specific dietary needs, “the BeeHex printers could make food that correlates to [customer] health needs, taking into consideration data transmitted from internet connected medical devices or fitness-related wearables,” reports TechCrunch.
In other words, every pizza could be like a mini prescription pie, in theory anyway. Your favorite binge could also be your daily vitamin. All you need to do is pump up the health specs on your pizza app and voila! And isn’t that what we’re all hoping happens in the future anyway? That, whether or not we're all on spaceships heading toward TRAPPIST-1, we'll be required to "take our pizza" every day? Seriously, if our choice is a future with vitamin-y pizza extruded by a 3D-printer or NO MORE PIZZA, we’re all going to take the vitamin robot space pizza and love every perfect bite of it, right?
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