The Tough Get Pizza


August 31, 1991|By SUSAN TRAUSCH

BOSTON. — Boston -- Item from Sunday's New York Times: The Russian Parliament ordered 300 pizzas and 20 cases of Pepsi from Moscow's Pizza Hut during the coup.

What does this tell us? A lot. And it should have told the hard-liners a lot, too, except they probably didn't think to keep a close watch on the pepperoni with everything else that was moving. I'll bet most of them never ate a pizza, which, of course, is a big part of their problem. They are a bread-and-borscht people living in a fast-food world.

Pizza, as any serious scholar in the field knows, is a cornerstone of capitalism. Karl Marx even warned against it in his little-known but prescient work titled ''Don't Believe Them When They Say They're Giving You a Piece of the Pie.'' But who has time to read anymore?

But one doesn't have to dig into history to see the storm warnings on the crust. The KGB had only to read an Associated Press story from a scant seven months ago reporting that Washington was virtually awash in pizza as the Persian Gulf crisis worsened.

Frank Meeks, owner of 43 Domino's shops in the D.C. area, told the AP that during the week before the war started, late-night deliveries to the Pentagon increased from three to 101. Between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. on the eve of the conflict, 55 pizzas went to the White House, breaking all records.

Mr. Meeks said he had sales data for the invasions of Panama and Grenada, the toppling of Ferdinand Marcos and confrontations in the Middle East proving that when the going gets tough in the nerve center of a democracy, the tough get pizza.

Interesting that the tough don't want submarine sandwiches, isn't it? Probably because things tend to drop out of subs unexpectedly, and tense people do not need onions in their laps or, worse yet, on their documents.

Pizza isn't exactly a neat meal, but it does hang together pretty well and, with a lot of napkins, is quite doable in the Situation Room. A slice can also be folded fairly easily, point to crust, which is a definite advantage over just about anything else, especially soup.

I think the heavy hitters go for pizza because there is a sense of urgency about it. A phone call is made, a truck drives up swiftly in the night, a courier runs to the door with a steaming cardboard box that must be dealt with immediately. Sandwiches can sit around.

Also, skillful politics must be played when pizza is ordered. A person can work a deal for half anchovies, say, if he or she supports the sausage caucus. Young execs on the make may think they're seizing the moment to back the boss's choice of a vegetarian concoction only to learn that the old sharpie really hates artichokes and was testing their ability to think for themselves.

And what of that last piece? Does one make the power grab to show strength, or does one play the fox, saying ever so graciously, ''You go ahead -- I'm expecting a call from the Crimea''?

How interesting to have been the proverbial fly on the wall in East or West when the pizza was going down. How funny, too, because anybody who eats it does look ridiculous, and the higher the rank the funnier. I would like to think that somebody noticed and laughed amid the tension in those well-carpeted rooms, or at least smiled, for it is such moments that might save the world or ourselves from each other, or something.

Maybe it'll just save the pizza for tomorrow, but that's OK, too.

Susan Trausch is a columnist for the Boston Globe.

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