by Marion Nestle
Nov 19 2011

Of course pizza is a vegetable: Mark Russell commentary

From comedian Mark Russell*

  • No dessert until you finish your tomato paste.
  • The push to limit pizza in school lunch programs has been derailed in Congress by members who classify tomato paste as a vegetable. Who says this is a do-nothing Congress?
  • Their true quote: “An eighth of a cup of tomato paste has the nutritional value of a half-cup of vegetables and when mixed with water for pizza sauce, more of a vegetable is created.”
  • Right. And when you add cheese, pepperoni and sausage — voila! — you have a healthy fruit salad.

* c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207.

  • Anthro

    Very funny, but it’s hard to laugh at the utterly blatant bowing to special interests so apparent in this fiasco. Perhaps their brains have turned to tomato paste! Or celery?

  • Adding water to things always increases their nutritional value right?

  • MikeJ

    I just found this blog today, thanks to Mark Bittman. The typeface is awful. My old eyes have trouble reading the blog. Italic typefaces are for emphasis and not for general reading.

    It would be nice if you switched to a serif, non-italic font.

    Otherwise, an excellent resource.

  • lordloki

    @MikeJ — where are you seeing Italics?? It appears to be in Times New Roman.

  • Funny post!

    Sadly, “Food companies have spent more than $5.6 million so far lobbying against the proposed rules.”

    How much fresh, organic, local produce does $5.6 million buy?

    What do you think will happen if our congress (and all the aides who eat the freebie meals provided by special interest groups) enjoy breakfast and lunch every day for their full term in office from the local Washington, DC school districts?

  • NR

    President Reagan declared that ketchup was a school lunch vegetable in the 1980s. Parents at my son’s elementary school went ballistic.

    Guess tomato paste is a step up from ketchup but not by much.

  • I do not think it is enough to classify pizza a vegetable. The truth must get out that eating mostly vegetables (i.e., pizza) and just a little bit of meat (as a conservatively applied topping) is a superior diet.

  • However, as amusing as this is, we do have to ask: What can we classify as vegetable?

  • Mark Jacobson

    well, technically, tomatoes are fruit. so, just what is this discussion about? fact is, white flour can cause diabetic reaction, cheese contains growth hormones, and all cooked meat is carcinogenic. Tomatoes are the only good thing about school cafeteria pizza, but a bowl of vegetable soup would be soooo much better for everyone. The basic school lunch program should be entirely vegetarian and families should have to pay extra if they want their kids to eat meat and other poisons.

  • If you classify “meat” as poison, then the dictionary definition of it doesn’t reflect that.

    Anything can impact the body negatively, even vegetables and whole grains, as school children in the UK had to experience:

  • Erin Dow

    I’m a chef and recipe developer and I’ve been working with public schools to revamp their lunch menus to focus more on healthy, homemade, and kid-friendly foods. I’ve had tons of success with keeping food costs to a minimum while still dramatically improving the quality. What’s most critical–and what no one is talking about through this whole pizza-vegetable debate–is how little faith we have in our kids’ ability to choose and enjoy healthy foods. We also don’t give the lunch ladies in our lives enough credit for how talented they’re able to be when given the chance to be chefs, rather than box-opening robots. Check out this fruit and veggie-loaded meal I developed and we prepared for less than $1.50 a serving, and maybe you’ll see what’s possible with a little effort and vision. The bottom line is that it’s about more than what is or isn’t a vegetable…it’s about having more respect for the foods we’re willing to serve, the people who prepare them, and the kids who eat them.