Monday, August 20, 2012

Cheese Board Pizza celebrates Indian Independence

A lovely couple allowed me to photograph their pizza and even offered me a slice


Late Saturday morning while heading for the Cheese Board to buy some Parmesan cheese, I passed the line at the pizza annex next door and couldn't help but peek at the  chalkboard where "Today's Pizza" is described. When I saw that it was a completely wild and original concoction of  roasted curry potatoes, onions, Bulgarian feta, mozzarella, cilantro and chilis, I knew I had to join the queue and buy a slice, which actually translates to a generous slice and a half. Only then did I notice that there was a celebration going on. Indian music was playing, and flags and garlands festooned the shop. When I reached the poster at the entrance, I discovered that August 18th is three days after Indian Independence Day and this particular pizza was developed by the Cheese Board wizards to commemorate that momentous, historic event in 1947.  How very Berkeley, how very wonderful!  Luckily, having just come from the farmers' market, I had my camera in hand, so to occupy myself in the long line, I started snapping photos of happy diners spilling onto the sidewalk, enjoying hot Indian-style pizzas, and pizza-makers hard at work creating the days speciality. Everyone was very cooperative.

Bright Indian flags decorated  the Pizza shop

A pizza-maker sprinkles cilantro on hot pizzas in the open kitchen

A pizza sliced and ready to serve

I finally reached the front of the line and ordered my slice (and a half) of pizza to go. When I bit into the pungent, cheesy morsel,  the spices and chilies immediately transported me to a street scene in Mumbai or Delhi. I glanced up and saw a quote by Gandhi that the staff had posted for the occasion:  "A coward is incapable of exhibiting love. It is the prerogative of the brave." Then, leaving the celebration with pizza in hand,  I noticed a multi-generation Indian family enjoying the independence pizza and I knew we were all one.

Mother supplies napkins for her family, happily eating curried potato pizza

                                                          Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children, Johnathan Cape, 1981
25th Anniversary Edition of Midnight's Children

       For a compelling and thorough coverage of events surrounding India's independence from England, my friend Andrew, author of guest blog "Cobras in the Compost," reminded me of this wondrous novel by Salman Rushdie. The book recounts the turbulent history of these years through the eyes of the narrator Saleem Sinai who was born at midnight, August 15th, 1947 at the exact moment when India became an independent country. He and all the other children born within that fateful hour were imbued with special powers, which transport the book into the realm of magical realism. Though it is a long novel and full of complicated historical details, it is a work of genius and will reward the reader who perseveres. It was awarded the prestigious Booker Prize in 1981, the year it was published, and has been reprinted many times, in both cloth and paperback editions.


  1. That pizza looks delicious -- but I'm like Dean, I'm not a huge fan of cilantro. I have never read Rushdie -- he seems quite daunting -- but maybe this is the book. And yes, Sherab will love this, altho I'm sure he will say they don't have pizza in India. Indian pizza only in America.

  2. As Dean always points out, Julia Child hated cilantro, so you both are in good company