As a former child soldier of the pizza wars, the news that Pizza Hut will reopen their restaurants both thrills and sickens me. Have we learned nothing?
The renewal of an ancient conflict is upon us. One that split generations in twain and tore unions apart. One where the streets became a battlefield, running red with sauce and the lead-footed driving of two disparate, uniformed groups. It is a battle that sees no middle ground, which no International court of law can regulate, where the past clashes with the present. People are heralding the return of the Pizza Wars, but having lived through Pizza War One, I don’t share the people’s optimism.
I, like all the youth of my generation, was indoctrinated by the teachings of the Hut. We showed our allegiance at the altar of the restaurant booth, safeguarded in the knowledge that pizza would be cheesy and the dessert would be bottomless. Amen. It was a simpler time. NBA Jam, Macaulay Culkin and a newly-white Michael Jackson painted the decade, and Pizza Hut was inextricably part of it. We knew nothing of anything different.
But one day, it all changed. A bomb dropped, and we were thrust into adulthood: suddenly, we had a choice. Shameless Dominos prompted a swifter delivery, a new menu and, bitterly, a day of the week where pizzas were cheaper. But I kept my honour. I was a Pizza Hut kid. However, some of my fellow Hut Youth started to be tempted by the teachings of this interloper and fell, switching their allegiances to the restaurant with no tables, no dessert bar, and who only did pizza.
The fools, the damn fools.
Recent news informed me that Pizza Hut would be dusting off the weapons of yore, and that the restaurants will rise from the seas, the carparks and the vet offices they’ve become, to again trumpet the glory of a time gone by.
But as time slipped, so did I. My trips to Pizza Hut became more and more infrequent, partially because I had no-one to go with, but primarily because the restaurant near my house was torn down, razed by the Molotov of free-market economy. I stayed as tough as a pan base on the outside but the 12-year-old me inside wailed as the site of the Hut at which I’d spent every birthday since my sixth, was turned into an office for local government. It was my Berlin Wall moment. The bubble I knew had popped. After that, great heroes fell. Dougie the Pizza Guy went to prison (or died, I forget), Macaulay turned to drugs, and great, crazy designs that displayed our brilliance, like the Big Foot, were solely kept in the memories of those young enough to have been there. When the Huts came down in our neighbourhoods, we all grew old.
We hoped that the war would reach a truce, a peaceful taste race, but the jackboot of the enemy sought the exposed jugular of the menu we loved. All of the restaurants disappeared and with them, my resistance to turning the weekend’s dining choice away from tradition. The final coup de grâce was in an empty house after another Hut Youth and I shared. Sans everything, we decided to order pizza. For purely nostalgic purposes, we decided on the Hut.
75 minutes later, fate knocked on the door, and another fifteen beyond that, the guns fell silent. Sharing disappointed looks, we agreed that our childhoods were firmly buried, Pizza Hut was shit and the war had been lost. A conflict had suddenly turned peaceful, leaving those of us who had shouldered arms wondering what we actually fought for.
Was the pizza always shit? I couldn’t remember. All I could remember was the crystalline excitement of the event, of going to Pizza Hut. How much of that was just what I’d come to accept as truth? Was dining at Pizza Hut always shit?
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I have since buried the days of my childhood with thousandfold crust from the enemy. I’ve come to love and even rely on the enemy. I’ve marched my feet in cold and rain to their bunker.
I’ve come to terms with what I’ve done.
Pizza Hut abandoned me, so I abandoned them.
With Pizza Hut dusting off the weapons of yore, and their restaurants will rise from the seas, the carparks and the vet offices they’ve become, while we may cheer loudly and cling to the fact that our childhoods live again, I won’t be going back.
You see, the past is exactly that.
My generation views the days in the Hut as pepperoni falling from the sky, a place where everything seemed perfect. If the modern throwbacks do not fit these memories we have (and they won’t, because how can they?), we will suffer a terrible reverse, our progeny looking at us in confusion over our love for a place that is actually quite sad, with no amount of square green jelly to change it.
We will realise this point, sitting in the booth, where a once-familiar golden place will seem very cold indeed.