Having fun with anagrams of flavor


Tom Douglas is a Seattle food genius.  His restaurants cluster around a couple neighborhood blocks in downtown Seattle. He mesmerizes diners through clever, simple dishes. The most notable is pizza.  Serious Pie is a place to dive into pizza theater based on concepts from your grandpa from Naples and a dimly lit speakeasy.  Simple ingredients showcase on bubble dotted crust. But what you may not appreciate at first bite is the intellectual game he is playing.

Serious Pie - with egg

Your teeth sail past the crunch of perfectly baked dough. Flavors of kale, sausage and cotechino cheese tumble on the tongue until the egg arrives.  It brings all of that eggieness of an over-easy  blue plate special.  What began as a Tuscan encounter with a woodsman becomes an chat with Flo at Alice’s American diner. Is Tom playing David Copperfield in your mouth?  To understand the answer, look to the classic game of anagrams. Those jumbled letters that can be restrung into some recognizable word from the English language. In simple form,  words change once.  In more complex variations like inversions, words change from one recognizable form to another.  For example take “cat”. Change one letter it becomes “rat.” Another it’s “rot.”  Then “dot.” Then “dog.”  There. Cat to dog in four turns.

So watch Chef Douglas at work.   Napoli bakers make flat bread.  Add tomatoes and you have the first pizza.  Add mozzarella and some basil, it’s the classic Margarita pizza.  Puree the tomatoes, add oregano, more cheese, add sausage and onions and you have a NYC classic.  Remove the sauce, change mozzarella to cotechino, change oregano to kale, lose the onions add a soft boiled egg. Poof. There you have the sixth menu item on Serious pie’s menu.

What remains intriguing is that it is still a pizza. right?  Surely so.  The crust defines the pizza. Does that mean pasta defines the lasagna?  Have you not seen “lasagna” made from stacks of eggplant in place of pasta? Or  the flourless cake?

Tom’s dish lives as an inversion stuck in the middle.  Halfway between Neapolitan pie and classic egg casserole   We are held in suspense because we experience both the beginning and the end at the same time.  And  that is  what makes it magical.

With this in mind, how will you construct your next culinary anagram?  Mix corn and chilis into your Cowboy Corncakes and smother it with maple syrup?  You are only limited by your imagination.  And maybe for the first time, it’s okay to be caught. Right in the middle.

For other places where inversion takes root, check out Roy’s reveal on Lewis Carroll.  See page 204 of the Magical Formulas of the Wizards of Ads.

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