Van Halen II: The Pizza, not the Album
Updated: Aug 28, 2022
This thing will light up the sky!
By Matt Swieton
Recipe first, story below:
2-day cold-proofed dough ball
corn cut from the cob
hot chili honey
Fresh basil (only because there is soooo much in my garden!)
I love rock n’ roll but rarely will it get me choked-up. It seems that every time I do get teary-eyed it has something to do with Eddie Van Halen. I remember seeing the headlines on October 6th, 2020: The passing of Eddie…
Eddie meant so much to me growing up: the album, Van Halen I, was the third album I ever bought with my own money–purchased from Strawberries. (Remember Strawberries?! The headphones set up throughout the inventory to sample music?! Buying concert tickets?!) This album was purchased after Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Black Sabbath’s Paranoid; and yes, these albums all hold dear places in my heart.
I remember taking guitar lessons as a kid and buying the double-album tab-book: Van Halen I and II, and every week my teacher would show me how my fingers were supposed to move in order to play the riffs and solos. My tab-book was fitted with a disc sleeve repurposed from an x-box demo disc that used to come with video game magazines delivered to the house. Van Halen–the album, the book–was sacrosanct, my tabernacle, the keys to unlocking what I’ve learned to realized was really myself all along.
When I returned to America after living in New Zealand an electromagnetic lock factory hired me in their machine shop. They wound coils for locks that were conceptually identical to the coils used for guitar pickups. This inspired my own experimentation in pickup winding and guitar modification. The inventive spirit of Edward moving through my brain, my fingers, into the guitar…He’s still here! He’s still with us!
The late Pantera guitarist, Dimebag Darrell, raved about the Bumblebee guitar Eddie used in reducing Van Halen II. Dimebag was fatally shot during a performance by a disgruntled fan who blamed Darrell for the disbanding of Pantera.
A memorial service was organized that featured some of the greatest rock and metal musicians paying tribute to Dimebag. That’s when Eddie Van Halen came up to the podium. In his hands, the Bumblebee guitar that Dimebag raved about.
Eddie said, “Dime was an original and he deserves the original.” He placed that Bumblebee guitar in the casket with Dimebag. I’m not crying, my eyes are just salivating.
I wanted to create a pizza that honored this beautiful guitar and these talented individuals that influenced me so profoundly; influenced my listening tastes, for sure–but also my philosophy, my approach, not giving a fuck about how everyone else is doing it. Seeing something in your mind’s eye and knowing that is the way. EVH has a special tribute in my pizza book,
“Between pizza stones, flint blades, and pressing play–I’m rocking out with you every day.
Long live the King. Long live the KING!”
Long story short: I made a pizza that celebrates this black and yellow Bumblebee guitar.
The pizza had to contain elements that were yellow and black, and had to hit the ground running. But it also had to be messed up, like it was running with the devil. The pie needed balance that could be lusted after–ain’t talkin’ ‘bout love. But a balanced Van Halen pizza? Probably better than a dirty water dog. Tell me why can’t this be love? It would surely be good enough to…EAT!! It would be good enough to light up the sky. This paragraph should suffice as is but other’s would contend there’s a different kind of truth. Take your whiskey home and make this Van Halen pizza sometime.
The dough was pretty fucked up: it was partially hydrated with ice-tea (ice included) and was cold-proofed for about a week.
It was made, really, to prioritize balance: earthy, smokey, sweet, salty, fresh…umami.
Out of love for Eddie, Dimebag, and the Bumblee guitar that forever connects the two virtuosi; this pizza pays tribute to the album that connects these wonderful existences.
The smoked gouda and corn create a yellow base on top of which the mushroom and olive create the dark contrasting. Sure: I coulda used some kind of gimmick to turn the dough black (charcoal or food coloring) but I also wanted to remain true and respectful to my notion of pizza-ness.