Dr. Seuss' feuding Sneetches, some who "had bellies with stars" and "some with none upon thars," have nothing on pizza lovers, who divide fiercely into "squares" and "wedges" when it comes to slicing the pie. Now, a retired engineer thinks he has a way to please these oft-hostile camps.
Gib Van Dine was born in Kittanning, Pa., and lived in New Jersey before moving with his wife to Illinois. Here he noticed pizza cut into squares instead of the triangular slices he grew up with.
"They are always messy," he said of the squares. "You have to use a knife and fork. Any time you pick up a square-cut slice you get pizza sauce on your hands."
Yet, he concedes that the wedge shape can be problematic with bigger pizzas, like the 16-incher. "The pieces are so long," he said. "Your hand isn't big enough to keep the end from flopping down and all the ingredients sliding off."
Using two hands to hold the slice or a knife and fork are ways to handle the problem, he said. A third option: Van Dine's method for a 16-inch pie, which offers eight wedges that are shorter and, thus, easier to pick up and eat, yet also provides nine square-ish pieces for those who prefer their pizza that way.
Given a 16-inch pizza is often a party pie, Van Dine's method may be a way to bring everyone together.
Or maybe not.
"If you propose this to the guy cutting the pizza, it would cause a rebellion," said Rick Mabry, a mathematics professor at Louisiana State University in Shreveport. Mabry and a colleague, Paul Deiermann of Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Mo., made headlines in 2009 when they unveiled "The Pizza Conjecture," a mathematical proof to fairly apportion a pizza that had been cut into uneven slices.
Mabry said Van Dine's strategy is "doable" but would result in some pieces being larger than others, which can lead to envy among eaters. (On the other hand, as one calorie-conscious editor points out, the smaller squares are easier to halve and will satisfy those with smaller appetites.)
Mabry's solution comes not from being a mathematician but a pizza eater: "You need two pizzas. One cut in wedges and one in squares. That's the only way to resolve it. And I'm not sure you can even have them in the same room."
More pizza! Who's not for that, whether fan of square or wedge? Still, if all you have is one, here's Van Dine's method.
Tools needed: 16-inch pizza, an open mind, pizza cutter (our personal favorite is OXO's nonstick pizza wheel; oxo.com).Degree of difficulty: Once you figure the steps out, dividing a pie into wedges and squares isn't hard.
1. Make two cuts (two vertical, two horizontal) to create two 31/2-inch-wide rectangles through the center of the pizza. You now have four big pie quarters, four rectangular strips and a center square.
2. Cut each quarter piece in half to create two wedges. Slice each rectangular strip in half to create two squares. Leave the center square as is. You now have 17 pieces: eight wedges and nine squares.