September 17, 2015 will go down in history as a truly momentous day for frozen food fans. Today, the omnipresent Dr. Oetker has added a calzone to his Ristorante pizza range. A dough sandwich filled with cheese, ham, salami, tomato and mushroom, it tastes a bit like a Greggs cheese and bacon wrap and is now available at Asdas across the country. More importantly though: it's apparently the first frozen calzone in the world. That's right, people, THE FUTURE HAS ARRIVED.
And, that's exactly what I expect from Oetker. You might not know the Doc that well, but he's a close friend of mine. His Ristorante pizzas have come to the rescue throughout the many hangovers, drunken feasts and bleak weekday evenings of my twenties. I recently chose to quit an eight-month vegan spell by indulging in a Funghi Ristorante (the superior hangover choice). At uni I sometimes folded a Pepperoni in half and cooked it in a toastie maker (highly recommended). And, if I'm feeling fancy I'll sometimes sprinkle some fresh sweetcorn and peppers on a Mozzarella for an #indulgent treat.
In a city full of organic cheese dribbling off artisan sourdough slices, Oety's strangely artificial pizza might seem irrelevant. They're all identical. Their bases are always weirdly pastry-like and their flavour just a haze of salt, no matter the topping. Plus, the Doc and I have some serious ethical differences. Namely, his family's Nazi history. In 2013, he revealed his father Rudolf-August Oetker was a member of Adolf Hitler's Waffen SS. 'My father was a National Socialist,' he explained. 'He didn't want to talk about this time. He said, "children, leave me in peace". I feel now we know the facts, now the fog has lifted.' Hmmm.
But at 1am, after six gin and tonics, his ten inches of mediocre pleasure always lure me in. The seven perfect circles of mozzarella that sit atop his dough are like a welcoming friendly face. His pristine cubes of tomato dance amongst pools of pesto, and call me to join them in their merry jig. It's a thrill to find one of the outsiders in his range nestled at the bottom of my corner shop's frozen section. The Bolognese! The Four Cheese! The Hawaii!
I've tried to slow down on splashing out the £1-£3 these fine-dining experiences cost at corner shops around the city, but it's too hard. So, despite his family's dubious past and the fact that there are genuinely so many other (and better) pizza options in London, I continue eating. And I'm not alone – the company, which also makes baked goods, announced pre-tax profits of £15.5 million in the UK last year. See? No other frozen pizza can compete with his crisp base and low price. Or, perhaps, whatever weird ingredient they're throwing in there to keep us (me) hooked. The 'lemon juice'? The 'caramel'? The 'flavouring'? Whatever it is, his pizzas will remain alongside hummus-and-a-spoon as a staple in my drunk cooking repertoire.
Never the Pollo though. The Pollo is awful.