Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
This comic pokes fun at (and makes literal) a common argument used to assert that certain foods are quite unhealthy or unappetizing by pointing out how much of a particular ingredient the food contains. The argument is sometimes presented as "Imagine if you ate each of those ingredients separately". In this case, a pizza is broken down into its core ingredients, shown in their actual quantities: A large block of cheese, a loaf of bread, a glass of tomato sauce, and a pile of salt. Cueball (on the right) proposes to eat each of these ingredients individually and in their entirety—an act that many people (such as his Cueball-like friend to the left) may consider absurd or repulsive. This proposal is meant to change the reader's opinion of the final product—instead of enjoying a pizza, the reader may instead be reminded of the concept of eating a block of cheese and a pile of salt separately, and choose to eat something else instead.
This argument is effectively a counter to the practice of cooking, which combines individual ingredients into a more palatable product. Just as 1609: Food Combinations points out that combining two foods can make them sound less disgusting, this comic shows how separating out a meal can have the opposite effect.
The title text refers to a vegetable pizza, which is generally perceived as healthier than a standard pizza. Randall points out here that although vegetables may add some nutrients to the meal, they don't magically reduce the other ingredients or their impacts. Additionally, the vegetables on a pizza may have been cooked in oil (or grease), or have absorbed the grease from the cheese as it melted, further impacting their potential benefits.
- [Cueball to the right and his Cueball-like friend to the left sits behind a table. Visible on the table between them are a loaf of bread, a glass with some liquid in it, an oblong box with a readable label and a small heap of small grains.]
- Friend: What're you having for lunch?
- Cueball: The usual—half a pound of cheese, white bread, a glass of tomato sauce, and some salt.
- Friend: Eww.
- Label: Cheese
- [Caption below the panel.]
- Pizza seems way grosser if you imagine eating just the ingredients.
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... I don't think pizza is that bad. Those are sort of things people could really eat ... -- Hkmaly (talk) 13:36, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
That's not that gross, IMO. Tomato sauce is pretty much thought of as thick tomato juice. White bread. Salt. Normal things. And this seems to be assuming I wouldn't want to eat a brick of cheese. I do this regularly-ish with brie. International Space Station (talk) 13:51, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
- Cut the cheese to thick slices and put it on pieces of bread to make a few sandwiches, spread the tomato sauce on other pieces of bread for a few more sandwiches. Put the salt on the tomato sauce, or on a few other pieces of bread. Completely nice lunch (though with the ingredient amounts pictured, it would be a lunch for 2-3 people).
Incidentally, when I listed the ingredients to my mother, she immediately said "pizza Margarita". --126.96.36.199 19:22, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
I'm not American, so what does he mean by cheese and grease soaked vegetables? 188.8.131.52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- The cheese is a common ingredient in the pizza seen in the comic, which might be a plain cheese pizza. As for the veggies, this might be a reference to french fries, which is essentially potatoes cooked in a deep fryer which is filled with oil (though I can't be sure with the English definition correlation between grease and oil). 184.108.40.206 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- On this side of the lake pizza's made with dough (white bread), tomato sauce, cheese, and apparently salt the way Randall makes it. Some people put veggies on their pizza, which later get greasy and oily thanks to the cheese; nothing to do with french fries, though I'm told fries on pizza is actually pretty good Though I suppose you'd call them chips over there. -- Legofan613 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Salt is usually an ingredient in dough, although why it's listed separately is anyone's guess. Rawmustard (talk) 16:55, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
- Many pizza places (at least in the central/midwest of the US) will put salt down under the dough to help prevent it sticking to the pan, and also to add a little flavor. Examples would be places like Donatos, Little Cesars, Marions, LaRosas, as well as many Chicago-style pizza joints. The big chains tend not to do this though, not sure why because in my opinion it's details like that that really make the smaller places more delicious. Domino (talk) 17:28, 14 December 2015 (UTC)Domino
I believe that the "grease soaked vegetables" refers to a "caesar salad" or similar salad arrangement containing oil-based dressing and other ingredients with high fat content. Spongebog (talk) 17:23, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
- Cueball is eating the pizza in turns: I'm trying to be healthier, so after I eat this brick of cheese, I'll have a spoonful of grease-soaked vegetables. This means he's eating a pizza that has just a spoonful of vegetables. A Caesar salad would be much bigger. 220.127.116.11 20:03, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
I wonder if the joke was derived from the "healthy eating" craze here in the US at least. That is, people who spend copious amounts of time pouring over nutrition and ingredient labels to understand what it is they are actually eating. For most foods bought already prepared from the grocery store, the individual ingredients can range from bizarre (if you are not a chemist) to unappetizing. Perhaps Randall thought about it one step further and realized that any meal when broken into its macro components sounds unappetizing.--R0hrshach (talk) 17:33, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
Not to mention, Cheese on pizza is'nt real cheese (At least, not on the deep freeze supermarket kind of pizza): at least half of it is some fat and a binder. Yuk. However if cueball skips the salt (blood pressure!) and ads some veggies it might make a healthy lunch if he also adjusts the amounts to something more sensible. -- IshouldRealyGetAUserNameHere
- And this is why I don't use frozen supermarket "cheese". Martin (talk) 21:59, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
- It used to be widely believed that excess salt raises blood pressure, but recently the medical profession are beginning to realise that this isn't the case. If you already have high blood pressure for other reasons then reducing your salt intake can help, but healthy people don't need to worry about how much salt they have. Martin (talk) 21:59, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
White bread: flour, water, salt, yeast. Pizza dough: flour, water, olive oil, salt, yeast. Why did Randall list the salt separately when it would have made more sense to mention olive oil? Martin (talk) 21:51, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
- Many things have extra salt added besides the salt of the ingredients. I expect most pizza has salt other than that in the dough and sauce. 18.104.22.168 04:12, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
Half a pound of cheese - what kind of pizza is this? -- 22.214.171.124 00:11, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
- One with not enough cheese on it..? ;) (Although, seriously, I bought a 746g (~1½ lbs, but actually slightly more) block of cheese, today... I'm sure that while I could eat a third of that, in one go, it would more likely be by way of two deliciously-thick cheese sandwich toasties, rather than covering and/or crust-stuffing an extra-cheesy pizza. For a pizza to have that much cheese, I'd expect it to be multiple types of cheese, for interesting flavour contrasts...) 126.96.36.199 00:35, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
- I top my pizzas (and spaghetti, lasagna, penne, etc.) with a blend of two pounds of Mozzarella, a half pound of Asiago Pressato, another half pound of Vaccino Romano, and a few cups of imitation Parmesan. I usually set aside a small bowl of this cheese blend to snack on while the pizza is cooking. 188.8.131.52
- Judging by the standards of the local mini-chain pizza restaurant at which I worked for four years, a large pizza (14" diameter).184.108.40.206 00:39, 24 July 2016 (UTC)
This list is supposed to be unappetizing? Randall, you underestimate the laziness of a cooking college student. 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Deconstructed food is also a thing. I can’t find much information on it—I first saw it in a fiction story, Wikipedia doesn’t have anything, and I’m too lazy to look further—but people definitely do sometimes take foods meant to be eaten all at once and instead eat the individual pieces. I’m not sure this is the best way to deconstruct pizza (for example, the bread should be cooked differently), but somebody has probably done this before now. 18.104.22.168 04:12, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
- John Green "deconstructed" and ate a hamburger a few years back. 22.214.171.124 04:23, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
- I don’t think that really counts, unless it’s a different one than I’m thinking of. Generally, deconstructed food is actually “not-yet-constructed”, not “taken apart after construction”, and it’s generally not mixed back together in the process. 126.96.36.199 06:26, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
Never left a comment on a wiki before, so no idea if I'm doing this right, but aren't the grease soaked vegetables just chips (or fries to my good American colleagues), and the brick of cheese a reference to the cheese in the comic? The joke would still be the same, and it makes more sense than a vegetable pizza, at least to me. That's how I read it, anyway. 188.8.131.52 09:55, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
- that's how i saw it, too. at least it makes sense. and, for the record, eating a hunk of cheese is one of life's great pleasures. when i weigh three hundred pounds i will do it all the time. --184.108.40.206 13:50, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
Funny how comics about food always cause more comments than any other regular comics ;-) I'm definitely on the idea that this is about toppings for a pizza and not fries. No one claims chips/French fries are healthy, but having veggies on a pizza is considered healthier than one just with four kinds of meat. Many people won't even eat pizza with vegetables. But of course they do not make it healthy. --Kynde (talk) 13:37, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
Is it just me or would it sound better if it was a quarter pound of cheese and had meat in it along with pineapple (Hawaiian)Needforsuv (talk) 15:59, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
- Be careful! There's been wars fought over more trivial things than whether pineapple belongs on a pizza!
- (Personally, I'll have it. And I also used to quite like garlic bread with cheese and pineapple. As in full pizza-style garlic bread, not the sliced-bagette garlic-infused stuff that tends to get served as side-dishes, outside of pizzerias. Not as if we've managed to solve the problem of exactly how you make a 'fishcake' is, yet, or whether breadcakes do or do not have fruit in them, or whether it's a Bakewell Pudding or a Bakewell Tart, or why Stilton cheese cannot be made in the actual village of Stilton nor the even the county it is in... so not the biggest problem in food circles, as far as I'm concerned... ;) 220.127.116.11 16:43, 16 December 2015 (UTC)
Yes. I think greased soaked vegetables refer to a salad or fries or chips and not a veg pizza. 18.104.22.168 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
My two cents: If Randall is taking the tack of how the vegetables would have ended up on the pizza, the "grease-soaked" bit makes sense: Most cheeses will "weep" some grease when they melt, and when melted on a pizza, that grease can soak into vegetables quite easily. This changes both the flavor and the cooking characteristics of the vegetables (and in some cases, contributes to the breakdown of some of their nutrients). Also, it's worth pointing out that the title text says "A spoonful of vegetables" - if he were talking about either a salad or a serving of french fries, it's unlikely that this would be limited to a simple spoonful. KieferSkunk (talk) 22:31, 17 December 2015 (UTC)