In two days Congress will hold hearings on one of the great issues of the year. There is, and I do not make this up, an effort to force America's frozen-pizza makers to use 900 percent more mozzarella dairy cheese in pepperoni or other meat-topped pizzas.
A lobbyist who is fighting the mozzarella incursion told me the white hats are the frozen-pizza manufacturers, who want nothing more than to sell a nutritious pizza with a less costly soybean-cheese substitute.
The black hats, according to the pizza lobbyists, are the dairymen who maintain that the more mozzarella you use in frozen pizza, the more money the government will save in dairy subsidies. (The black hats are talking about $50 million a year, which looks good to Congress.)
But the white hats say there is more to pizza than just saving money on cheese-surplus subsidies. Frozen pizza is a very fragile dish, and if you load it down with more mozzarella than it can support, it will become a gooey mess and slide down your shirt.
For another thing, using real cheese on the top would force the price of pizza up and create a terrible hardship on children and lower forms of life, who are pizza's biggest consumers.
The frozen-pizza lobbyist declares that his people are playing hardball. They maintain that using real mozzarella on pizza will add to everyone's intake of saturated fat and cholesterol, and they cite the American Heart Association study stating we should all be eating fewer dairy products if we want to live longer.
The black hats say this is baloney and that the white hats are just trying to prevent legislation that would make it mandatory for all nonmozzarella pizza to be labeled "cheese substitute."
The white hats admit that is exactly what they want to do. As one impassioned pizza lawyer said, "Why should the frozen-pizza manufacturers subsidize the dairy industry? Would Napoleon III ever have been able to invent margarine if the butter lobby had had its way and insisted on pure butter on French toast?"
The dairy lobby says it couldn't care less about selling surplus cheese. But as loyal Americans they are concerned that the people of this country are being cheated out of their daily ration of mozzarella.
The white hats say the dairy people want to destroy the frozen pizza as we know it and replace it with a pizza made entirely of cheese with a tiny pizza crust. There is nothing, they say, as good as frozen pizza with soybean oil mix.
This doesn't sound like an earthshaking problem comparable to how many ships you can sail through the eye of the Strait of Hormuz. But at the same time, it is war. At stake is a billion-dollar pizza industry and enough surplus cheese to feed everyone in the state of California.
Constitutional rights are also involved. Who decides in a democratic nation how much mozzarella should be sprinkled on each frozen pizza? Will it be the government or the PEOPLE? I happen to like mozzarella on my pizza, but my friend Jack Burke prefers a healthier, less expensive cheese substitute.
What Burke and I both want is freedom of choice. "If you allow the dairy farmer lobby to force mozzarella on your pizza," the white-hat lawyer said, "the next thing you know is he'll try to spread it on all the nachos in America."