Mexican Junk Food: ConeInn Pizza

I’ll be honest with you, just this once. Sometimes, when I am walking through my particular Mexican supermarket of choice, thinking about which product to choose for !Lunes Sabroso!, I often select an item which I know is going to be simply disgusting. After all, it’s much easier to write about a product that’s awful, because you can unleash the full power of your snark. Sometimes this strategy misfires, though, and you end up with a product that looks awful, but is kind of…not bad.

ConeInn Pizza had been occupying far too much of my brain-space for a few months. Every time I went to the market, there were more varieties available, and the section of the freezer isle dedicated to ConeInn Pizza seemed to grow and grow. It started with the simple “Margarita” variety, and then there was Pepperoni, and of course, inevitably, Jamon. “What in the world could this BE,” I wondered with every trip to the supermarket. Was it like an ice cream sugar cone? Or was it pizza dough? Was it just like a big wet bag of pizza toppings squished into a cone shape? And what was with the spelling of the name? “Pizza in Cone,” I would understand. I would even accept “Cone in Pizza,” even though that seems to describe the exact inverse of the actual product. But “ConeInn Pizza” makes no sense. The pizza served in a cone-shaped motel? Ugh, it was making my head hurt.

The other thing that seemed unusual about ConeInn Pizza was that it seemed to cross all boundaries of income and class. At about 20 pesos for two ConeInn Pizzas, they were as available in the crisp, clean confines of Superama in Merida as they were in the bombed-out, post-apocalyptic nightmare of rotten food that makes up Bodega Aurrera in Progreso.

Finally, I had thought about it too long, and bought a box of the “Margarita” variety as an easy mark for !Lunes Sabroso!. Here was a product that would be so awful, so inedible, that I would end up with some smart-alecky narration and a few good photos of myself making faces. I would take one bite, and throw the rest away.

The first thing that began to impress me about ConeInn Pizza was the sheer amount of cardboard accessories hidden within the package, all printed with ominous warning messages. I had no idea how to approach cooking my pizza cone, but fortunately, there were also detailed instructions included:

I knew that the only conceivable way these pizza cones would be remotely edible was by preparing in the conventional oven, so I can only take responsibility for your results if you also prepare them this way. If you do choose to prepare them in the microwave, you do get crisping sleeves included, but I would imagine you are going to get a wet mess. If you cook them in the oven, though, you still get to have some fun with folding cardboard; you get to cook them upright in a little stand, so you don’t end up with, “OvenInn Pizza.”

Side note: Halfway through the cooking process, my Dad walked in to find me on the floor, staring through the window on the oven door. “What the $#!+ are you doing,” he asked. “Cooking ConeInn Pizza,” I replied.

“Conan Pizza? What does that mean?”

20 minutes later, I was stunned to find that my piping-hot ConeInn Pizzas looked…pretty good?

The cone-shaped pizza crust was nicely crisped, the cheese was browned, and the kitchen was filled with the aroma of fresh pizza. It was clear from the appearance of the pizza that the insides could be potentially dangerous to my mouth, so I waited five solid minutes before tackling the ConeInn Pizza with a knife and fork. Holding the whole thing up to my face just seemed too risky; with a knife and fork I could bust the whole thing open and let it cool. All of these careful preparations made no difference. I burned the hell out of the whole roof of my mouth with my first bite.

Here’s the surprising thing, though: It wasn’t half bad. Sure, the sauce was weirdly sweet, the cheese weirdly salty. The crust didn’t add much to the experience, other than being a different texture. And honestly, eating a ConeInn Pizza is not unlike just heating a big, hot bowl of melted cheese…but is there anything wrong with that?

Don’t get me wrong. ConeInn Pizza should by no means be called, “good,” or even, “pizza.” If anything, it is a cross between the pizza that you used to get for Hot Lunch in grammar school, and what I would imagine it would be like if Chef Boyardee managed to somehow cram a whole, hot pizza into a can. But all in all, it’s not half bad, and I can imagine them getting into your head the way the “Fiesta” tacos (a heady combination of pork, peppers, onions, white gravy, and a rolled up piece of ham) at Los Compadres do. And at 20 pesos a box, it’s an inexpensive itch to scratch.

This is an edited reprint of a post (and photography! Yikes!) I originally published in 2008, while living in Southern Mexico on a steady diet of ham, ham stuffed with cream cheese, and ham stuffed with cream cheese stuffed into cinnamon rolls. The series, originally titled “Lunes Sabroso!,” detailed my sometimes baffled introduction as a foreigner to the items for sale in the junk food section of our local tienda.

Top photo: Flickr/JaBB

Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road," as well as the taco-centric blog "Eat More Tacos," and the junk food-centric "Spork & Barrel." His contributions include Serious Eats, Down East, L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post and his food truck, "'Wich, Please," was named "Hottest Restaurant in Maine" for 2015 by Eater. Finally, he finds it very silly to be trying to write this in the third person.


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