Daryl K. Tabor is the news editor for the Kentucky New Era.

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. -- It's one of the most daunting tasks mankind will face in his journey through life. Many will choose to repeatedly face this hurdle, only to fail miserably time and time again.

The strongest of men quiver in fear at its mere mention. The most cunning of women are quickly felled by its unpredictability.

I am talking, of course, of ordering a pizza.

Anyone who has ordered a pizza for more than themselves has faced the same deliberating, excruciatingly painful task. It's a cruel fate this pizza dilemma.

Pizza, as we know it, is the ideal food. Warm. Tasty. Customizable. Convenient. Versatile. Hand-held. Re-heatable.

For a single guy, one large pizza can solve the pressing question of what's for dinner ... for the next three days. Heck, there's just about no situation of hunger a pizza cannot satisfy and few social settings where it is considered taboo.

But therein lies the problem. Pizza itself is perfection, but because of its superior qualities, we have yet been able to understand or harness its great power. In numbers greater than one, ordering a pizza turns man -- as a general non-sexist term for humans -- to a puddle of indecisive, spineless goo.

I've been in all sorts of pizza-ordering situations involving others, none of which have gone smoothly. Why, just last week, on a day which saw our New Era newsroom depleted by illness and snowed-in by lunchtime, the ugly side of pizza reared its ugly head.

A pie, as some call it, was innocently suggested as an order-in solution to our collective hunger.

"Yeah, that sounds good," were the first words out of all our mouths. That was also the last time anything was agreed upon.

Where do we get it? That is usually the initial question in a long line of difficult decisions to be made before a steaming slice of pie slides down the gullet.

All pizza establishments have their pluses and nuances. Some offer frills like stuffed crusts. Some offer side items like garlic butter or cinnamon desserts. Some cut their pizzas in traditional pie slices, while others dice in squares.

Nevertheless, choices in pizza establishments are largely based on one key factor: Which restaurant had the best coupons in Sunday's paper?

That decision having been made, the most arduous of pizza-ordering task lay ahead: What kind of pizza does everybody like?

"Someone always puts the kibosh on mushrooms, though the fungi is one of the tastiest possibilities for pizza. Still others view onions as a form of social leprosy. Peppers and black olives are rarely popular, but there's always one person that must complicate matters with such a request."

-- Daryl Tabor

This question gets more complicated as the number of those feasting grows. The likes and dislikes are tossed into the air like a game of 52-card pickup. Before the last card falls, you've already begun to wonder why you even played the game.

The crust. Hand-tossed, thin crust, deep-dish or regular?

Toppings. Supreme, meat-lovers or mix-and-match? If mix-and-match, what meats? Pepperoni, hamburger, sausage or Canadian bacon, which is a $9.99-term for ham.

Think you're done? No, there are more topping decisions, mostly of the vegetable nature.

Someone always puts the kibosh on mushrooms, though the fungi is one of the tastiest possibilities for pizza. Still others view onions as a form of social leprosy. Peppers and black olives are rarely popular, but there's always one person that must complicate matters with such a request.

Extra cheese, anyone? How about anchovies?

What about the divvying up after a compromise -- usually held under protest by at least one -- is finally reached? Someone is always left paying more than their fair share and holding a handful of IOUs.

Is this all sounding a little too familiar?

Perhaps pizza, as common and simple as it is, is as good at unveiling the weaknesses and shortcomings of man as a PhD. And when's the last time a psychiatrist came with extra cheese?

Maybe pizza has become such a popular, yet complex, part of our culture because every one is unique, reflecting our own personalities and traits. And, like real life, all of those meats, vegetables, cheeses and crusts don't often come together without conflict.

If only the entire world were a lightly sauced, extra-cheesy, hamburger and mushroom on thin crust, it would be a better place for sure.

...At least for me.

This column appeared originally in the Kentucky New Era on March 3.

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