June 2, 2011— -- In these polarized political times, there's finally an issue Republicans and Democrats can agree on:
What were Donald Trump and Sarah Palin thinking when they ventured into Times Square the other day and ate pizza with knives and forks?
Or as New Yorkers say: fuhgetaboutit.
The Donald has shifted into damage-control mode, explaining in a video on YouTube why he eats pizza with utensils instead of by hand.
"This this way you can take the top of the pizza off. You're not just eating the crust. I like to not eat the crust, so you can keep the weight down," he explained.
To pizza lovers of all political stripes – especially from New York -- that's just, well, cheesy.
"Donald Trump, why don't you just take that fork and stick it right in New York's eye?" Jon Stewart railed on "The Daily Show" on Wednesday night.
"Based on how you eat pizza, Donald, I want to see your long-form birth certificate. I don't think you were really born in New York," Stewart said.
On the right, the National Review was equally disdainful: "Scandal! Sarah Palin and Donald Trump ate their pizza with a knife and fork! Dare I say, John Kerry style?"
And this, from Forbes.com: "Donald Trump may know about hiring staff and apprentices, and Sarah Palin may know about which finger to raise at a tea party, but neither seems to know the New York protocol for eating pizza."
According to manners maven Peggy Post, director of the Emily Post Institute, it is perfectly acceptable to eat pizza by hand.
"It's all right to pick up a slice because pizza is an informal food. The best way to eat it is to loosely fold a slice in half to keep the edges from dripping. That's not to say silverware is forbidden," she explained on the website of Good Housekeeping magazine.
But to New Yorkers, there seems to be no debate: Eating pizza with a knife and fork is like drinking beer with a straw, or downing a knish with ketchup.
"Weird," proclaimed the New York web site Gothamist.com
"If it's Italian-style pizza from a wood burning oven, then a knife and fork is proper (and even necessary sometimes if the Mozzarella di Bufala isn't squeezed of its excess moisture). If it was New York style, then they're putzes," wrote commenter Moderately Libertarian at nationalreview.com.
What to eat, and how, can be no small matter in New York politics.
Former first lady Hillary Clinton scored political points in her successful U.S. Senate in New York in 2000 when she ate one of the favorite foods at the New York State Fair -- a sausage sandwich dripping with onions, peppers and barbecue sauce from Gianelli's Sausage stand -- after her opponent, Republican Rep. Rick Lazio, would not.
At a fundraiser hours later, her husband, Bill Clinton, took glee in recalling the State Fair visit. "After the other candidate for Senate refused to eat a sausage sandwich there, this one did not,'' he said. The partisan crowd roared.
A Lazio spokesman responded, ''Growing up in New York, with a name like Lazio, I'm sure our candidate is a bit more acquainted with sausages, not to mention peppers and onions, than Mrs. Clinton.''
At the pizza summit the other night, use of utensils was not the only culinary faux pas. The decision to dine at Familglia Pizza, a generic chain, also has New Yorkers scratching their heads.
"Eating Familglia Pizza in NYC is almost as big of an insult as getting Lender's frozen bagels," one commenter wrote at nationalreview.com "This is New York, home of Grimaldi's or Lombardi's. What's next, Chinese at a mall?"