New York Times food editor Sam Sifton has coined what he calls Pizza Cognition Theory which semi jokingly states:
“The first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes (and somehow appreciates on something more than a childlike, mmmgoood, thanks-mom level), becomes, for him, pizza. He will defend this interpretation to the end of his life.”Sam Sifton, New York Times
And could it be that our first sauna experience becomes the type of sauna experience that we defend until the rest of our lives?
If your first sauna experience was a health club sauna with a “don’t throw water on the rocks sign” could this be the type of sauna experience you enjoy and defend? And if you were sold an infrared light bulb closet as a sauna, could this be what you defend?
And what if you were first exposed to sauna within a hand crafted wood burning sauna along granite outcroppings shadowed by birches and pines on an island in the Baltic Archipelago, would this be the type of sauna experience you enjoy and defend?
Pizza cognition theory
Well, the Pizza Cognition theory states that our first pizza experiences may indeed be memorable, but these experiences are certainly not superior. Imagine growing up on store bought frozen pizza, then finding your way into a family owned restaurant in Positano, Italy and then being presented a perfectly crafted margarita pizza, straight out of an artisan-ally built wood fired pizza oven. I’m quite certain that all of us would unequivocally prefer this pizza to the Tombstone of our youth.
Imagine this wood fired pizza. Premier ingredients: the dough is hand made, locally sourced San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh olive oil, mozzarella produced in small batches at the farm just down the road. Premier production: hand delivered off a wooden peel by a proud professional pizza pro wearing a white apron and proud smile.
Sauna cognition theory
The Sauna Cognition Theory follows a similar pattern. Our first sauna experiences may not be that great. Our first sauna experiences may have been while trying to break a sweat in a lame ass health club sauna. (“Don’t throw water on the rocks!”), or an outhouse style sauna with toaster oven heat. Even worse, our first “sauna” experiences may have been with something that isn’t even a sauna, like a light bulb closet or a similar containment chamber with no rocks at all.
Then again, our our first sauna experience may have been nestled amongst birches and pines along a granite outcropping on an island in the Finnish archipelago, where the heat penetrates deeply, fully. A well timed toss of water on the rocks producing a waif of löyly, followed by silence, while picking up on the lapping waves along the shoreline, as you ask yourself “when is the time to leave the hot room?”
Whether it’s the Pizza Cognition Theory or the Sauna Cognition Theory, good pizza and good sauna is some part subjective, but arguably much more objective. Those of us who love pizza love good pizza. Those of us who love sauna love good sauna.
Shitty pizza and shitty sauna is something we graduate from. And once we taste quality, we never want to go back.
What is good sauna?
Kimmo Ratio (Sauna Sherpa) answers in succinctly Finnish style (very few words).
Lassi A. Liikkanen, author of “The Secrets of Finnish Sauna Design”, discusses the Four-Leaf Clover Model of great sauna design:
- air quality
- interior design
- culture & company
And from the article “Good heat is easily felt, yet harder to understand“:
Good löyly represents the depth potential of good heat. Scientifically, good heat is produced from thermal mass: a quality sauna heater, with the right amount of sauna stones on the heater, and other lämpömassa producing elements…
There is always an opportunity to climb the authentic sauna ladder, higher rungs of good heat, better ventilation, and really good steam.
Shitty pizza and shitty sauna is something we graduate from. And once we get up there, we never go back down.