What happens when you forget pizzas in the oven for weeks

A friend of redditor BigBoppinBill forgot some pizzas in the oven for "a few weeks." The result? A kind of glorious fungal jellyfish.

This calls to mind the timeless wisdom of the Jazz Butcher's classic, loony, over-the-top song, Caroline Wheeler's Birthday Present: "Do you know what happens when you leave a fish in an elevator?/You don't?/Well, here's a clue/Fish is biodegradable/THAT MEANS IT ROTS."

A friend of mine left two pizzas in his oven for a few weeks... (i.imgur.com) (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


    1. A friend used to eat cottage cheese directly from the container and when he was through, he just threw it under the bed.

      I did not know this, until I was chillin’ with his brother and the tennis ball I was tossing in the air rolled under the bed.  Lo and behold, a junkyard of months-old cottage cheese containers all puffy white on the inside with huge green stains.

      But there was no smell.

      1. Yeah, mold doesn’t usually smell. That’s what makes it so insidious. Bacteria stink. Actually, there’s a science question at toddler didn’t ask but some one about as bright as a toddler is about to “Why does it stink when bacteria decompose things but not when mold does?” Does mold just not emit gasses or something?

        1. Mold, like us, are eukaryotic using oxygen to fuel metabolism and  produce water and carbon dioxide as a result of metabolizing dead stuff, again like us.

          Bacteria are procaryotic so have much different products of metabolism. Since we shouldn’t eat rotting things, evolution has trained us to identify those smells as bad. Eating mold is also bad for us (broadly speaking) but there are many fewer smells produced by mold which aren’t also produced by us, because though we seem very different our underlying biochemistry is similar to mold’s.

          Antifungals are harder to make than antibiotics for exactly the same reason. Our biochemistry is more similar to fungi, so it is harder to find something that kills fungus but not us. 

          1. “Our biochemistry is more similar to fungi, so it is harder to find something that kills fungus but not us.”

            Meanwhile, we use vast amounts of pesticides to kill insects that try to eat our crops, even though insects are even closer to us than fungi!

          2. indeed. although it helps that insects, unlike fungal infections, don’t live inside us.

          3. >>insects, unlike fungal infections, don’t live inside us 
            Not counting carnivorous maggots, but humans are better equipped to pick them off than cattle. 

        2.  It’s a combination of several factors I think. First it’s the different means of digestion: bacteria do most of their digestion outside the cell by secreting enzymes and then living in a soup of metabolic products, some of which are taken back inside and used as food. Fungi at least have the capacity to perform endocytosis and digest food particles in vacuoles inside the cell (although I’m not certain how often that actually happens compared to extracellular digestion).

          Then there are differences in metabolic pathways, as mentioned by colin gardner above. Bacteria can produce a wider range of exotic (to us eukaryotes) metabolites, as opposed to fungi which ideally break everything down to water and CO2, or otherwise perform lactic acid or ethanol fermentation – both familiar and not too harmful.

          And finally, fungi are notorious for not being able to get rid of various waste products that accumulate in their cells. That’s why eating mushrooms from areas that were polluted in the past few decades is a particularly bad idea, and why you can judge the quality of air in a location by the types of lichen that grow there.

          TL;DR: bacteria produce all sorts of crap and don’t care where it goes, fungi keep their shit to themselves.

  1. What?! How do you even…?

    Even if I’m tired as hell, if I know food time is nigh, I don’t forget it.

      1. Acid too. I put pineapple ice cream and milk in the blender, then discovered it sitting there, unblended, an hour later.

  2. So what would happen if you locked the oven and set it to Clean? Flames/explosions, or (best case scenario) nasty smells and a large pile of ash.

    1. shouldn’t the amount of ash be the same (assuming that ‘oven clean’ combusts/drives off ~all carbon as CO2)?   flames? well there is more surface area.  explosions? not unless one of the toppings was gun-powder.  smells? different perhaps.

      given what we’re willing to eat as cheese, bread, beer, (kimchi?)… i think one should try cooking it and pay someone’s younger brother to try a bite.  might become a taste sensation.

      1. The corroded nail would way more, as it has additional oxygen bound to it that wasn’t originally.
        Nail=iron+carbon+trace elements
        Rusted Nail=iron+oxygen+carbon+trace elements.
        I suppose though that iron oxide powder will slough off and be lost to the environment, making the rusty nail possibly lighter than expected

        1. Since the Iron oxide isn’t anhydrous, would it be fair to also count water weight or is that classed as a catalyst?

  3. I’m more confused about how he once had a craving for two pizzas then, after not eating them, didn’t want any more pizza for “several weeks”.

      1. I experienced something similar in college.  I got up on a Saturday morning to find three of my roommates passed out in various poses on living room furniture.  I walked into the kitchen to find the oven still on and a carbon disk sitting on the rack inside.  Criminy.

          1.  Ha!  I don’t think so.  This was at the University of Iowa, 1985 or so.  But it was really fun thinking for a second that you could have been one of those guys.

  4. my roommate and I were recently involved in a Mexican standoff over emptying and cleaning a crockpot full of chili.  once we saw microorganisms blooming, we knew A) that chili was no longer edible, and B) it was going to be harder to clean than an ordinary crockpot full of chili.  thus began a battle of wills over who would blink first while we silently watched that chili get hairier and hairier through the glass lid.  after more than a week passed I broke down, but I had to take it outside and damp it down with lysol so I didn’t breathe in all the spores it was kicking out while I scraped the pot.  foreverabachelor.jpg

  5. The title of this (and the original) post is severely misleading. To forget something “in the oven” implies that said oven is *turned on*. I was expecting reports about a fire spanning several city blocks, or at least some vaguely pizza-shaped pieces of charcoal.

    This, though? Booo-ring! So fungi tend to grow on organic matter? You don’t say! 
    Who puts a pizza in the oven without turning it on, anyway? Let alone TWO pizzas?

  6. Well, you should immediately eat that pizza, because it’s real food.

    (Sarcasm.   Reaction to all the bizarre Facebook and etc. posts that depict a McDonald’s hamburger left out for weeks and it doesn’t rot, which somehow means it’s Evil).

    1. Yeah, that bugs me too. McDonald’s burgers and fries don’t go bad for the same reason your cooking oil, salt, and sugar don’t go bad. Which is not to say they don’t throw a whole chemical arsenal into their food, but then so do the factories who make food for Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.  I doubt my mother’s straight-from-the-butcher, fried-up-in-butter hamburgers would have rotted any faster.

      There are so, so many good reasons to hate McDonald’s, if you’re so inclined. No need to bring bad science into it.

        1. There should be, and there probably is. But the fallacy I was pointing out, which may or may not have a Latin name, was the belief that because Whole Foods etc. are more expensive and aimed at a higher socioeconomic demographic, their processed food is somehow not processed food. 

          Your link demonstrates still another fallacy. Again, I don’t know what the proper term for this is, but it’s the fallacy that says “Not A and Not B and Not C and Not D and Not E and Not F and Not G and Not H and Not I therefore Not J.”
          It’s also fallacious to assume that because a speaker asserts P and P is a moral good that the speaker is moral. Whole Foods Market Inc. is an interesting case study on that particular point.

    2. Yes, a friend put a Big Mac under a bell jar for a year, and it did not transform the way he expected. 

  7. I have a fear of mold. I’m not kidding. I’ve been known to scream, and I tear up throwing a bag of moldy lemons in the trash with gloves on. Yes, I’m neurotic. This is a given… but OMG this is the stuff of nightmares to me. *shudders*

    How could you even? I would probably buy a new oven. 

    I think I’m going to go wash… things… for a few minutes now.

    1. That’s fine. They’re your things. Wash ’em as fast as you like, if it helps…

        1. Do you breathe? Because you’re inhaling hundreds if not thousands of spores in every breath.
          Just a little fact of life I try not to think about too often.

          1. Do you drink water? Try breathing it and see how that works out for you.

        2. I must say I’m impressed and you have my sympathy. It’s hard as fuck to avoid these products (and their derivatives) in Western cuisine.

        1. Oh the fun I had while trying to accommodate the dietary restrictions of a frosh who was allergic to just two things. Wheat and dairy.

  8. A Jazz Butcher reference in the year 2013? A Jazz Butcher reference?

    You made a Jazz Butcher reference? Someone on the internets made a Jazz Butcher reference? In the year 2013? When the info-age tots listen to hip slop and the North American 40-and-overs can only recall grooving to Van Halen back when a mullet was really a mullet, while in 1988 maybe 200 indie kids would pack out a bar for a JB show in places like Winnipeg and Buffalo? A Jazz Butcher reference? 

    Really? The band that serenaded me through my first gilfriend and breakup, that spoke to me when no one else did (or would), that first came up with the line “there are problems in this world, I know, but right now none of them are mine?”, that put Northampton on the map (sort of)? The band absolutely nobody knows about, but looms large in the consciousness of those who do?

    A Jazz Butcher reference? Seriously? Well…colour me gob-smacked.

    1. I also was so impressed by the JB reference! Perhaps my favourite band of all time.

      1. Damn it, you’re right. And I love that track, too. Oh well, call it serendipitous genius.

    2. If you know of a way to obtain a recording of “The Devil is My Friend” in a digital format, please share. 

    3.  Well, thousands of people out there just have to be okay.

      (By which I mean, remember the “other 80s” that we do.)

  9. Uh, Oh!  Attack of the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA PIZZAS!

    Oh, the irony.  Think of the children, call out the army and navy!

  10. I can see Audrey Hepburn sporting the pizza on  the top shelf  tipped saucily over her forehead.

  11. I don’t want to sound all toddler-like as mentioned above, but isn’t the way it grows pretty cool?  Look at the angelic, hair-like fitments it makes!  Why some long and other’s short (different types of mold)? Does it have a circulatory system to feed the items at the end?  Why is it white?  How does it grow without water or light?  What does it do when the food is gone (does in cannibalize itself)?  Where did it come from (you’d think an oven would be pretty sanitary)  — “on the wind” I suspect.

    As an engineer and not a biology student, I obviously missed out on some of life’s secrets…

    1.  There are several different molds growing on that pizza. The white filaments are the mold branching out to produce spores which can be carried on the air.. the colors come from spores. Sadly, mostly we just categorize molds as blue, green, red etc.. by the color of their spores. They are far more complex than that. All the white filaments you see also run throughout the medium they grow on… and can exert enough pressure to bust rocks.

      I believe their circulatory systems are powered through osmotic pressure…

      Generally the have a structure that allows for multiple nuclei (some genetically different enough to be considered seperate individuals) to travel throught he filaments. They are external digesters.. they secrete digestive chemicals that break down the environment, and nutrients can pass through the cell walls. The traveling nuclei, which can gain diversity through mutation go along and sample everything… once in a while a mutant protein gives a particular nuclei the ability to exploit a novel resource in the environment. Those happy mutants feed and reproduce and travel around. An ability to adapt genetically within a single organism. Pretty cool!

      The spores are everywhere… especially in delicious kitchens. They grow off other living or once living material. They don’t need water or light… except they often respond to it to reproduce (levels of humidity, water, and light are what causes mushroom season in the fall). When they are out of food, they die. They also die of old age.

      Without them all the cellulose and lignen from the trees wouldn’t be broken down by anything. They also fix nitrogen in a bioavailable form. Life on this planet is totally dependent on mold and other fungi for survival. Its the third kingdom of life that no one really knows much about at present.

      They also fight eachother for space… can make some really nasty toxins and carcinogens (dont eat moldy cheese) and some wonderous drugs too.. like penicillin and psilocybin :)

      1. Excuse me while I save this post for posterity… And add this to it: Mold (well, mushrooms) concentrate heavy metals quite nicely and have been studied as a mycoremediation technique for removing heavy metals and oil products (diesel in particular) from contaminated soil. I am, however, not aware of any commercial-scale deployments at this time.

    2. “”How does it grow without water or light?””

      Fungi are more related to animals than plants, as in they find nutrition sources and consume them, rather than synthesizing them with light energy like plants.

    3. All actively metabolic living things require water, including the mold. Forzen pizzas have plenty of water as far as the mold is concerned.
      As the other commenters mentioned, mold is a heterotroph. It eats stuff, in this case, pizza.
      The reason why mold quickly grows on pretty much any sufficiently nutritious substrate is because there are thousands of microscopic fungal spores in every cubic meter of air, and contaminate pretty much every surface you touch.
      Once fungal spores find themselves in a favorable environment, they begin colonizing and building a mat of very fine filaments called hyphae, which are its body.
      Mushrooms are just the fruiting body of massive networks of hyphae in the ground. Tangled mats of voracious, multinucleate cells, each one similar to a gossamer thread. Quietly turning organic matter into fixed nitrogen and soil.

      1. The millions of spores per cubic centimeter of air thing gets really creepy when you think about other planets that may harbor life. And when you read the sections of John Brunner’s “A Maze of Stars” about colonists with extraterrestrial symbiotic fungal mats growing on/through them.  

  12. We were away for a couple days when a squirrel incinerated itself in the transformer across the street.  A gallon of ice cream melted in the freezer, frozen bread dough fermented wildly.  It was colorful and stinky.

    1. One of the better opening sentences I’ve read in a while.  Just wish the paragraph that followed had been a little longer.

      1. When the ice cream melted, it went down the vents of the freezer and into the refrigerator. The most memorable part was sheets of grey-green mold that hung down like garland from each refrigerator shelf.  We slammed the refrigerator door and called the insurance company.

        I believe the voltage surges had also fired the furnace blower motor.

    2. We were away for the weekend when the fridge died. Thawing out the three dead pre-mature kittens of my roommates cat that were waiting in the freezer for the spring so they could be buried outside.

      Worst smell I’d ever smelt in my life.
      Worst fights with roommates ever too.

      “They’re your kittens!”
      “YOU put them in the freezer”
      “YOU WEREN’T HOME! What was I supposed to do? Throw them away?”

      Oh man, you couldn’t pay me to be 20 again. :D

  13. I found an apple after it spent a couple months under my  desk.  I had shrunk and turned brown and the bag was full of clear liquid.   I was completely grossed out until I got a whiff of what smelled like 15 proof cider.  I didn’t drink it, but it smelled great. 

    1. I think someone should pay you to write copy about things that are fermented and stinky.

      We’ve made a lot of mead, hard cider, and beer in this household.

  14. In Thailand, there is a dish made with fermented soybeans.  They are spread in trays and inoculated with a white mold.  When the tray is a carpet of snow white mycelium, it is cut into squares and deep fried, coming out looking like Rice Crispies squares.  It’s been tested by nutritionists, and it seems to be a reasonably healthy food except maybe for the fry oil. 

    One of the best episodes of “How It’s Made” was about how many common and exotic cheeses are made.  Fascinating and often gross.  

    1. That reminds me of the story of someone that had to go pick up a vette from an impound lot a couple months after the driver had been ambushed with a shotgun to the head…..

  15. My roommate has got coffee-maker 5 moths ago and has used it to make coffee once…
    Now the coffee-maker has a lot of mold inside it… He’s afraid to pull that glass container out and clean it… Maybe that mold would become sentient one day… :)

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