Yesterday was our grandson Logan's eighth birthday, and we showed up to surprise him at a Pizza Hut in North Canton. They were already eating, Logan and his family (need a better illustration than this sentence for the importance of commas?), when we arrived, and the remains of large pizzas were displayed around the table. A few pieces were left. I was tempted--but I'd already eaten, so I knew I'd better not. And so I didn't.
But I wanted to.
And I've wanted to eat pizza for more than a half-century. No, more than "wanted." Needed? Craved? I love the stuff.
But not at first. When I was a boy, even a young adolescent, I'd never seen pizza--never heard of pizza. It was not the ubiquitous comfort-food that it has become today. It was not until I was in high school (perhaps a sophomore? 1960-1961?) that I first encountered the food at a party one night (after a game? a play production?) at the home of a girl a year ahead of me in school, Beatrice Zeleznik. Until that night, I'd been strictly a candy/potato-chip/cake-and-ice-cream kind of guy--even pretzels seemed a little weird to me (all twisted up: what's the point?).
But Bea offered me some pizza. I looked at what she was holding. A mess of red and cheese and crust. I declined. I hate tomatoes--always have, always will. (I tried one a few years ago--just to see if I'd ... matured. I hadn't.) And so my initial experience with pizza was no experience. Looking around me, I couldn't believe all the people I saw shoving it in their pimply faces. Yuk!
I have no clear memory, though, of when I finally did deign to taste a bite (college?), but once I did, the war was over with the first shot (bite). I loved it. Still love it. Will always love it.
Some pizza memories (in no particular order) ...
- When our son, Steve, was little, he didn't like the crusts. Daddy did. Steve would leave the crust on his plate; Daddy would eat them. (Last night, though, Steve, now in his 40s, ate his own crusts, to my dismay.)
- When we were impecunious grad students, we sometimes ate at Parasson's in Stow (good Italian food--and cheap); I would get a small sausage pizza, always. Four pieces. Gone in a heartbeat.
- When we were first married (1969), we were even more impecunious. Living at 214 South Willow in Kent, we were only doors away from a pizza place on the corner of Willow and College called Singing Sam's. (Little Caesar's took it over later--now, I think, it's a residence.) For $2 we could get a small plain pizza. Four slices. Sometimes, it took piles of pennies and nickles. Or we wrote a $2 check to Singing Sam's--hoped it wouldn't bounce. We would sit on our living room floor, box open between us, munching happily--and Joyce was often (though not always!) kind enough to share a bite or two of hers. Depended on (a) how hungry she was, (b) how jerky I'd been lately.
- Once I got into sourdough baking (the mid-1980s), I started making sourdough pizza quite often. Sometimes I would have students over to try it. Only once (so far) has the pie stuck to the slip as I was sliding the pie onto the baking stone. Many bad words ensued.
- For a year or so we went to Zeppe's in Hudson every Friday night. Pizza night. But we haven't done that in a long time.
- Joyce grew up in Akron, so we often went to one of the Italian places she'd liked as a girl--Dontino's (North Akron), Luigi's (under the bridge downtown). We still go to those places now and then--not nearly as often as I'd like.
- When Cleveland's Little Italy had a movie theater--the New Mayfield--we used to like to go down there to see an old movie (their specialty), then find pizza somewhere afterwards.
- We usually order deliveries from Papa John's--though we haven't done that in years.
- For years, I was a conservative, sausage-pizza guy (no mushrooms or other junk). Pepperoni if necessary. But then ... rising cholesterol numbers started to alarm me, so I started ... modifying. Joyce was already eating veggie pizzas (there are some things about her I will never understand!), but I knew I could never do that (green peppers, mushrooms, other odd things that supposedly had once been alive). My homemade crusts were already chol-free (olive oil--no egg), but now I started using low-chol mozzarella and Parmesan--and using strips of chicken breast and chunks of pineapple for the substance of the thing. Tasted pretty good, if I do say so. Still, there's something about Italian sausage ...
- Since I've retired from teaching, I haven't baked pizzas very often. Only a couple of times a year, maybe. When our son and grandsons are here. When I get lonely for the old days when I could eat any damn thing I wanted and never rue the consequences.
- Even now, on an evening when we've been to a movie in Kent or Akron, driving back into Hudson from the south on Route 91, we glide by Zeppe's. "Wanna pizza?" I'll often joke to Joyce. Who knows--who well knows--that I an not joking. Not at all.
PS--Feeling stupid at age 68. I just ran spell-check, and it told me to capitalize Parmesan. I checked. Yes. Because the word (you stupid old man!) means of or from Parma, in northern Italy. DUH!