Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Pizza History

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!

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