Monday, March 22, 2010
A Pizza Pie Anthology
The pizza I grew up with came in a box (with a bag of floury stuff and a can of red sauce) from Chef Boyardee. It was salty and doughy and we gobbled it up at slumber parties, along with M&Ms, bottles of Coke and chips and dip.
Pizza was not a meal. It had no food value. It was just water, flour, salt and the red stuff we poured out of that can. I lived in West Virginia and we did not eat pizza for dinner. We snacked on it. At parties. Because it was fun for kids to make. From that box mix.
When I moved to Pennsylvania, I was in my 20s, and like me, pizza was growing up. Places called Victory Pig and Pizza L'Oven retrained my thinking because the pizzas they made were substantial. They were a meal. They had real food like pepperoni, chicken, ham and a variety of vegetables and fruits swimming on top of a luscious, thick, rich tomato sauce. And melted cheese. We can't forget the cheese.
The dough serving it all up was crunchy outside, soft inside, with a taste as refined as a baguette.
Over the years, while living in New York, I've enjoyed exquisite pizzas at places such as Twin Trees, Sardo's, Gina and Joe's and even Pizza Hut.
Tonight we dine at Pizza Hut, back in the South, in Hammond, La., and I'm happy because I'm hungry, for a meal, a sumptuous pie we can eat lots of now, then some of later as a snack. Yum. The best of my youth and my grown-up years.
Our waiter seats us a table under a TV showing a national cheerleading competition out of Orlando. Thank goodness. Because after we order (a hand-tossed crust loaded with pepperoni, mushrooms and sausage), we wait about 40 minutes for our pie.
Finally, it arrives. But what he serves is not our grown-up pie. Thin, doughy crust tastes like a big communion wafer that holds a very browned cheese smothering a few shriveled mushrooms and squiggles of sausage. We can't find (or taste) any pepperoni. The smattering of red must be the sauce. Hard to tell.
We don't complain. It took 40 minutes to get this pie and we are determined to eat it. But it's dry, and salty. As it cools, the cheese turns leathery.
We eat about half before we surrender to this retro pie, the pizza of my youth.
Here in the South.
Is that Chef Boyardee in the kitchen again?