I remember as a kid that my mom made a few items for dinner that I just found nasty. I will name a few: creamed dried beef, Brussel sprouts with vinegar, lima beans with nothing (yuck, lima beans in general makes me gag), too-thick hamburger burnt on the outside and still raw on the inside, and hard, break-your-teeth pizza. Now do not think for a minute that I am throwing my mom under the bus. She tried and I know my family was finicky. I for one was. There were so many things I hated as a kid, but I am sure a lot of it had to do with the rotating meals — many of which I could not stand. What I want to tell you about was the pizza.
My mom would make pizza from a box of Chef Boyardee. I used to make fun of the name, and spell it out: Chef-Boy-R-D with a slight accent. For us it meant buying an item at the grocery that was “name” brand. It was supposed to be special, but I found it disgusting. It tasted nothing like the pizza from Pizza Hut (which I had the opportunity of having occasionally due to Book It – where in grade school you could get free pizza for reading). I was recently reminded of our pizza adventures when reading the book: “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family” by Kathleen Flinn where she shares:
“So imagine their delight when they discovered a local grocery carried the new ‘pizza kit’ from Chef Boyardee. The box contained ‘all the ingredients for a traditional Sicilian-style pizza’: a package of add-water only pizza dough, a small can of tomato sauce, and a packet of dried Parmesan cheese. Following the directions, they spread the dough with oily fingers into an inexpensive pizza pan, spooned the thin sauce over the top, and then sprinkled it with the powdered cheese.” Page 12
She says it so well: add-water dough, can of tomato sauce, and dried Parmesan cheese. Which part of that makes you think yummy? It tasted like cardboard. Pizza night should have been a fun night and instead I wondered what excuse I had to get out of eating it. My sister remembers a different pizza story. She remembers a much later phase when my mom began making pizza from a can of biscuits. Hopefully you can see that our pizza experiences eventually got better. Not amazing, but better.
We would open the can of biscuits, and place each individual blob next to each other on the pan and then roll them out together to form the dough, add tomato paste (yuck who uses tomato paste for pizza)? Then shredded mozzarella, and then she baked it. I rarely remember other toppings. I think very occasionally she would get a tube of sausage and cook it so it became ground sausage and sprinkled it on top, or at a random time she might have purchased a packet of sliced pepperoni. Otherwise it was cheese only. I do not remember there ever being spices. Almost as though she tried to recreate what she saw, but forgot the flavoring part of it.
The evolution of the canned biscuit pizza did evolve into a treat. Somehow we started having dessert pizzas. Canned biscuits rolled out with pats of butter chunks were laid around the crust, brown sugar and cinnamon were then added on top of the butter. Whatever fruit we had (not all kinds worked) put on top and then baked. Often it was an apple. I never cared so much about the fruit, the brown sugar and cinnamon was what made it all worthwhile. Yum!
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