‘That’s amore….’ no, that’s a birthday

By MaryHelen Swanson, editor

Monday was National Pie Day and another special day, my birthday. I was going to bring pie to work to share on this momentous occasion, even though I had never really heard of National Pie Day before. But I got busy over the weekend and didn’t have time to bake. And Monday morning, with that crazy weather, my best bet was to just white-knuckle it to work and not try to stop at a store to pick up a pie or two.

However, we did have pie — pizza pie.

That got me thinking of the late 50s when pizza was just being introduced in our family. We didn’t just call it pizza, it was pizza pie.

There were no frozen pizzas, however, and when we had pizza, we made it from scratch.

The pizza recipe was a prized one, hand printed on an index card in the old flip-top recipe box, procured from an aunt who lived in the cities where her Italian neighbors were having this treat all the time.

For the crust, you had to use yeast and let the dough rise. It was such a process, but the outcome was terrific. For the family, the crust, once properly raised, was spread gently with a rolling pin, then pushed out with fingers on a cookie sheet, and you had to be sure to leave a ridge around the edge for the sauce. Our pizzas were rectangular.

Then you poked it with a fork and baked it a short while.

If you were having a party, individual crusts were formed, usually about 8 inches in diameter. Baked and ready for the guests, the little irregular discs were stacked neatly on the red-checkered tablecloth along with bowls of chopped this and that for toppings. Snacktime became part of the party activity as each person individualized his or her own pizza with toppings of choice. And everyone was happy.

A pizza sauce, homemade also, was spread on top of the crust with your choice of toppings, perhaps some sliced green pepper or onions, but most often just pork sausage that had been browned in a frying pan. And then, lots of hand-shredded mozzarella cheese. That shredding was a chore.

For us of German and Bohemian descent, this pizza thing was quite an anomaly, especially that mozzarella cheese. Saying the name alone tickled our tongues, even though we thought the cheese itself had little taste. For perfect melting and gooey-ness it had to be mozzarella!

In a few years the homemade pizza gave way to frozen pizza. We didn’t have a lot of those, they simply couldn’t hold a candle to our handmade creations. Frozen tidbits of vegetables and meat were lifeless ingredients on crusts that weren’t much tastier than cardboard.

The frozen pizza gave way to home delivery, and it was a nifty fad, but I can’t ever remember that we had one delivered to our home.

Been a long time since those days of homemade pizza. They were simple, and yet, delicious, the pizzas and the days of our lives.

They brought the family together as we made them and gave us lots of laughs as we dined on them pretending for brief moments that we were just a little bit Italian, with its connotations of romance and intrigue. (I think Dean Martin had a little to do with that.)

Yes, that’s what a birthday will do for you, bring back the memories, the perfectly wonderful memories.

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