Ode to Italian Cuisine

Taney - Henderson, Nevada
Entered on December 10, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

The doorbell rings, and your pulse immediately quickens in anticipation. You beat a hasty path to the door, knocking aside family members, pets, and sundry pieces of furniture. You grab the knob, fling wide the door, and stare in rapture at that mysterious, zit-covered arbiter of your impending pleasure. He hands you a flat box, and in return you distractedly pass him a wad of cash. You retreat to the kitchen, where you dispense with old-fashioned conventions like a plate or silverware. You lift the lid of that box, and out pours a sensual, exhilarating mess of aromas, and you know: Dinner has arrived.

I believe that pizza is perhaps the single greatest creation modern cuisine has to offer. I am enamored of this circular delight. There is of course little to object to: mounds of gooey cheese, a sweet and tangy tomato paste, a greasy yet oh-so-crispy crust, and pretty much any topping you could ever want, be it pineapple, bacon, sardines, artichokes, or anything in between. It even comes in easy-to-eat wedges of pure happiness. It may be horrendous for the body, but when done well, pizza sure is good for the soul.

I attended college at BYU-Idaho for several semesters, and while there, I found a new respect for this life-giving manna. With a Domino’s not two blocks from my apartment, I spent countless nights sprawled on the couch, textbook in hand, pizza box on the floor, roommates coming and going, taking slices at will. And thanks to these nearly transcendental experiences, I’m almost certain pizza contains some sort of memory aid. I suppose that would explain why college students wolf it down in such mind-bending quantities.

One semester, I had a roommate who actually worked at said Domino’s, and he frequently came home with extra or unclaimed pizzas. One night, after a particularly intensive training with new employees, he walked in the door burdened with no fewer than 10 pizzas. That night, we all ate ourselves into a euphoric stupor, rejoicing in a food that was so omnipresent in our apartment it was practically another roommate. To this day, there is little I miss about life in Idaho, except for Craigo’s Pizza, that one little hole-in-the-wall pizza joint with a dirt cheap all-you-can-eat lunch buffet and some of the best pizza I’ve ever savored.

As good as pizza is for dinner, fresh and sizzling, I believe its true test of greatness comes the next morning. I am not a fan of milk, so to eat cereal is out of the question. And since I’m basically a lost cause in the kitchen, I often go without breakfast. However, I am saved this blunder when I find a box of pizza in the fridge. To me, there are few culinary delights that hold a candle to cold pizza. Somehow, after it has chilled for eight or ten hours, the crust is fluffier; the vegetables are crisper, fresher; and we all know cheese only tastes better with age. Some purveyors of pizza make a dish that is excellent straight out of the oven, but wilts in the refrigerator. Other establishments make a disappointing hot pizza that is inexplicably tasty on ice. Turning a pizza from ho-hum to legendary involves a delicate balance between these two dichotomies that only a very few select chefs can pull off.

So come at me with your filet mignon, your tiramisu, your soup de jour, your lobster tail. It’s no thanks, for me. Pass me a slice of pepperoni-and-olives and a cold mug of root beer, and I’ll happily spend a long, blissful meal enjoying one of life’s great pleasures.