I have had a love affair with pizza ever since grammar school, when my friend Carole invited me over for lunch and her mother made Chef Boyardee pizza, hot from the oven. From that first cheese-covered bite, I was hooked.
The first place where I bought pizza was called Expresso Pizza on Elm St. in Manchester, back when I was in the fifth grade. For less than $1, I could get a couple slices and a soft drink. And the slices were huge. Many of my weekly allowances were spent at that place.
I thought I was the world’s biggest pizza lover until I met my husband. On one of our first dates we went to a pizza restaurant in Concord and he ordered a large pizza, nearly 20 inches in diameter…all for himself. I had to order a separate small one.
I watched in awe as he devoured slice after slice, as if he were eating potato chips. Finally, when he had only two slices left, he slowed down.
“Looks like the pizza won this battle!” I said. “I didn’t think you could eat an entire large pizza by yourself!”
I got the feeling I shouldn’t have uttered those words because he immediately took them as a challenge, sat up straight, gave me a defiant look and choked down the last two pieces.
He was sick for the next two days.
About 10 years ago, I decided to try to make my own pizza. I bought everything I needed, from dough mix and sauce to pepperoni and two different cheeses. Then I set to work, kneading, rolling, tossing, chopping, stirring and baking. The end result was, well, surprisingly scrumptious.
My husband couldn’t rave enough as he downed half the pizza. I matched him slice for slice until the last piece. We tossed a coin for it.
After that, I became obsessed with making pizza. Each night, my husband would come home from work and ask, “What’s for dinner?”
“I’m making pizza!” I’d answer.
His whole face would light up. “Great! I can’t wait!”
Fast forward to a couple months and about 25 pizzas later. When my husband asked what was for dinner and I answered pizza, he got this look on his face that was similar to that of someone whose underwear was too tight.
“Um, burgers would be nice now and then,” he said. “Or maybe some chicken and potatoes.”
“But you love my pizza!” I’d answer. “And I put extra everything on yours, just the way you like it!”
I’d gotten into the habit of making two separate pizzas – one with all of my husband’s favorites on it, and one with all of mine. His had a layer of sauce, a layer of shredded cheddar cheese, mozzarella, a thick layer of ground beef, another layer of cheese buried beneath crumbled bacon and sliced ham, and as a finishing touch, a layer of sliced pepperoni covering the whole thing. It was a heart attack waiting to happen.
My pizza, however, had thinly sliced green peppers and onions, cheese, chopped fresh tomatoes, sliced mushrooms and just a sprinkling of cooked ground beef.
One night, I invited two of my female friends over for my homemade pizza. I made a special separate pizza for just my husband because I figured no one else would want a pizza that contained enough meat to feed a Bengal tiger. Then I made two more pizzas with lots of veggies for us girls.
I removed the pizzas from the oven, set them on the counter and sliced them, then went to the fridge to get the drinks. “Help yourselves while the pizza’s hot!” I shouted over my shoulder.
When I arrived at the table, I was horrified to see my two friends devouring my husband’s meat-and-grease-laden pizza. My husband, who’d just entered the room after coming out of the bathroom, stood frowning at the backs of their heads as he watched his meaty monstrosity rapidly disappearing.
“This is really good!” one of the girls said, wiping pepperoni grease from her chin. “I’m going to have another slice!”
“Me, too!” said the other.
I was afraid my husband might fling himself across the pan to protect what was left of his precious pizza
But a few years ago, something happened that put an abrupt end to my pizza-making days. My husband and I were in Raymond, shopping in Ben Franklin’s, when he mentioned he was hungry. “Let’s grab a bite at that pizza place I saw next door when we came in,” he said.
So we went to Pizza by George and had pizza. After just one bite, a blissful smile spread across my husband’s face and his eyes glazed over. An involuntary “Mmmmmm!” escaped from his lips. He was in love.
I hated to admit it, but even my best pizza couldn’t hold a candle to George’s. So now, whenever my husband craves pizza, he drives all the way to Raymond for it, about a 30-mile round trip. As a result, I’ve had to hang up my pizza-maker’s apron. It’s just not worth the effort to go through all of the trouble of making pizza just for myself.
I think I may have to track down this George guy and have a little talk with him.