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A piece of the pie

According to my go-to for useless information, there are just five days in the United States that account for the majority of pizza sales. Care to hazard a guess?

For many families I suspect pizza is as much a staple as bread and milk.

I do understand the reasoning. It can be picked up by a tired parent on the way from work, is liked by almost all, sure saves on labor and dishes and may allow the family time to grab a bite together.

Flattened rounds of unleavened bread go back to the very earliest civilizations. Some archaeologists claim they discovered pizza ovens in Pompeii. Only problem with that is learning tomatoes weren’t brought to Europe until 1522.

Then the people of Naples quickly figured out how to combine tomatoes with their bread products. Being a busy port, the word spread quickly throughout the sixteen hundreds. By the 19th century the citizens of Naples were consuming pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Additional toppings were being added to these first sold on the streets and then later in dedicated pizzerias.

Pizza reached Chicago in the early 20th century made popular by street peddlers who walked up and down Taylor Street selling hot slices to pedestrians.

I don’t know when pizza reached small towns but remember it first as a high-schooler, old enough to be able to be sent in the family car to pick one up.

Other times friends and I would slip into one of the plastic upholstered booths to enjoy the treat on site. I have no reminiscence of any option as far as extras were concerned. As I do recall the proprietor said it was proper to roll the slice from tip to crust and eat it that way. We always did just that — until later crusts became too thick. I still prefer crust as thin as possible for I want the good gooey stuff, not a lot of bread.

(Always a large salad was added to the order. That dressing haunts me to this day for I’ve never been able to duplicate the simple oil and vinegar.)

My next pizza memory took place in some tiny dark cafe in some little out-of-the-way part of a small village in Italy. My date did the ordering. The first bite was a major shock. Nope — no anchovies though that might have done it, too. This pizza had clams and those clams still had their shells. Hardly the usual fare around here, I’m happy to report.

Now it seems there’s a pizza shop on just about every corner. The college certainly does its bit to keep them in business. Why, even tiny Cassadaga has two really great suppliers. Neither a legitimate pizzeria, both feature theirs on an extensive menu. It’s a quick run — or another excuse to eat out.

A younger family member prides himself on preparing his own — special equipment, secret sauce and all. I see them on Facebook and feel envious.

I too tried my hand at making my own. My recipe cookbooks still contain at least one set of directions for crust. Forget it. My telephone is closer than finding the yeast which would probably be way out of date anyway.

I was curious enough to check out what is required for the authentic Neapolitan Pizza. Simple! Just crust. sauce and toppings. And a warning: “while you might not be able to make a truly authentic Neapolitan pizza at home without a wood-fired oven, this recipe will get you pretty close.”

Ready? Well, perhaps not for the next line says to count on ten hours and 35 minutes with five for cooking and the rest for preparation. (Clue: the dough has to be kneaded electrically for ten minutes or more and then refrigerated for between eight and seventy-two hours. So it’s not all hard work — just lots of patience.)

And the rest really doesn’t look all that hard. A can of peeled Italian tomatoes is the only ingredient in the sauce which is then topped with fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil leaves and olive oil.

February 9th is National Pizza Day so give it a try.

And the top sales days? Super Bowl Sunday came in first, which didn’t surprise me at all. New Year’s Eve was second, not my idea of a celebration. Halloween is third. Wonder if that’s before or after trick-or-treating time. Fourth? The night before Thanksgiving, which really surprised me. Isn’t everyone dreaming of turkey by then? And the last? New Year’s Day.

Susan Crossett has lived outside Cassadaga for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. “Her Reason for Being” was published in 2008 with “Love in Three Acts” following in 2014. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at Susancrossett.com.

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