I vividly remember the fireworks of flavor that erupted with my first taste of pizza. I was about 10, and our family was dining with friends. The pre-Martha Stewart mothers in our crowd competed to feed 10 to 20 people at a time with something tasty that didn’t break the bank – and if possible something new and different.
It was the 60s and everyone – even my parents and their friends — were eager to try something daring.
Mrs. Dreystadt met us at the door with a mischievous smile.
“We’re having pie for dinner,” she said. “Pizza pie.”
I was intrigued and milled about the kitchen to watch this exotic mystery food prepared. The process became very familiar to me because my mom immediately added Mrs. Dreystadt’s crowd-pleasing recipe to her own repertoire: Open box of Chef Boyardee pizza kit. Add water to dough, mix and knead. Pinch, push and tease the skimpy lump till it filled the cookie sheet. Open can of sauce and spread evenly. And then, the piece de resistance – open tiny can of dehydrated parmesan cheese-like substance and sprinkle. After a few minutes in the oven, set on table and watch everyone (thrilled by the slight hint of spicyness) fall on it like ravening wolves.
Ah, Chef Boyardee! What a reassuring guide you were into the uncharted wilds of ethnic eating. That pizza kit became a special treat in our family. In high school, I joined all the other teens congregating in the pizza parlors cropping up. In college, I gravitated to Chicago style deep dish pizza and formed a preference for crispy-edged, spongy crust enveloping thick layers of mild cheese and still bubbling, deep red sauces.
Now my locavore leanings have crowned a new favorite — one I thoroughly enjoy, savoring its clear, home-grown flavors in the famliar format I have loved all my life. Pizza Wisconsiniana. I had it last night.
It starts with dough made from locally grown wheat flour, which I buy in crisp brown paper bags at the Farmer’s Market from Tom Brantmeier. I brush this pastry plate with local garlic (also from Tom’s farm) browned in olive oil (alas, no local source for this staple).
Over that I lay locally grown, heritage tomatoes. Then comes the fresh mozzarella from Crave Brothers family farm in nearby Waterloo, WI. This cheese is delicious and green beyond belief – they even use their cow’s manure to generate the power for their farm, factory and neighbors. Check out an NBC nightly news segment to see the process here.
Now I add paper-thin slices of lovely, sweet red onion from the farmers market and top it all with a dusting of freshly grated Sarvecchio Parmesan, made in Plymouth, WI. I may have to send to Italy for the olive oil, but this local Parmesan is really good and actually was named best cheese in the United States at the 2009 US Championship Cheese Contest. Lip-smacking details here.
Where can you get the best pizza in the world? I wish I could cut you a slice of my Pizza Wisconsinalia, and let you be the judge.
Chef Boyardee it ain’t. Nothing will ever equal that first bit of pizza kit cuisine that has made me a life-long devotee of the Mediterranean diet. But I think the second best place in the world to make pizza has got to be Wisconsin.
Categories: SUSTAINABLE FOOD