* (the world may be coming to an end)
J. Alfred Prufrock measured his life in coffee spoons; I measure mine in pizza slices.
As an American of the Boomer generation, many of the important milestones of my maturation have been accompanied by junk food, of which pizza has been the most prominent player. Much like an alcoholic turns to drink in times of celebration and sorrow, I tend to seek the companionship and comfort of pepperoni.
We didn’t eat much pizza when I was a kid (this is perhaps why my memories of childhood are so sketchy; I had no melty mozzarella to attach them to) – pizza was not the sort of thing my meat-and-potatoes papa would identify as “food.” Occasionally, when Dad was out of the house, we’d be treated to this exotic wonder. As far as I knew at the time, pizza came in only one form – frozen and wrapped in cellophane – and was available in only one brand: Tombstone.
(All my life I’ve rather bizarrely associated pizza with the Wild West because of this brand name. While doing research for this post, I discovered that the familiar cactus-festooned logo of my youth was the cruelest sort of misdirection; Tombstone pizza was not named for the famously lawless town that hosted the shoot-out at the OK Corral. Nope, it commemorates the cemetery across from the pizza joint in Wisconsin where the brand originated in 1962. And now I am left to question everything I thought I knew about the world.)
It really wasn’t until I reached high school that I realized pizza was something that could be ordered at a restaurant; that, indeed, there were restaurants DEDICATED to the making and serving of pizza (I was a sheltered child). It was a big deal in the early 80s when nearby Alexandria got a Godfather’s Pizza. To be honest, I was never crazy about their style of pizza; the sausage pellets reminded me uncomfortably of dog kibble. But the place had one big draw: Bart Hoffman, perhaps the cutest boy in school, worked there. I can still visualize the night he gallantly delivered a pitcher of Diet Pepsi to our table, in exactly the same way Prince Charming would have, if he had worked in a pizza franchise.
College was really more about pizza than anything else. If Bemidji State University had offered a degree in pizza studies, I would have summa cum lauded it. It would have been at least as useful as my actual bachelor’s degree in English, medieval literature field of emphasis. As it was, since pizza wasn’t even invented until the 17th century, I was denied the opportunity to contribute to pizza scholarship through my proposed senior thesis, “Than Longen Folk to Go to Pizza Hut: Canadian Bacon as Metaphor in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.”
Did I say pizza was invented in the 1600s? That seems rather late. Surely the first thing Kubrick’s 2001 Odyssey hominids would have done, after beating bones against stones – and subsequently against each other – was create a tasty melted cheese and processed meat dish to celebrate. And since pizzas are round, it would have led by extension to the invention of the wheel. Instead, homo sapiens had to wait another two million years to develop a way to get pizza delivered.
According to the always infallible Wikipedia, pizza originated as a way to feed the starving rabble of Naples, Italy. True, some would argue that the ancient Greeks ate pizza, subscribing to the woefully misguided notion that any flat piece of bread with something on top of it constitutes “pizza.” (Some cultures are still struggling to grasp the nuances of true pizzadom; in Germany I was presented with something called pizza that comprised a square of crust with anchovies on it. No tomato sauce. No cheese. Cooked bait instead of Canadian bacon. Not pizza. And this, children, is why they lost the war.)
The Italians may have discovered proto-pizza, but it was up to us plucky, industrious Americans to import it, and subsequently export it to the world. It seems the 19th century Neopolitan contingent of the huddled masses yearning to breathe free brought their ‘po folk staple with them, and the rest of the huddled masses didn’t know enough to be ashamed to eat it. And so pizza began to make its way into the national psyche. The first printed reference to pizza on these shores was in 1905. However, it really took off when American G.I.s occupying vanquished Italy decided pizza was the ultimate spoil of war. Pizza became a thing in the U.S., and its popularity rapidly spread around the world – which must have irked the people of Naples, introduced to this “new” dish from America that THEY invented.
But hey. Capitalizing on other people’s good ideas is what we’re all about. It’s as American as … pizza pie.
To celebrate American ingenuity and pizzan awesomeness, I present a dish that unnecessarily innovates on an already perfect food by making pizza, already a hand-held food, even more hand held. You’re welcome.
Tuscan Tomato Flatbread Pizza Turnovers (Okay. These are really just little calzones. Sue me.)
Tastefully Simple Sun-Dried Tomato Flatbread Mix
Tastefully Simple Garlic Infused Oil
Tastefully Simple Mama Mia Marinara Sauce
8 oz. can tomato sauce
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Mini or regular-size pepperoni
Sliced black olives or other pizza toppings of your choice
Grated Parmesan cheese
Mix together tomato sauce and 1 Tbsp. Mama Mia Marinara Sauce
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Prepare flatbread dough as directed on package, using Garlic Infused Oil. After allowing dough to rest for 30 minutes, roll it out with a rolling pin. Use a 4” circle cutter to cut out circles of the dough.
In the center of each dough circle, place a tablespoon of tomato sauce. Then add a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, one or two pepperonis and a few black olives.
Fold one side of the dough circle over the other half, forming a “turnover.” Seal edges with a fork.
Brush tops of turnovers with Garlic Infused Oil and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Place turnovers on a greased or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
Bake 7-10 minutes, or until bread is golden brown; you may wish to broil them for the last minute or so to increase the golden-browniness.
Remove from oven and eat, using any remaining tomato sauce for dipping if desired.