Tuesday, September 22, 2015

(E11) Saturday Nights and Snow-Days: Time for Pizza (Part 1?)

Jacquie and her son Tommy making pizza.
Say you’re asked to write about your favorite food. Your first instinct might be to ask “How can I write a whole essay about pizza?! I like pizza. Pizza is great. I wish I had some right now. Done! How is that an essay?" Well, asking yourself some questions and writing some simple sentences in response is a good way to start. It's how I'll start. But then, as you'll see, I'll work on making my sentences more descriptive and more complex.

Pizza:  My Favorite Food (not a great title, but it’ll do for now)

I like pizza. (This is a simple, declarative sentence, but it doesn’t explain why, or how much, or what kind.)

I like pizza with mushrooms, black olives, and green peppers. (This is better, for it provides a few details that let the reader know what kind of pizza I like, but it still doesn’t explain why I like pizza, or how much I like pizza, and I could still add even more details: Homemade? Delivered? If so, from where? Thin or thick crust? Red or white sauce? Why not green olives and red peppers?)

I like Pizza Luce’s “Fresh Veggie” pizza, with its thick crust covered with red sauce and lots of mozzarella, and its classic selection of vegetable toppings:  mushrooms, black olives, and green peppers.  (Okay, this adds some more details, so that’s better. Notice how the grammar of this sentence is now more complex. But it still doesn’t answer the more difficult questions of why and how much I like pizza. Answering those questions takes more thinking.)

I like Pizza Luce’s “Fresh Veggie” pizza because it’s the best “classic” vegetarian pizza in Duluth with its thick crust covered with red sauce and lots of mozzarella, and its vegetable toppings: mushrooms, black olives, and green peppers. I like it so much that, even though I wish I could have it all the time, I only order it on special occasions, like an impending snow day. (This is even better yet, now, as it provides some reason for my fondness, debatable though that reason may be, and indicates something about the intensity of my liking: it’s reserved for special occasions. My one sentence is now two, but I really just seem to be adding information onto the original sentence, as if attaching more cars to a toy train. This short passage is still pretty simple, and it’s not really very memorable—maybe the most interesting part is the bit about snow days, because that sticks out as odd. Isn’t it time to let go of the original concept and really revise, really rethink this? Clearly, I have some experience and history with pizza, and this food plays a definite role in my life, so why don’t I discuss that? Notice how as the passage gets better, I have to ask myself tougher questions in order to improve it further.)

Pizza has always been a special-occasion food in my life. When I was a kid, my mom would make pizza on Saturday nights, and only on Saturday nights. She would buy the Chef Boyardee Pizza Kit, which contained a dough mix, a can of sauce, a packet of cheese, and a smaller packet of seasonings, which my dad always referred to as “kirbies”—I have no idea why. She would add extra cheese, grated on an ancient and treacherously sharp box-grater, as well as some browned hamburger, or occasionally some browned Italian sausage or sliced pepperoni. (Now this sounds like the beginning of an essay! Sometimes, you just have to throw out everything you’ve written and start fresh. But look at how the sentences have gotten shorter and simpler again. This isn’t necessarily bad—it probably reflects the sudden return of memories as I begin to contemplate my history with pizza. Are there ways to combine or rearrange these short sentences into longer ones?)
My attempt at making pizza with Jacquie's crust recipe.

Ever since I was a little kid, when, on Saturday nights, my mom would open up the Chef Boyardee “Pizza Kit,” a red box containing a can of sauce, a packet of dough mix, a packet of cheese, and a much smaller packet of seasonings, and proceed to brown up some hamburger and grate some additional mozzarella, pizza has been a special-occasion food in my life. I can still remember my mom pushing the dough into the corners of the jelly-roll pan in which she always baked the pizza and then spreading the sauce over it with the back of a large wooden spoon. As soon as I was old enough to help, she’d let me sprinkle on the cheese—“don’t miss a spot!”—and sometimes I was allowed to sprinkle on the “kirbies,” too, as my dad called the seasonings, imitating my infantile attempts to say “herbs.” (See? Now we’re getting somewhere! Four sentences have become three, but they're longer and more complex, and a phone-call to my brother confirms that my dad called the seasonings “kirbies” because my toddler-self had trouble saying the word “herbs.” Sometimes you have to do a little research. I wonder if they still make the Pizza kit. If they do, I should include a link to the product page. And who was Chef Boyardee, anyway? And there’s so much more material to explore now: why were Saturday nights special? Remember how Dad warmed up the leftover pizza? How did you get from Chef Boyardee to Pizza Luce? Remember when you first tasted fresh mushrooms? You didn’t like olives as a child—you love them now—how did that happen? The same was true of peppers, with a different journey from hate to love: can you fit that in? Remember the seven years or so when you never, ever, had pizza? Remember eating English-muffin pizzas for breakfast in Buffalo? Remember eating pizza and wings in Buffalo? Your all-time favorite pizza is actually Luce’s Heirloom Tomato Summer Special pizza, so why don't you mention that? You also love the Athena pizza. Then there’s the amazing pizzas Chef Korach sometimes makes for the faculty on professional development days! You gotta write about that! And the pizza crust recipe from Jacquie (Dawson) Van Guilder (class of ‘02) that you want to try! Ask her if you can mention her in this post! [Update: I did ask. She said yes.] And you have to explain the snow-day thing! See, there’s a whole essay here, in response to that simple prompt:  write about your favorite food. Maybe a better title would be “Saturday Nights and Snow Days: Time for Pizza, My Favorite Food”? The fact that I have so many memories and so much history connected to pizza is what will make this a good essay. If you don’t have lots of memories to recount or stories to tell about your subject, then obviously you haven’t chosen the right topic for this assignment! Think for a bit and then give it shot. Write some sentences, ask yourself questions, and write even more! Get started now!) 

[I hope I'll have time to finish all the stories I've started here, but I don't have the time now!]

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