I have many things I wish to write about:
-trying to eat well
-facebook and private lives
-“I want it now!” newlywed syndrome
-on living a creative life
-and other things
But for now, I want to write about Pizza Hut.
Yes, Pizza Hut.
We never really went to Pizza Hut as a family. It was too noisy, and my parents preferred Ottawa’s old school independent pizzerias: The Cafe Colonnade, The Bella Vista Tavern, Napoli’s Restaurant. Places with blue smoke and Italian grandmas working the til and career waitresses and sambuca candies with the bill. If we ordered in, we bought from Carlo’s, a local place just around the corner from our house, ten percent off if you pick up your order, and free RC cola, too. They liked our family-Mum and Dad ordered about 20 extra-large pizzas from them for their twenty-fifth anniversary party (called “The Pizza and Beer Party”), and we always got fantastic pizzas from them. I haven’t found a pizza joint I like nearly as much as Carlo’s, not since I moved to the Maritimes and Mum and Dad moved to their new neighbourhood.
Pizza Hut was a rare occurrence during my childhood. Dad would sometimes take me, on Saturday afternoons when we would run errands on the Merivale strip, and we would share a pizza with pepperoni, sausage, and green peppers, and some Pepsi to drink. I had friends for whom Pizza Hut was a weekly ritual, so from time to time I would go with them, getting the kids meal that was sponsored by YTV (YTV being another one of those things I lacked during childhood, but that didn’t keep me from watching “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”). I remember those plastic cups with the conical lids, and the all-you-can-eat Sundae bar. But if you ask me to talk about where I ate as a child, I was more likely to say The Carlingwood Restaurant, Whisper’s Pub, or John’s Quick Lunch, not anything part of a chain.
I probably even regarded Pizza Hut with disdain, because how could a chain ever compare with my charming hole-in-the-wall, greasy spoon eateries?
Much pizza was consumed during my first few years of university, because really, what else do university students eat? Sackville, although tiny, boasted Joey’s, Jack’s, Pizza Delight, and Greco’s. I didn’t really care for any of these places, although I quickly developed an addiction to garlic fingers, a true Maritime delicacy. Take one pizza crust. Cover in some sort of creamy garlic spread. Top with pizza mozerella. Bake until the crust is brown, the cheese is gooey, and a layer of grease has appeared on top of the grease. Slice into rectangular “fingers”. Serve with donair sauce (yuck), caesar dressing (okay), or marinara sauce (best). Consume while watching movies, or after a heavy round of drinking. Such is the stuff that makes the frosh fifteen. Too much beer, and too many garlic fingers. There is nothing that can compare to this greasy culinary delight.
Because garlic fingers are a regional food, you wont find them outside the Maritimes. Sure, there are similar products, but nothing quite matches in terms of taste, texture, and appearance. It’s the kind of thing homesick Maritimers long for when they’re trapped in Upper Canada, or working in Fort Mac along with the rest of New Brunswick, Cape Breton, and Newfoundland.
Pizza Delight, being a Maritime chain, sells garlic fingers. Pizza Hut, being American, does not. But I have come to love their bastard approximation almost as much (or at times, more than) my beloved garlic fingers. Breadsticks, with cheese. I first discovered them on a trip to Woodstock (the New Brunswick one, not the cool one). Woodstock boasts very few restaurants, and the Pizza Hut is one of the town’s finer offerings. The Woodstock Pizza Hut has won awards for outstanding service, and it shows. The waitresses are friendly and efficient, the food consistently good, and the patrons are happy. After two decades of not eating Pizza Hut, I was converted. I have grown to love the chain.
Last night I was too hot to cook. Too hot to stay in our sweltering little apartment. I wept for the thought of pizza, Pepsi, and air-conditioning. So we piled (how exactly do two people pile into a mini-van?) into our car, and drove to Pizza Hut. Not that one, not the sketchy one, the good one. And in a nod to those Saturday afternoon outings with my Dad, we ordered a medium pizza with pepperoni, sausage, and green peppers. Oh, and a spinach salad. And some breadsticks. Those damn irreristable breadsticks. Basically, pizza crust covered in some kind of spice, topped with mozza cheese baked bubbly and brown, served with a rich tomato sauce. There’s a sweetness to this appetizer, something Jason and I have never been able to identify. But who cares. They are delicious, the perfect blend of crunch and chewiness, of sweetness and spice, of hot cheese and cold sauce. Heaven.
(And they taste even better the next day, heated up in an oven.)
And there you go. The indie-only food snob endorses an American chain, the kind of restaurant featured in movies like “Back to the Future”. But who cares. The food is good, and that’s all that matters.