A Mill Village Kids Introduction to Pizza
Strange Smells a Coming From the House Across the Street
When I was a boy and growing up in the cotton mill village of Tuxedo, North Carolina I wasn't too knowledgeable of ethic cuisines such as Mexican, Italian, or any other strange foods people ate. Basically we ate vegetables my dad grew in our family garden and there were always plenty of beans, potatoes, and other common foods my mama canned during the summer months. A trip to the grocery store usually consisted on the items not grown locally such as coffee, sugar, hot cereals such as grits or oatmeal and the dreaded cream of wheat and the flour and meal mom used to make bread. We rarely ate anything considered ethnic but a lot of what we did eat has been termed "soul food" in the vernacular of today's society.
Riding my bicycle through our community one day I noticed a strange smell coming from the house across the street from our house. I remember it smelling like, please forgive my analogy, "puke." The children who lived in this house were about the same age as me and as I continued to ride my bike, I saw one of the girls come outside. I stopped and ask,"What ya got in your house that stinks so bad?" She laughed and told me,"We're making home made pizza." Well this threw me for another loop and like the ignoramus I was I had to ask,"What's pizza?"
The neighbor girl was kind enough to tell me all she knew about pizza and the pizza cooking in the oven was a Chef Boyardee pizza made from a kit her mom bought at the grocery store. It wasn't long before she offered me a sample to taste and for sure it did not at all tasted like it smelled. I told my mom and dad about the pizza kits and when they went to the grocery store some time later they bought us a couple of those pizza kits. They were inexpensive and we had a whole lot of fun making our first home made pizzas. For me making the dough was the most fun and I surmised the culprit that smelled to high heaven was the yeast in the dough.
Over time we learned we could add onions, extra cheese, and bell peppers and even browned ground beef in mom's iron skillet to enhance our pizzas. It wasn't until I went into the Air Force I ate my first real pizza. My group of Airmen who were going to school at Lowery AFB, Denver, Colorado were in evening classes that began 6 PM lasting until Midnight. It was during this time period that I heard of Shaklees Pizza, then a well known pizza chain. After school we would order pizzas and had them delivered to our barracks and boy were they ever so good.
Today, I am not a big fan of pizza and we have several Domino's, Pizza Hut, and Little Caesers in our town along with several Italian restaurants who make all the various styles of pizza that are popular to those who favor pizza. These all offer decent pizzas but those pizzaswe first made when we were kids in the mill village will always hold a special place in my memory.