I'm not Sicilian. I know a few. They're, all of them, wonderful. One lived here at our house for a year. Vincenzo. Even though I grew up making pizza at the restaurant my family owned, I hadn't really had pizza.
This past week, my father-in-law landed himself in the hospital, four + hour drive from here. So after getting Melinda on her way to see him, possibly for the last time, I began to take stock of what there was to feed the kids.
Ever since Vincenzo, or Vice' (pronounced "Vee-shay") showed me the secret to making margarita pizza, I've built memories for myself and others through the thin crust, the tomato sauce with garlic and oregano, fresh tomatoes and the mozzarella cheese with fresh basil.
I'd been telling my wife for weeks that it would be good to go see her dad. Sometimes I have these premonitions, or maybe I'm just a pessimist and think the end is near far too often. The day before we got the call from the hospital I was pressing again telling her, "I think you really should go see him, he's not been well". Then her brother called.
Meals are always around when there's trouble it seems. Most families have experienced meals brought in by others when there's an illness or death. And maybe that's why I decided on the pizza. I've love watching someone sink into the melted mozzarella and fresh tomatoes, basil and olive oil and seeing the change come over them. It's comfort food. It's Sicilian love. And now it's a memory I often cherish. Perhaps the most satisfying phone call I've received was from a friend who only had a month to live, as it turned out. She'd called to request the pizza "once more before I die"... Around a month later the cancer took her. I will never forget eating with her.
Food sometimes has a way of turning around a lost or failing relationship. And maybe the memory of the pizza or the broiled salted asparagus, the curried shrimp or blended piña colada is enough to begin to recall what was lost. Perhaps the connection that was made once can be made again and a little good food can bring everyone back to their senses.
For my kids, I just wanted to make another memory, because their memories are just as important as what I told my wife about connecting with her dad and brothers. Those to whom we say "I love you" are high priority. So I went beyond the margarita pizza and added mushrooms and grilled chicken. I want them to remember it beyond dessert. They heated the leftovers up the next morning for breakfast, actually. Very satisfying as their chef.
Hopefully my father in law will be ok, of course we all wish he wasn't dealing with nurses and IV's. Most likely the food is nutritious but ... well let's just say if he gets out of there alive he'll probably not have fond memories of the onion broth they call soup.
Here's a picture of the pizza I served up the other night. Margarita pizza is easy to make. Hit me with an email if you'd like the recipe.