America’s love affair with pizza: in the beginning...

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Pizza.

Admit it – you’ve just gone all melty inside: exactly like the mozzarella on top of your favorite sausage and pepperoni pie.

Pizza has been a lifelong American cultural icon for all but our most senior readers. First offered at a few big-city Italian restaurants at the turn of the 20th century, pizza started to come into its own at Chicago’s Pizzeria Uno – the first restaurant built around this “foreign dish” – in 1943.

Nationally franchised takeout pizza was born in the heart of Boomer childhood; Pizza Hut in 1958, Little Caesars in 1959, and Domino’s in 1960. And from then on, pizza was an established part of the American culinary landscape.

But what about homemade pizza? When did Americans start making their own pizza at home, from scratch, rather than piling into the Studebaker to drive down to the pizza parlor for takeout?

According to my favorite food-history source, The Food Timeline, the first known American cookbook pizza recipe appeared in 1936, in Specialita Culinarie Italiane, 137 Tested Recipes of Famous Italian Foods.

But it wasn’t until nearly 10 years later that pizza made it out of its niche Italian category, and into the American mainstream.

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Ah, 1945. American GI’s were coming home from Europe, and some of them returned with a new-found love for Italian food – such as pizza, at that time a treat available only at Italian restaurants. But if America’s husbands and sons wanted pizza, pizza they’d have – and wives everywhere started searching for pizza recipes.

Pizza wasn’t yet in mainstream cookbooks like Joy of Cooking – the “Bible” of that era.

But magazines? The August, 1945 issue of Gourmet magazine – at that time just 5 years old – featured Miss Rheingold inside the front cover; and this recipe in the reader request section:

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Apparently, in trying to envision an American “pizza pie,” Gourmet‘s recipe writers started with pie plates and pie pastry (or biscuit dough, as an option).

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And the filling? These “authentic” Italian ingredients: salami and anchovies, garlic and olives. Tomatoes, and “Italian cheese.”

I had a hard time imagining salami and anchovies playing nicely together, so decided I’d best make the recipe and judge for myself.

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“Six individual 4″ pies,” the recipe says. Well, who has six 4″ pie plates?

Bingo! Our hamburger bun pan makes six 4″ pies – apple, berry… or pizza.

Since biscuit dough is SO easy, especially when you use self-rising flour, I chose that over pie pastry. Starting with 3 cups self-rising flour, I added 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 cup light cream, enough to make a dough that was soft, yet not too sticky to roll.

I divided the dough into 6 pieces; rolled them out; nestled them into the pan.

Next, I deconstructed the filling. “3 large, ripe, red tomatoes” – how large? I hazarded a guess that  tomatoes back then weren’t as large as they are now, and decided on a pound of tomatoes: which is probably 2 large tomatoes (or 7 plum tomatoes, which is what I bought since they were on sale).

Everything into a bowl. Chop-chop. Mounded into the crusts (which I’d baked a couple of minutes to “set,” as directed – though in retrospect, this step seems unnecessary; it didn’t even melt the butter).

pizza6The recipe’s called-for 15 to 18 minutes in a 350°F oven turned into 25 to 30 minutes at 400°F.

And the result?

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Surprisingly tasty.

Rather than being overwhelmingly “anchovy-ish,” the fish simply added welcome saltiness.The tomatoes softened, the cheese melted, and all in all, these were nice little quiche/pizza clones. Not something I’d make on a regular basis; but if you like food history, they’re an interesting trip.

pizza7By 1954, the first yeast-crust pizzas were making an appearance, as evidenced in The Betty Furness Westinghouse Cookbook.

Wait a minute – you’ve never heard of Betty Furness?

I definitely want this refrigerator…

And you know what? Betty’s pizza was pretty darned good…

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…despite its canned soup sauce.

Check out the printed recipe above. Notice that accent in “orégano”? This ubiquitous herb was considered a new and “dashing” ingredient in American kitchens back then, having only recently made its way over from Italy – like pizza.

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Since Betty, like Gourmet, is thinking of pizza as pie, I figured I’d best use my oldest pie pan – this yard-sale treasure, gifted to me from my fellow blogger, MJ.

pizza8As for the crust – hot roll mix?

It’s still around today; a glance at the label ingredients, and it was an easy replication:

3 ¾ cups (15 ¾ ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 large egg
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
1 cup lukewarm water

Mix everything together, knead, let rise for an hour or so, and there you have it: 1 package hot roll mix, prepared.

From that point on, the recipe is a cinch to follow. Divide the roll mix in thirds; roll each piece about 1/8″ thick; and place in 9″ pie pans (don’t bother greasing the pans). Do, however, brush the crusts with olive oil – because, why not? It’ll help them brown, and adds both crispness, and flavor.

Next: that totally ’50s filling.

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Condensed tomato soup, made Italian by adding “orégano” and garlic.

Cheddar cheese.

That’s it. Although I wasn’t sure about yellow vs. white cheddar, or thick vs. thin-sliced. So I tried both. The white cheddar won.

Thirty minutes in a 425°F oven was just right.

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That’s a good-looking kind-of-pizza, isn’t it?

pizza10And it’s surprisingly tasty, too.

Though the filling-to-crust ratio skews towards the crust side, the tomato soup is a good choice: thick, rich tasting, not at all acidic but rather nicely/barely sweet.

And while the quarter-pound of cheddar on each pizza did exude quite a bit of oil as it baked, said excess oil was easily sopped up with a paper towel before serving.

Verdict: I’d definitely make these again. My husband and his fellow trail volunteers absolutely devoured them – chainsaws momentarily silenced, replaced by happy munching.

Next: at last – a flat, round pizza!

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This 1961 recipe comes from a cookbook featuring Amy Vanderbilt, “the nation’s foremost etiquette authority.”

(I wonder who 2014′s foremost etiquette authority is? Methinks America used to put a lot more emphasis on etiquette.)

Well, we’ve progressed from Gourmet’s “pastry or biscuit dough;” but as far as a yeast-based crust, we’ve regressed from 1954′s hot roll mix, back to biscuits – more’s the pity.

But it’s understandable: this era is all about convenience, and Bisquick (“packaged biscuit mix”) had been the busy housewife’s best friend since the 1930s.

Pizza with a Bisquick crust? Sounds like ’60s home ec to me.

Thankfully, I was able to use 2 cups of our own King Arthur Flour Baking Mix. The 2/3 cup milk called for in Amy’s recipe brought the dough together just fine.

IMG_3496And the topping: oh, my, we’re back to anchovies and meat – canned pork sausage (dare I think Vienna?). I substituted half a pound of cooked, crumbled breakfast sausage.

We’ve also progressed from tomato soup, to tomato sauce. Orégano – complete with its Continental é – is back. But talk about regression: cheddar cheese, make way for for Velveeta!

pizza11I rummaged through my “veteran” pans once again, and pulled out my mom’s Appian Way pizza pan – which must be 50 years old. I’ll bet it was bright silver to begin with – but its well-earned darker color yields a lovely, crisp crust.

From here, it’s easy as pie: divide the dough in half, roll each half into a circle, and place on your pans.

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`Top with sausage, then cheese, then tomato sauce, which you’ve combined with the anchovies and oregano.

A bit different order than we’re used to, eh?

Bake as directed: about 18 minutes at 425°F.

IMG_3486Crumbly/tender biscuit crust, anchovy-laced tomato sauce, processed American cheese… As I said, home ec pizza! Though I’m sure the home ec kitchen at my alma mater, Central Junior High in Hingham, MA, never, ever saw a can of anchovies.

Would I make this again?

No. Sorry, Amy – I faded away somewhere between the odd crust and the processed cheese.

But did it disappear anyway? Of course. Hot bread and melted cheese, even when it’s biscuits and Velveeta, is hard to resist.

So, that completes our journey through the early days of homemade American pizza. What’s your favorite childhood pizza memory? Please share in comments, below.

I couldn’t resist leaving you with a photo of another “historic American” pizza:

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The original Italian restaurant pizza (also pictured at the very top of this post): early 20th century New York/New Haven super-thin-crust pizza, topped with marinara; mozzarella or Romano; garlic and, as an option, sliced tomatoes. Our recipe for Thin-Crust Pizza is a worthy clone.

Next month: Read how Betty, Amy, anchovies, and cream of tomato soup give way to Jeremiah, Alice, Wolfgang – and smoked salmon, goat cheese, and artichokes. Don’t miss our next installment in America’s Love Affair with Pizza: the ’70s-’80s revolution.

 

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. waikikirie

    My Dad used to drink Rheingold. As a matter of fact, I believe we had that beer tray as well. (Or maybe it was another brand from that era).
    While I was growing up in the Bronx, we didn’t have too many chain restaurants. McDonalds showed in the mid/later 70′s in my section. We had great pizza though!!! Everyone had a favorite place. Who made thick crust, who did thin, who did “white”, whose Sicilian was the best…..it was pizza heaven!!
    There was a pizza pie mix that I saw on TV (Kraft?) and begged my Mom to make. She did. Once. That was all it took. I guess when you are “raised” on superior pizza, nothing less will do.
    Thanks for the stroll down memory lane PJ……xoxoxo

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      And thanks for the stroll down YOUR memory lane, Waikikirie! That’s another thing younger folks don’t “get” – McDonald’s was a sometime treat. We’d drive what seemed like forever to get to the only one in our area, maybe a couple of times a year. Glad you enjoyed a “great pizza” childhood. PJH

    2. J Hack

      Thank you for that hilarious discussion of early American pizza! We did have boxed Appian Way pizza when we first had it. I didn’t like it, and wondered about the hoopla when pizza became more popular. Pizza now is one of my favorite meals, and I do make it from scratch. My daughter gave me Crust and Crumb, a bread cookbook by Peter Rhinehart, and he has two pizza crusts which I use, one is a very wet dough, and the other a more typical bread dough which is easier to work with. Cook’s Illustrated also had an article about Chicago pizza a few years back, and that was also very good. Thanks.

  2. Ann Goldman

    Wonderful article, it’s cold outside today, warming the house with home made pizza may hit the spot. Thank you!

    Reply
  3. cwcdesign

    Something weird just happened so I will try to post again. I got a page that said I was posting my comment too quickly. Slow down. Then I came back and hit post comment and the post disappeared. I will try to reconstruct my post.

    PJ, Back in the early 60′s we made English Muffin Pizzas. Thomas’ English Muffins – were there any other kind? – spread with tomato paste, sprinkled with oregano and then a slice of cheese – whatever we had on hand – Swiss, American and even “Monster” (Muenster) cheese. We may have even had the Kraft Parmesan to sprinkle. Then under the broiler – a DIY snack for kids.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Carol, that happens sometimes when there are a lot of comments coming in at once, as there seem to be today – sorry about that! We still have those “English muffin pizzas” today, when I’m tired of thinking of dinner – a couple of those and a salad are a nice throwback. Hope you’re well and didn’t get too pounded with that storm this past week – PJH

    2. cwcdesign

      PJ, I’m now on the coast of Georgia, so missed the Atlanta ice and the NE Blizzard. It’s chilly here, but not too bad. It looked like the Cape was getting hit hard – did you make it through OK?

    3. PJ Hamel , post author

      Oh, glad you missed it, Carol. We did get hit hard – HEAVY snow, and lots of it. Looks like a postcard now, but a pain to move out of the driveway. Still, no damage, so we’ll just sit back and enjoy it (from inside). :) PJH

  4. candela_59

    Love your article! My Grandfather worked at Rheingold and my oldest sister was a contestant in the “Miss Rheingold Prettiest Baby” in the early 1950′s! That picture sure brought back memories. :)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      “My beer is Rheingold, the dry beer” – right? I didn’t realize they had a “baby Rheingold” contest, too – sweet! PJH

  5. Jamie Haynes

    I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this article. Loved the photos, the cookbook reproductions, and especially the “antique” pans. Can’t wait for part 2. Thanks, too, for the New Haven shout out…

    Best,

    J. Haynes
    New London, CT

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Jamie, you might even have had New Haven pizza, eh? I never had – was trying to replicate from descriptions and Google images… Thanks for your kind words – PJH

  6. Quinn

    This is the first time I can say the idea of making pizza is making me sad…my beautiful new-in-2005 oven just died. It may be quite a while before I can repair or replace it. I am already missing baking!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Aw, Quinn – that’s sad. Did you know you can make try making pizza in a pan on top of the stove, though? Use this cast iron pan method, but instead of baking at the end, turn the heat waaaay down, cover, and bake over the burner. Worth a try, eh? PJH

  7. Pat

    As a child of the 60s, our “homemade” pizza consisted of an English muffin, topped with a spoonful of spaghetti sauce, and a slice of American cheese. Exotic for the day, I suppose. At least it wasn’t a TV dinner, complete with a spongy brownie and the worst corn ever. I’m not missing 60s food, although it was easier to be thin when the food was lousy. :)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Pat, we had those English muffin “pizzas,” too – my husband’s family called them “pizzettes.” Exotic for the day, indeed. And I remember those Swanson dinners in the aluminum tray – no microwave, of course. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, that corn, and some kind of apple crisp. I actually ate a lot of those in college… PJH

  8. David Champion

    Now you’ve done it…!!!

    Ms. PJ this is to me the best spread you have published…I had to stop and look at it…ACTUALL…read it!!
    What a trip down memory lane…sights and challenges for my brick ovens to dig into.
    Thank you and keep it up.
    David

    PS:
    If you ever make it down to zip 78504 you can maybe hear the latest gun battle across the Rio Grande River :)!!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Gun battle across the Rio Grande, David? I think I’d best stay where I am, and listen to the snowplows rumbling past outside! Thanks for your kinds words, though – PJH

  9. Sqqzieq

    Loved the piece on pizza! Having grown up during the early years of the pizza love affair, my mother made our first pizza with the hot roll mix for the crust. Now, years later (I am now 70+) when I get together with my good friends from that era, one of the sure topics of conversation is that the first pizza they ever had was my mom’s! Thanks for the memories!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      I wonder how many kids today remember their first pizza? It’s not as “special” now as it was then, I’d imagine… PJH

  10. Sara N.

    Growing up in the 60′s, we almost always had homemade pizza on Saturday nights – made from a Chef-Boy-R-Dee boxed mix. The box had a yeast dough crust mix which had to raise for about 20 minutes, a can of pizza sauce that was surprisingly spicy for the time, and a small can of grated cheese. My mother added mozzarella slices and pepperoni and we loved it! I don’t think I had pizza from a restaurant until the mid-60′s.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sara, so many of us had that ’60s boxed pizza mix experience – must have been a Boomer childhood staple, eh? Thanks for sharing here – PJH

    2. Peg

      Oh yes! The boxed mix was our only pizza also. Mom added sliced hot dogs, pieces of meatloaf, or whatever leftover meat was in the fridge. And not a shred of mozzarella in sight! Then my sister and I started going to the local pizza place (Shakeys Pizza Parlor) with our friends, and we never turned back! Thank you Shakeys!!!

      Peg

    3. Marva H.

      Our first family experience with pizza was in the ’50s, it was from a box of Chef-Boy-R-Dee also. We were so excited until Mom started baking it, the smell was very different, but we gave it a try and have been eating pizza ever since.

  11. Vicki Doyle

    PJ – I absolutely love your column. I think my (first quarter) New Years Resolution – made at this moment – is to take the time to enjoy this blog more often, especially if you wrote it. What a fun look back at pizza. I do remember those pizzas that came completely from the box. My “American” neighbors ate those and I was so jealous. My family is Italian, we knew real pizza. My mother made focaccia and frittata before they became trendy.

    I look forward to the next installment – thanks for such a delightful read with morning coffee.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Vicki, thanks so much for your kind words. I’ll bet you didn’t realize your mom was way ahead of the times with her focaccia and frittata, eh? :) My husband is Italian (despite our name), and my MIL laughs at “polenta” – “We just called it cornmeal mush, and it wasn’t anything special!” Glad we could enliven your Sunday morning coffee- PJH

  12. Sharyn Hill

    What a trip down memory lane. As a baby boomer I walked with you every step. Now I know when pizza entered our lives. My mom was a fabulous cook and was always trying the latest recipes. Give us more recipe food history. You did a fabulous job on this article!

    Reply
  13. Cynthia Pebbles

    Thank you! I thoroughly enjoyed this trip down memory lane. The use of tomato soup surprised me, but the pizza looked pretty good! I might have to give that one a try. I’m looking forward to next month’s installment of the pizza story :-)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Cynthia, I was totally surprised at how good the pizza tasted. It was a bit odd in that the crust edges were huge and the filling made a kind of lake in the center – but as I said, it definitely disappeared quickly. And the next installment will see pizza getting a LOT more interesting. PJH

  14. marileecm

    My mother will be 97 tomorrow and I remember that a can of tomato soup made its way into her spaghetti sauce and probably some other recipes.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      It’s true, Marilee, that and cream of mushroom, cream of celery, and cream of chicken were basic building blocks in a lot of casserole and sauce recipes back then. Happy birthday to your mom! Will her cake have 97 candles? My MIL turned 93 last year, and I made two cakes just to hold all the candles! PJH

    2. Rockycat

      And don’t forget “Barbecue” chicken. My mother make a sort of baked barbecue chicken with the red & white can of tomato soup. I’ve even tried to get the recipe from Campbell’s but no dice. Ah, the 1960′s.

    3. PJ Hamel , post author

      Did you Google it, Rockycat? I’ve had good luck Googling old recipes… Or, I wonder if it might have been in a Betty Crocker book? PJH

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Here you go, Averyclaire – Gluten-Free Pizza Crust. Use the crust, then add any toppings you like. I wasn’t ignoring our GF bakers – but back in the ’50s-’60s, which is the focus of this article, there wasn’t any GF pizza to be had. Enjoy – PJH

  15. Dick of Northern New Hampshire

    PJ, loved reading your pizza research project report and love your sense of humor. I’m 69 years old and have been making vegetarian pizza for probably thirty years now from a KitchenAid recipe. Thank you for your good work and entertaining report!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      You just never get tired of it, do you, Dick? There’s something about hot bread, melting cheese, and happy memories that gives pizza a permanent place in the Homemade Hall of Fame. :) PJH

  16. Deedra

    What a great article and trip down memory lane. I grew up in the 50s in Iowa and remember well the first (and only) pizza place in our town while I was growing up. What I also remember fondly, somewhere in there we were introduced to boxed Chef Boyardee pizza kits with their little envelopes of dry bad, salty cheese. It was great fun at slumber parties and family game nights. At the time, they were really quite good and you could feel exotic and experiment with various ingredients and toppings.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Totally with you, Deedra – back in the day, those boxed mixes were quite exciting, esp. compared to the usual meat/potatoes/vegetable/Jell-O. I remember pizza and popcorn in the same category – something special on a weekend. Thanks for your memories here – PJH

  17. Karen Dade

    Loved going down pizza-memory lane with you! My earliest memory of hearing the word “pizza” comes from an elementary school carnival in the mid-fifties in Bay Village, OH. I wondered to my father “what is pizza?” He said it was garbage on a pie crust and I couldn’t have any. Later on, however, I grew to love pizza from a little pizzeria in town named Rosie’s Pizza.

    Karen in Bay

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Aw, Karen – “garbage on pie crust?” – glad you didn’t take his words to heart. Pizza is something that unites so many of us, though as I mentioned, probably not the generation just ahead, since it was unknown to them growing up. Here’s to more Rosie’s Pizza [insert your favorite pizzeria- mine was Maria’s) memories; and to 21st-century homemade! PJH

  18. Anita

    This was fascinating! Seeing those old recipes really takes me back to my early days of learning to cook. My mother was a Home Ec teacher, so we had plenty of cookbooks. I made a lot of Chef Boyardee pizzas- there was an actual yeast dough mix in the Pizza Kit – that probably gave me the incentive to start making yeast breads at 9 years old. Looking forward to the next articles in this series-

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Anita, I’ll bet the Chef Boy-Ar-Dee pizza was a lot like Appian Way. I remember a bag of flour, a packet of yeast, a can of tomato sauce, and a packet of cheese of some sort… Like you, that was my introduction to homemade pizza. We’ve come a long way since then, eh? PJH

  19. DON HANNA

    my first pizza was from box of jeno,’s pizza mix complete with a 1/2 oz. package of parmesan cheese. I thought man can I improve this.

    Reply
  20. sdpfeiffy

    Growing up in the heartland in the 70s, homemade pizza was always thawed frozen bread dough, canned tomato sauce, and browned hamburger all topped with velveeta. The best homemade pizza, of course, was school lunch pizza which sometimes featured mozzarella instead of American cheese. (Also was homemade, nothing prepackaged except for the sliced bread and milk.)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      I’d forgotten school lunch pizza – you always made sure to bring your 25¢ that day, didn’t you? PJH

    2. Spiffindor

      Ah..memories of school pizza…the reason why to this day I still love a glass of cold milk with my slice (some might call it sacrilege…I call it comfort food). I remember first having English muffin pizzas when my Mom made them for a Halloween party that we had in junior high…they were devoured. Summer Friday evenings when Dad got paid often meant a trip down to Pizza City in Howard Beach, Queens, NY. The little pizzeria in Woodhaven that we stopped at to pick up a pie for supper after my piano lesson is still there…but, sadly, the Italian bakery down Jamaica Ave. that baked my Mom’s favorite Sicilian pizza is gone. Thanks for the memories….

    3. PJ Hamel , post author

      So many pizza memories we all have! My first is the Appian Way from a box, and I don’t think my mom gussied it up at all – we still loved it. My best pizza memory, though, might be the $1.25 garlic pizzas my hub and I used to get at Matt’s Villa in Holbrook, MA, while we were dating – gone now, and a Walgreen’s on the site. $1.00 for a cheese pizza, $1.25 for the garlic cheese – and we thought we were riding high, spending that extra 25¢! :) PJH

  21. Jann Johnson

    Hi PJ, Your pizza blog is especially fascinating to this boomer. We were a military family and canned food was our staple–it could be shipped anywhere. Spinach in a can–no problem.

    A pizza “kit” was a treat and I started making it for our family of four in the fourth grade. I served it with a slice of iceberg lettuce and dressing made from a mix. No wonder we were slim!

    I’ve noticed the amounts of garlic and spice in recipes has grown tremendously over the years. Food is a most mesmerizing subject–thanks for your research and testing!

    Jann

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Jann, I SO remember canned spinach – just like Popeye, right? It was something I absolutely couldn’t stand, and my mom would make me sit at the table, long after everyone else had left, until I ate it. After that start, I’m surprised that I really like fresh spinach, which we eat a lot. And those Good Seasons salad dressing mixes definitely had a spot in our cupboard. So much of what we grew up with was “convenience,” but did introduce us to the art of food prep, eh? PJH

  22. Mary S.

    Ahhhh, I have to wait an entire MONTH???? What a wonderful history of pizza.
    Courageous of you to eat pizza on a biscuit!! I’ll be eagerly waiting for your next installment.
    m

    Reply
  23. Carol Francis

    I loved the article it was great. It was nice seeing the old pie plates I remember Table Talk Pies and the old cook books what a great article and the way pizza was started way back to many years to remember tomato soup pizza. But I wonder when I was growing up after school we always went to the bakery and bought pizza. The crust and what ever sauce they use is still being made today. I still go to the bakery and buy pizza by the strip. You can by bakery pizza only in Rhode Island I haven’t been able to find it any where else. I now live in the South and every time I visit family in New England I go and get a box of bakery pizza. delish.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Carol, luckily there’s bakery pizza all through Boston’s North End – some of my best memories are of Galleria Umberto, a basement bakery, where the big rectangular sheet pans of pizza just kept coming out of the oven to the counter, where they were quickly snatched up by enthusiastic pizza aficionados. Simple: thick crust, tomato sauce, cheese, baked until deep golden brown. Ummm….. Enjoy your next trip to The Ocean State! PJH

  24. Kathy H.

    We would occasionally make the ‘box mix’ pizzas at home when I was a kid. Blech. I’ve tried pre-made crusts from the store, and the dough setting on my bread machine. Never been very happy with the results. My mom used to make pizzas in the kitchen of a local bar, and we would often beg to get one… now I realize those ‘treats’ probably used up much of her pay. Also, interesting how our take-out tastes have changed over the years… from local mom-and-pop joints, to Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Old Chicago, Papa Murphy’s, on & on. We are currently back to Pizza Hut (great improvements to pan pizza crust). Lastly, now that I am becoming a more ‘seasoned’ bread maker, my family LOVES my home-made calzones… but I still haven’t been brave enough to go back & try pizza again. You are giving me encouragement, PJ. Thanks! (whew)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Kathy, DO try making pizza again – please! I think our Now or Later crust, made in the bread machine if you like, is a great place to start. And I agree about Pizza Hut – I’ve always been a fan. Enjoy – PJH

  25. Justin Sherrill

    More history articles like this, please.It’s fun to see the evolution of the old recipes, especially when that means you don’t have to make it yourself. Some of those older recipes… ew.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Well, as I mentioned, Justin, the Betty Furness I’d make again, for a “Throwback Thursday” kind of thing. The other two? Hmmm, maybe not. :) PJH

  26. Margaret O'Keefe

    I grew up near this pizza place called Lynwood Pizza in Randolph, MA. The crust was unlike all other crusts. I was just wondering if any pizza lovers out there know what makes their crust so different.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Margaret, I’ve actually been to Lynwood Pizza, albeit many, many moons ago. I think – and there’s no basis in fact here, just my guess – the crust was more of a deep-dish style crust, with cornmeal and butter, which gives it a kind of “biscuity” feel. Try the crust from our deep-dish pizza recipe – hopefully it comes close to Lynwood’s. Enjoy – PJH

  27. gigi

    what a wonderful article. I had forgotten about the “homemade pizza” my mother used to make. Since it was bready,cheesy and sloppy, we had no idea just how god awful it was. I’m so thankful I now live in a world with so many more choices and where oregano isn’t considered exotic.

    Reply
  28. Susan in Newburyport

    LOVE this! My son and I always joke that even bad pizza is good! Yep, hot bread and melty cheese… Love the history here, the great old clips, and your sense of humor. So fun to see the evolution of America’s take on one of mankind’s greatest inventions. (Thank you, Italy!) I can’t wait for your next installment.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Susan, I’m with you – I’ve only ever had one slice of pizza I considered inedible, and out of a lifetime of pizza consumption, that’s saying something! PJH

  29. mumpy

    loving this memory lane article!…we used to make a pizza every saturday night to eat while we watched “Gunsmoke”…it was considered a snack, not a meal….biscuit crust, velveeta and stewed tomatoes from a can, though i have no idea where my mother got that idea, rather than tomato soup…..and betty furness?…sure, though my father despised her since she represented the competition….he was a long time employee of Philco (another forgotten name)…thanks for the food history info!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Philco – hadn’t thought of that brand in years, but yes, big back then. Maybe the stewed tomatoes were more “upscale” than plain old sauce? :) PJH

  30. barb

    so much fun. I’m a boomer and boy did that bring back memories my mom also used the box mix on occasion but when we had the extra money we went to a real pizza joint Jim’s pizzeria. can’t wait for next month. Then lets have some of those unbelievable jello recipes from the 50′s and 60′s. something good did come from the war

    Reply
  31. Larry Clement

    I joined the Navy in ’59 and made a few trips to Italy during my 7 1/2 years. We used to get small pizza pies( just the crust and tomatoe sauce) served as the bread with our meals in Itialan resturants. No cheese but still very tasty.

    Reply
  32. debj

    Thanks for the nostalgia! I confess to making the ‘just add water’ pizza crust in a box as a teenager, I think it was called ‘Appian Way’ or something like that… Now, I have quite a pizza repertoire, thanks to you folks at KA flour! My current favorite is your recipe for ‘Blitz Pizza Crust’. Almost as easy as takeout and a great way to use up bits of leftover ‘whatever’ as toppings… good with a tomato/red sauce, but yummy with a white cheese sauce too. It always gets tons of compliments!

    Reply
  33. heatherjanemcc@aol.com

    PJ, what a fun post! I’m a big fan of vintage cookbooks and I love blog posts that explore some of those recipes. I especially like that you made the recipes as written, since so many of us have a tendency to adapt older or community recipes to modern tastes and ingredients. It’s really fun to see which ones work–and I’m definitely going to give Betty Furness’s pie a try! Thanks for filling my Sunday morning with cheer.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Nothing like Betty (and that awesome frozen juice concentrate fridge) to put a smile on your face, eh? :) PJH

  34. Ron

    Have never eaten in a chain pizzeria and never will. Growing up on Long Island we did not have those chain pizza places, only wonderful local pizza places. My Parents used to rent a house to the owner of a local pizza place and so if I went into the place after school he did not even charge me for a slice of pizza. i was always in heaven. I also loved the thick sicilian pizza that he made but favorite was the thin crust with pepperoni on it. this was in the early 60s. The only time my mother would make pizza at home was the english muffin pizzas, which were actually quite tasty. not real pizza though. Nowadays living in Tucson, only one great pizza place aptly named Brooklyn pizza. But, mostly I make my own. especially pepperoni or White pizza with ricotta cheese and broccoli and mozzarella . I love pizza, will never stop eating it. I have even been to the first Pizzeria in the U.S. Lombardi’s on Mott St. in Manhattan.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Ron, I was just reading about Lombardi’s, while doing this post – apparently the first pizzas cost 5¢! Those were the days, eh? And I’m with you – I will never, ever tire of pizza. Thanks for connecting ehre – PJH

  35. Pam

    Loved the old recipes, cookbooks and pans – my memory of pizza is also of Chef Boy Ar Dee and Appian Way pizza kits – at the time we thought they were terrific! My mom had an Appian Way pizza pan that looked much like the one you showed. Love pizza and make it a home a lot, doing it on the grill to avoid heating the kitchen (live in AZ). The grill adds a nice smoky flavor.

    Reply
  36. Mary D

    Growing up in the ’60s, my father made pizza every Saruday night, without fail! Always hot Italian sausage (simmered on the stove before skinning and crumbling on top of the pie), always mozzarella (cut up into little cubes so it could be evenly distributed), always tomato sauce. (Parmesan was for sprinkling afterward, not for cooking the pie.) Most of the time he made a yeast dough. Occasionally he’d make a Bisquick-based dough “just for a change,” or when we (oops!) ran out of yeast – we liked it, but went right back to yeasted dough the next week. We did try the Chef Boy-Ar-Dee pizza in a box (adding the regularly scheduled suasage and mozzarella, along with Pop’s Secret Ingredient, and holding off the grated cheese until after baking) and decided it was OK as an Emergency Pizza.

    Pop’s secret ingredient? The water used to simmer the sausages! He used that instead of tap water for the dough, whether it was yeast or Bisquick. He poured it out into a measuring cup, added enough tap water to make enough water for the dough, and proofed the yeast in it, sitting the cup on the stove over the pilot light. There was just enough oil rendered from the sausages’ fat to make the dough “just right”, and he always put oregano in the dough, too. Ah, the memories!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Mary, that sounds SOOO good! My Italian MIL used to simmer sausage, then use the water in her sauce; why throw all that flavor away. Bet you could go for a piece of Pop’s pizza right now, eh? PJH

  37. Kay Fletcher

    As another baby-boomer in a large family, we seldom went out to eat, so pizza at an Italian restaurant was a treat. At home it was biscuit crust pizza. I still remember when Chef Boyardee came out with a boxed pizza and it’s own little yeast packet. These days I use KAF perfect pizza flour and my favorite pizza is Margherita with three ingredients–tomato, basil and mozzarella. Sauce? No thank you.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Kay, I usually eschew sauce, too – though I admit to the occasional white cheese sauce, underneath roast potatoes, or spinach and mushrooms. Margherita is the “original” Neapolitan pizza, so you’re in synch with history. :) PJH

  38. Dolores R. Lubenesky

    I am 80 and grew up in Pa.. Back than we had an Italian Restaurant that was known for their Tomato Pie. My Mother used to make our own Tomato Pie just like the Italian Restaurant. She made her own raised pizza dough from scratch, and used a can of Italian Plum Tomatoes, which she cut into pieces. She laid them on the dough after spreading some olive oil on the dough. Salt and Pepper and laid slices of Pear cheese on top of tomatoes. Baked till melted and brown. We got our Pear cheese from an Italian cheese store that actually looked some what like a pear and it hung from the ceiling of the store with a cord string wrapped around it. I loved walking down memory lane with you. Can’t wait for the next one.

    Reply
  39. Mary Jordan

    I grew up in the San Fernando Valley in the ’50′s and way out of town and had little exposure to “ethnic” foods. Nor was it encouraged. Imagine the culinary delight when I moved to LA in the 70′s. Italian , Chinese, Mexican !!! Who knew? Pizza has been a favorite ever since. Thanks

    Reply
  40. Rebecca Shannon

    I’ve got two of those Appian Way pizza pans and I use them regularly. They were my mom’s and she had them before I was born so I know the pans are at least 60 years old. I remember cookies being baked on them as well as the occasional Chef Boy-ar-dee kit pizza. I didn’t realize the pans were part of a kit. I thought they had held the early version of frozen pizza. The Boiardi family established their factory in Milton, Pa in 1938, just up the road from where I grew up. They were able to grow tomatoes adjacent to the factory – miles and miles and acres and acres of tomato fields. In high school I ran around with Ettore’s granddaughter. Later, I purchased a house just across from one of those fields and never had to grow tomatoes in my own garden. Unfortunately, during the years I lived there I watched the field go from tomatoes to corn and soy to no-till-plenty-of-weedkiller-spraying farming to development. Now Con Agra owns Boyardee’s and buys in all their ingredients. The Boy-ar-dee plant is also home to Fiddle Faddle (like Cracker Jack) and Diablo Hot Mustard.

    Reply
    1. Nell

      That was a fascinating slice (pardon the expression) of history! Imagine growing the tomatoes yourself, right next door to the factory! Must have made for really fresh and home-made tasting sauce.

  41. Bobbye Horton

    I have a Pizza Express pizza ‘oven’ from Napoli…had it for years. This is what I use when I make my homemande pizza…they come out great. Now, my question…I’ve recently bought the KAF parchment paper. My question is…can I bake the pizza on the parchment in the Express? Would the paper burn? Not being used to using parchment wanted the go ahead before I ruined the pizza and everything else. Thanks for any advice….

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Bobbye, I’m not familiar with the Pizza Express, but from its name I assume it would get too hot – you don’t want to use parchment over 500°F or so. Does that help? PJH

  42. Lyn from Lancaster, PA

    I am another born and bred New Yorker. Grew up in the ’50′s, in Queens, and we had pizza every week, at the little local Italian restaurant. I remember shopping around, trying different pizzas from Italian restaurants. Then, after marriage, DH was getting his PhD, and we were too poor to afford restaurant pizza of any type, so I got tiles and made my own from some yeast recipe. I already made bread, so this was not a difficult step. Saturday night pizza became a staple with the family, eventually 5 of us, for years and years. Now the kids are gone, and we get the pizza from the local shop, but every once in a while I make a Chicago style pizza, but with KA white whole wheat flour. A favorite with all. Pizza has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, which goes back to 1953.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Thanks for sharing your pizza history, Lyn – sounds like you were an early adapter, indeed! PJH

  43. Katy J.

    So interesting! I grew up in San Diego where there was a large “Little Italy” population, and my first memory of pizza was after high school football games in the 60′s at a well known Italian restaurant. I’ve been making home made pizza for a number of years now, and never knew this history. I’m currently using the last of my ‘no knead’ dough in the fridge for a thin crust, anything goes, version. Thanks for all the history! And who knew, tomato soup!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      That no-knead dough makes wonderful, chewy pizza crust, doesn’t it, Katy? Enjoy – PJH

  44. Lorraine Fina Stevenski

    PJ…I love old recipes and their history. You really dug up some great pizza nostalgia! Can’t wait to read more. I grew up on Long Island, NY and my Italian grandfather grew wonderful tomatoes and fresh basil in his garden. On Sunday nights, we would make homemade pizza dough (flour and yeast) and top it with fresh tomato sauce, basil and fresh mozzarella from the Italian shop down the street. We used half sheet pans to make our “Sicilian” style pizza. Grandpa would always say cook a few more minutes” to make a crispy crust. I now make my pizza dough in my food processor in 5 minutes and produce a delicious crust I use either for thin crust or Sicilian style pizza. King Arthur Flour is always the best! I sure do miss the family gatherings and the delicious food that was made in our kitchen. Thanks for the memories PJ.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      And thank YOU for the memories, too, Lorraine – my mouth is watering! Thanks, also, for your positive presence on Facebook. Enjoy your Sunday – PJH

  45. Joan Helm

    Our mother started making homemade pizza when I was a child in the late 50′s and early 60′s. She used the Fleischman’s Yeast recipe for the dough and the sauce. Since we lived in a small town in central Iowa, the only sausage she could find besides ground pork was a smokies link during those early years of making them. She made homemade pizzas every Christmas Eve which our family still does today and we make sure we have one with smokies on it.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Smokies, eh, Joan? I think the equivalent here is probably smoked kielbasa. I actually smoked some sausage on the grill last summer, but didn’t think to put it on pizza – more’s the pity! Thanks for sharing here – PJH

  46. Barbara Lauterbach

    P.J., You have outdone yourself! What a great trip! I still have Amy’s cookbook, (yes, I’m that old), related to so many of your observations, and what fun to read everyone’s replies.
    Thanks so much. See what being snowed in can produce?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Barbara, that’s high praise indeed, coming from an Italian cuisine maven such as yourself – I’m honored! Though perhaps Amy, Betty, and even Gourmet weren’t offering quite the “authentic” Italian experience, back in the day. So – did you know Amy was America’s etiquette authority? Back when that mattered, and white gloves at church were de rigueur? And yes indeed, we’re totally snowed in – HEAVY shoveling today… sigh. When’s the next flight to Sri Lanka? :) PJH

  47. Holly Larson

    Many memories in this posting! Especially the tomato soup sauce which my relatives used to make most anything that was a “red” sauce. Our family’s recipe was devised by my mom and since we lived in Montana it was called “Cowboy Pizza”. It consisted mostly of biscuit dough with cooked ground beef, onions, tomato soup and a lot of cheddar cheese. It was a Sunday night favorite along with watching Disneyland and eating off of TV trays. No “foreign” spices for my Mom! Salt and pepper was about her only spices for the rest of her days.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Ah, yes, watching Disneyland – the highlight of the week, Holly, wasn’t it? I can relate to that Cowboy Pizza, too – I’d forgotten my mom would add ground hamburger to the toppings (so long as it wasn’t Friday, which is when we usually had pizza)… Thanks for sharing here – PJH

  48. Susan Kitchin

    I remember my older sister using Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee pizza mixes, when I was in my middle teens in the mid to late 60s. I thought it was so cool, and exotic! I think the first restaurant pizza I ever had was in Colorado Springs, in 1969, when we went there for my brother’s graduation from the AF Academy. I had gone up with another family, a few days before mine arrived, and my brother took me to a place in town. It was a thick crust, with a lot stuff on top and it was great!
    I learned, long ago, to do a yummy pizza crust using my Cuisinart food processor, but sometimes, we just do a frozen ‘rising crust’ pizza, when we’re all too tired to cook. ;o)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sometimes shortcuts are just the ticket, Susan; I usually make a few crusts, parbake, and keep some frozen (yes, I have two freezers, which helps). They can go from freezer to table in about 20 minutes. Thanks for sharing your memories here – PJH

  49. claire

    Yep, I remember Betty Furness and all those Westinghouse commercials! I loved this blog; not only because pizza is my favorite food, but you write and research so well. And I SO wish I could have those wonderful pans!! I make home-made pizza a LOT! And, tempting though it may be because it’s easy to use~ I really doubt I’ll ever try tomato soup! I’m half Sicilian. My grandmother would roll over too many times in her grave!! I mostly make Margherita (sp?) pizzas with fresh everything on top. Instead of fresh basil, though, I use baby spinach (organic, of course!).

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Claire, thanks for your kind words. Margherita (yes, correct sp!) is so fresh and simple; I have trouble when I use basil, as it turns a really blah brownish color, so I like your idea of using organic baby spinach. I’m totally trying that next time. PJH

  50. Angela

    Ahh memories. Growing up we usually got take out but every now and then mom would make homemade mini pizzas. Flatten out a canned biscuit and top it with jarred spaghetti sauce, a little cooked hamburger and onion and some shredded mozzarella. That actually makes a pretty tasty calzone too if you fold it in half and brush it with garlic olive oil and a quick sprinkle of parmesan.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Angela, it’s fascinating how every mom had some kind of “pizza” recipe back then – and each had its little twist. Comfort food, for sure! PJH

  51. George Chapman

    I remember my mom making some of those earlier versions (she ran the lunch program at the Mount Lebanon School in West Lebanon in the 1950s—somehow I don’t think they served pizza but I could be wrong). I also remember when my wife and I were first married (1961) we made it with the Boyardee kits.
    Commercially, I remember a hawker going up the stairs of Maxcy (yes, at Brown!) yelling “Hot Peetz”. It was from a place that I recall being something like Ivatzio’s but a search of the dozens of Providence pizza vendors shows no name like this today.
    Nice article.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It was nice to read about your mother working at the Mt. Lebanon School. That is where my kids went to school not too long ago. I am glad you enjoyed this blog, George. Elisabeth@KAF

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Maxcy, eh? That was in the “Brown” part of campus, of course, where “Pembroke girls” didn’t live, back in the day. Though when I arrived, in 1971, “Brown women” were a reality – we were the first class to go four years to Brown. I admit I never met the “hot peetz” man, though, George! PJH

  52. Karen

    I grew up in the 70s and 80s in MA, and all the pizzarias around were owned by Greek Families. We had no need to make pizza growing up. Since getting married we started pizza and a movie every Saturday night. We started making our own to save a little money and when our eldest was born he had issues with dairy. The kids get involved (baking with kids) and we’ve even taught quite a few teenage babysitters how to make their own pizza. The boys favorite is KA’s thin crust, but the deep dish pizzas with a disk of sausage were a huge hit. My husband and I are regressing since we are avoiding gluten and yeast (back to a biscuit or socca for a crust!)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Karen, indeed, pizza is a wonderful way to bake with kids. Pressing the dough, seeing how it magically rises, adding the toppings… kudos to you for carrying on this great family-time activity! PJH

  53. Wayde Weston

    Interesting to see those old pizza recipes. The mention of Bisquick caught my eye; most of my mom’s recipes came from the back of the Bisquick box and there were several pizzas we used to make regularly using a Bisquick crust. The one I remember most was Franks and Kraut Pizza, with a sauce made from ketchup and mustard and topped with sliced hot dogs and sauerkraut. Much better than it sounds. For those who think hot dogs as a pizza topping is wrong: a couple of years ago we took a vacation to Amalfi, Italy. Nearly every restaurant in town that served pizza offered as a topping “wurstel patate”, which turned out to be hot dogs and French fries. Again, much better than it sounds!

    Reply
  54. Sharon Karpinski

    Oh, I so remember ’50s pizza. It was mostly kinda awful but that was probably because my grandfather, who loved food, used to take me to Pizza Uno and to the Italian Village (an upstairs restaurant filled with large, dark men in fedoras) whenever we were in Chicago. Today, I vastly prefer thin-crust to Chicago style but comparing Pizza Uno’s product to the biscuit crust attempts made at my friends’ homes was, well, no comparison.

    Thanks for the history. You’re right about the oregano. Yah HAD to put in oregano. Today, I seldom use it in pizza sauce, preferring basil as the herb of choice, but fifty years ago, if it didn’t have oregano, it wasn’t pizza. Even if that pizza was a Velveeta and Bisquick creation.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      So right, Sharon – by the ’60s, oregano was THE Italian ingredient. I don’t remember seeing basil in our kitchen, but the jar of “Italian oregano” – you bet! PJH

  55. Joelle Everett

    First pizza I remember, back in the 50′s, was made by my mother using Bisquick, whole home-canned tomatoes drained and broken up a bit, hamburger and cheese–maybe jack cheese instead of the cheddar that was our everyday cheese. Baked in a rectangular Pyrex baking dish, deep-dish style, and we loved it. With five kids, we just did not go out to eat.

    First restaurant pizza was in a pizza place in downtown Seattle with friends, after a Kingston Trio concert. On a second date with the man I later married, we went to the Spaghetti House in north Seattle for a sausage and mushroom pizza–our all-time favorite.

    Today my diet is gluten-free, no dairy, and yeast and tomatoes are iffy. But I have promised to try making gluten and dairy-free pizza with my 20-something grandson, just diagnosed with allergies to wheat, eggs, dairy and corn. Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Joelle, I hope you find an allergen-free pizza you can make for your grandson – I’m sure he misses it. Thanks for your pizza memories – PJH

  56. Gwen

    around 1945 an italian friend of mine was eating something she called tomato pie. it certainly had tomatoes, but i didn’t notice cheese, maybe it melted underneath.
    home ec had the english muffin ones in 1957
    my brother & i tried both the appian way & chef b-a-d.
    my aunt, around 1960, would get a pound of dough from vecchi’s bakery, roll it out, spread on canned tomato sauce, top with kraft grated cheese & bake. that was it–maybe some pepperoni if we were lucky. we thought it was wonderful.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      The Vecchi’s Bakery dough version sounds good, Gwen, for sure – bet you wish you could taste your aunt’s version again… PJH

  57. Sessie67

    Fantastic article! I remember those people – Betty Furness, and Amy, the etiquette lady, and the different pizza pie mixes. My father was a meat and potato guy, so we only got pizza when he was not home for a meal. The antique pizza and pie pans were very interesting. Maybe they could be found on eBay or ShopGoodwill. My sister-in-law worked at a Northern Indiana school and would purchase big bags of those school pizzas during the 1970′s to feed her 4 children. My 2 boys loved them. And the use of tomato soup instead of sauce, my Hungarian mother made the best stuffed cabbage rolls. I tried to duplicate her sauce, but could never get it right. Finally asked her for the recipe and the sauce was Campbell’s tomato soup. DUH! Loved your article! I really enjoy all the articles on your blog. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Thanks so much for sharing your memories here; there are a lot of us Boomers chuckling over this post, I’m sure. Especially the deluxe 1955 Westinghouse fridge with its dual juice dispenser! Bet that thing was a workhorse, too – there are probably some still out there. :) PJH

  58. Sherman Cravens

    I so enjoyed your first pizza installment.

    Pizza, one of my favorite topics and foods. Where to start… When I was a child standing in line at the local movie theater also meant standing in front of the local pizzaria since they were next door to each other. It was agonizing standing there smelling the aroma of pizza baking. Arris Pizza Palace in Jefferson City, MO, still the best pizza I have ever had. The Pardalos (Greek) family owned the joint in 1961 and still owns it today. It is probably best characterized as St Louis style with an almost cracker this crust.

    Growing up, I have had some truly awful pizza, from the pizza they served in grade school with cut up hot dogs as a topping to box pizza mixes (a little better, but not much).

    The first good homemade pizza I had was when I was at a friends having dinner. It wasn’t half bad. Mind you, I was in grade school at the time and I asked for the recipe. I guess that’s when my quest for a better homemade pizza began.

    I still use a portion of the recipe today and yes, I still used canned tomato soup, although it is augmented with fresh oregano, basil and rosemary when we have them available from our garden as well as fresh garlic.

    I am still searching for the perfect pizza dough recipe. I think I have found a cracker thin crust recipe that doesn’t require the heat of a pizza oven. I have yet to try it, since we still have leftover pizza in the freezer, but it won’t be long…

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sherman, I actually have never experienced pizza with hot dog slices – and probably, at this point, I never will! And despite canned tomato soup’s reputation, I’m with you – I enjoy using it as the base for sauce at times, so keep a can in the cupboard. Plus, it just reminds me of being a kid. Good luck with your cracker crust – and thanks for sharing your memories here. PJH

  59. Anneedelweiss

    It wasn’t that long ago when I first stumbled upon ‘Flourish’ – of course the KAF blog wasn’t named then. Since then I have enjoyed reading so many well-written pieces, which were often accompanied by some awesome photos. Informative, for sure, but just simply good reading, too.

    But this time, PJ, I think you have topped all the others. I truly appreciate your contribution to the pizza history. Through the lines I can see you had a lot of fun digging up old recipes, and actually recreating those vintage pizzas. I certain have fun reading your saga of retracing pizza in America through past years. Thank you and congratulations – posting like this ensures ‘Flourish’ itself will be part of America food history.

    About the ‘vintage’ fillings – well, it seems pizza is tasty no matter what is tossed on top of the dough. My thinking is that pizza in food is quite like jazz in music. The beauty is in improvisation and spontaneity; the sum of all different ingredients combined being much better than the individual ingredients standing alone. Having said that, I think I’ll pass the canned tomato soup though…

    Pizza is absolutely one of my favorite foods. I can’t wait to see what you are going to tell us about the continuing ‘pizza revolution’!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Annee, I love your analogy of pizza to jazz – that’s an awesome thought, and beautifully expressed. Thanks so VERY much for your kind words here; it’s always nice to write something that resonates with our readers. Now – on to my continuing pizza experiments! :) PJH

  60. Margy

    Couldn’t stand pizza when I was a little girl–something about the smell. Then, when I hit my teens, I tried it and loved it. Amazing how our tastes change over time. I remember eating cold pizza for breakfast in college–after it sat out on a desk all night! Never got food poisoning. Guess we were made of sterner stuff back then! Don’t buy pizza anymore; it’s so easy to whip up a batch of dough in the breadmaker, throw on homemade tomato sauce and home-grown basil, fresh mozzarella (that I sometimes make myself), and throw it in the oven, or even better, onto the grill.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Margy, I think we all ate cold pizza along the way; maybe there’s some preservative power in the tomato sauce? Anyway, I’m glad you got over your childhood distaste and have been enjoying it ever since – and even better, making your own. PJH

  61. Peggy

    As you described, I think my Mom made most of those – sans anchovies, though – especially packaged, canned “beginners kits”. My favorite memory is the night three of the guys from (DeMolay – a Masonic affiliated youth group) came over to our house, carrying several “six-packs” of soft drinks asking if “Mom” (mine) could make us all some pizzas. That, of course, led to me calling some of the girls from Job’s Daughters (the girls’ side of the same youth organization) and we had the best impromptu party ever! That night led to one marriage, still going strong, as far as I know – about 43 years ago!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Peggy, what a sweet story – a marriage inspired by pizza! I remember the DeMolay boys – they had cool “letter jackets.” And Rainbow Girls – which must have been the younger group. My best friend was a Rainbow Girl – PJH

    2. waikikirie

      Triggered another memory!! My family is rich with Masonic history. I myself am a Past Beloved Queen, in Triangles (young girl version – similar to Rainbow and Jobs Daughters.) There was more then one time after a meeting, we’d get ” a slice” before going home.

  62. geriandjack

    PJ, I so appreciate the interest, passion and research you show for all things baked. It has proved so helpful to me. Especially love this special on Pizza! A family favorite. Growing up in Brooklyn you couldn’t find a bad pizza if you tried. Now living on the west coast, the opposite is true; it’s hard to find a really good NY style pizza, so occasionally enjoy making the English muffin “pizzettes” (my parents were born in Naples, Italy) as we did when I was a kid in the 50s. Today, the KAF pizza making products I use really do help me to make an acceptable “knock-off” to the NY thin style pizza. (As a New Yorker, I know it’s really the NY water that makes the magic happen :-)
    Thanks for this fun day. Geri

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Geri, stay tuned for a new specialty ingredient, bottled NYC water shipped to the West Coast – right? :) Thanks for your kind words here, and sharing your memories. PJH

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  63. Peggy

    Posted a comment a few minutes ago, but failed to mention I was then waiting on my first KAF pizza to come out of the oven. Fabulous! I’ve been making my own pizza for the past year or two most Sunday nights, but just did try the KAF Perfect Pizza Dough. Turned out great….as did the White Whole Wheat Bread in the bread baker! Thanks KAF for all the great products!

    Reply
  64. Judie Doolittle

    Our supper tonight was a delicious ,pepperoni, sausage, onion, green pepper, and green olives, nummy cheese topping. After fifty years of marriage and five years prior dating, we remember so many different

    places we have eaten pizza, from the very first one, in La Crosse, WI. When married I made pizza on a huge baking sheet my dad made for me at the factory he worked at. That pan now is so full of cut lines, I don’t think I could count them all. I made Jenos box mix, added lots of toppings, browned sausage or hamburger, pepperoni, onions or whatever. After six children I would make two of those big cookie sheets with mom’s special pizza. We always had some leftover for the next day which I heated in fry pan with olive oil. What would we eat if we didn’t have our pizza?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Leftovers fried in olive oil, eh, Judie? I think I’ll try that next time. What a wonderful crust that must create. Thanks for the tip – PJH

  65. SandyH

    This was such an interesting and enjoyable read! My first pizza memory, probably at about ten years old, ( mid 60′s) was a restaurant called “Shakey’s” here in Houston, complete with honky tonk piano music and mugs of root beer. Delicious! When made at home, it was a Chef Boy Ardee kit, and we also made the English muffin variety which was touted by early Weight Watchers as fit for their program. I now make homemade crust, thin, with a variety of toppings depending upon my mood and what’s on hand. Barbecue chicken is a favorite with my grown kids, no doubt made popular by California Pizza Kitchen restaurant….but my personal favorite is good ‘ol Italian sausage, onion and mushroom…with fresh mozzarella.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sandy, it’s only 5 a.m., but already I’m craving pizza… Thanks for starting my day off right! PJH

  66. Nancy

    Oh my goodness! The memories you have brought back! I grew up in the late 50′s and 60′s too. I think the first pizza I had was my mom’s homemade pizza–I still have the recipe in her handwriting. The crust was biscuit-like: flour, baking powder, oil, salt and milk. She made a sauce from tomato paste, the meat was bulk breakfast sausage, and we grated up a chunk of mozarella. She had a grater that was round and fitted inside another thing that held the cheese against the grater. You just turned the crank and grated cheese came out the middle of the grater. We used to fight over who got to grate the cheese (until we got older anyway). The first time I made pizza for my husband, I used Mom’s recipe–he didn’t like it, b/c he liked yeast crust. We ate homemade pizza every Saturday night early in our marriage and when our kids were growing up, though I made four pizzas at a time, and froze some so that I didn’t have to start from scratch each week.

    The first restaurant pizza I ate was a Mama Mia’s, which was the place to hang out when I was in high school. The pizza there was thin crust and yeast-based.

    There was a pizza place in Estes Park, CO, that made a crust I tried hard to replicate, but never could quite get it right. It tasted both yeasty and biscuit-y. I had thought that it included cornmeal, but years later realized that the crunchiness I liked was probably semolina.

    The golden years of television! I remember Betty Furness–I wondered why that name sounded so familiar when I first read it, but the video answered that question! And the Wonderful World of DIsney! Our next door neighbors had the first color TV in the neighborhood, and we could see it from our kitchen window over the sink. They watched Disney too, so my sister and I would do dishes with our family TV on for sound, and watch it through the window on the color TV next door! Sometimes our neighbors would wave at us during a commercial. :-)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Oh, Nancy, I’m laughing at how you watched the neighbor’s TV – we did too! And I remember when we finally did get a color TV in 1984 (well into adulthood), and how exciting that was. I wonder if the Estes Park pizzeria used more of a Chicago deep-dish style crust; because that includes both cornmeal and butter, so it’s a bit crunchy, and a bit more biscuit-like than the typical crust. Try it sometime – see if that’s your long-lost crust… Thanks for sharing your memories here. PJH

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Annee, I was sure I saw them – but you’re right, they might have flown off into the ether. Anyway – thanks! PJH

  67. gaa

    Great post PJ! I loved the stroll down memory lane. My mom never made her own pizza from scratch. And we never had pizza for dinner. Our pizza was frozen – first the single serve pizzas that were perfect for one person for lunch. Then there were those frozen mini pizzas (can’t remember the maker) I think they came 18 to a box – 6 plain cheese, 6 pepperoni and 6 sausage. Quick heat ups after school in the toaster oven.

    These days so many, many moons later, I make my own pizza – I make crust using your Now or Later pizza crust, spread on a Boboli sauce and put on our favorite toppings. Yum! Every once in a while, I will make your Stuffed Pizza recipe ( I lost my mind the first time I saw the recipe — I just HAD to make it! Do you ever feel that way when you see a new recipe?)

    Thanks again for the stroll down memory lane. Looking forward to part two of this post!

    Reply
  68. Paule-Marie

    I don’t remember my first pizza. Noni never made pizza but had a wonderful garden and made the best spaghetti sauce. Before the chain pizza parlors, we went to a local restaurant called Tony’s. He was from Rome and made the best thin crust pizza. (it was probably the first pizza I had – I’m guessing here) My brother and I would sit on the stairs leading to the banquet room upstairs and watch Tony toss the pizzas. The restaurant was dark, decorated in red and rumor had it that some of the mafia ate there – I know that my mom had those visitors in the art gallery she worked in and saw them heading to Tony’s

    I can’t wait to try some homemade pizza – the chains will do in a pinch but aren’t what I remember.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Paule-Marie, I hope you start making your own pizza soon – ditch the takeout, there’s nothing like homemade! Try our Pizza Crust – I think you’ll like it. PJH

  69. Bonnie

    My first memories of beautiful, beautiful pizza had to do with working at my dad’s record store in St. Louis when I was about 12. I worked with him every Saturday, straightening (he took full advantage of his daughter’s OCD tendencies!), listening to the newest ’45s that came in during the week, and dipping into the till for breakfast and lunch at Woolworth’s lunch counter. All for the lordly salary of 25 cents a day…and still he probably lost money on the deal. After a long day of work, on the drive home we’d stop at Caruso’s Pizzaria and pick up a bacon pizza (c’mon now, this was the 1950′s in the bacony midwest!). The 20-minute ride home from Caruso’s was sheer agony, the car filled with the aroma of fresh hot pizza goodness. Then we’d finally get home, dig in, and discuss the day’s business with the family. Nothing could have been more delicious! Wonder if Caruso’s is still there!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Bonnie, you’re making me want bacon pizza RIGHT NOW! How wonderful that it’s associated with happy childhood activities, helping out, and enjoying family dinner at the end of the day. I Googled Caruso’s pizzeria in St. Louis – no go, so I guess they’ve disappeared… except in your memories. PJH

  70. Anita S.

    What wonderful memories! Just last wk I mentioned to my husband of 57 years how I wish we could buy the Appian Way Pizza Mix again. That was the first taste of pizza I had because as far as my family knew, there were no pizza places in Knoxville, TN in the late 40′s early 50′s. Mama tried the Chef-Boy-R-Dee but we preferred the Appian Way mix. I think she just tried it because it was something new she saw on the shelf. After I married, that’s the mix I always purchased & even when my husband became an Air Force Chaplain, I purchased it in the Commissary until it was no longer available in the 80′s. Our two kids loved it as I would doctor it up a lot. I think Shakey’s Pizza Palace was probably the first place where we had pizza other than from the box. We were thrilled to find a Shakey’s on the island of Okinawa in 1975. We always ordered the pepperoni pizza. I enjoyed the history & all the comments.I well remember Amy Vanderbilt & still refer to her at times & Betty Furness. I’ve tried making pizza crust but never developed a “feel” for dough. My next order to KAF will include the pizza flour. Oh, must tell you the very first word my grandson said at 8 months was “PIZZA!”. He loved it then & still loves it. Thanks for such a great post. Looking forward to your next one.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Anita, thanks for sharing your pizza memories here. So many of us remember Appian Way (or Chef Boy-Ar-Dee) – the ultimate “exciting” convenience food, back then! Good luck with your pizza crust – if you have any questions, please call our hotline, 855-371-2253. However it comes out, I’ll bet your grandson will like it – because it’s made with love. Cheers – PJH

  71. Outbacklady

    Wow! I remember homemade pizza, and it was a very rare treat, but I am feeling kinda special here. I was born mid fifties and my memory of pizza was mom’s special. she made it from scratch – yeast dough; stretched it out on a regular high-lipped cookie sheet and piled on the sauce, sausage, peppers, onions and cheeses. It turned out deep dish style and sooooo good. We grew up 90 miles south of Chicago, and I suppose the slant was more a Chicago-style deep pizza. But, no boxed treats for us. that fueles my love of homemade pizza and i have been baking my own exclusively for over 35 years.
    Thank you for the fun trip back in time. I cant waiut for the next installments!
    ( i must admit – when my kids were young – i put sauce, cheese and pepperoni on a number of different bread bases for a snack in a hurry!)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      I remember those days, too – toast, biscuits, English muffins, even crackers sometimes, all got their sauce and cheese and went into the toaster oven! Yes, you definitely were lucky to have a mom making real yeast crust, back then – good memories for sure. PJH

  72. Christi Ware

    Thanks for the great article, PJ, and I have really enjoyed reading all the comments. Wow, bringing back so many memories! My mom made the Chef Boy-Ar-Dee pizza from the box when I was little, growing up in Atlanta and knowing nothing of “real” pizza. It was a real treat for us three kids, because my father was a stickler for the full “meat and potatoes” meal that had to be on the table every night – but he worked swing shifts, and when he was working 3-11, my mom would fix something quick and easy for us that he wouldn’t have liked. Like pizza from a box, and Swanson’s TV dinners. I remember that she made the dough and put a plate on top of the bowl for it to rise. It was a real treat! To this day I feel mischievous when I eat frozen dinners, there is such a positive association for me. We also ate a lot of Stouffers’ French Bread pizzas when I was a teenager in the 70′s. Always burned the roof of my mouth! When I was 12, we moved up to Mansfield, MA, and discovered the House of Pizza that was in every little town, run by Greek families. I was forever spoiled for pizza after that. On Friday nights, after work my mother would stop by the House of Pizza and get 5 pies – one for each of us. What a luxury that was!

    Now, I make real pizza crust with KAF, and recently tried the sourdough pizza crust recipe, which was phenomenal. We’re all “authentic” now! I haven’t had a boxed pizza for decades; but I think the smell of that sauce will always make me smile.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Christi, I’m smiling now – I love the food memories everyone has shared here. Interesting the number of folks who mentioned “Dad didn’t like it so we had it when he was working”- for me, it was more like we had it Fridays because Catholics couldn’t eat meat on Fridays back then, and fish sticks got old REALLY quick… :) PJH

  73. Laurel

    I loved this article! It’s surprising and awesome that you actually tried the old recipes and found that some of them were quite good. I remember the Appian Way pizza pan! We had one that was all black like that too.

    I grew up near Chicago and we had a great chain called Barnaby’s, that has since gone out of business. We loved their pizza, but we were spoiled for choice since every neighborhood had a few independent pizza parlors…. mostly were just takeout. We used to stand behind the Crestwood Pizza kitchen as kids just to catch the amazing aroma that the fans were venting.

    Now we don’t live anywhere near Chicago, but out in the country in TN, and really miss the pizza. I make some at home using Antimo Caputo 00 flour (from amazon) and Pastorelli sauce (also from amazon), but I really think I prefer straight tomato paste. Paste has the right amount of acid and the thickness is just right. The sauce tends to boil off the edge of the crust.

    Anyway, excellent job!

    Reply
    1. Guy

      I too grew up near Chicago (Northbrook) and we would go to Barnaby’s as well. I remember the top of the pizza often sliding off the crust as you ate it. The restaurant was featured in Ferris Buehler’s Day Off.
      My fondest memories of eating pizza in Chicago was going to Due’s, Gino’s East, and Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders. Now that I live in Pittsburgh, I get to bring my family on trips to Chicago and show them my favorite places.

  74. Suzanne

    My mom made pizza with flattened canned biscuits (crescent rolls, etc.) poured on ketchup, yellow cheese slices and cooked hamburger. She made it on a big cooky sheet. Surprisingly tasty! On rare occasions, we got “real” pizza from an authentic pizza place in town called “the Patio.”

    Reply
  75. Martha

    We had the boxed mixes when I was about 14 – only I usually made them, rather than my mother. It was the very beginning of my making yeast dough, as my mother did not make rolls or bread! Before that, pizza was ordered from the parlor as my parents began to grocery-shop on Saturday afternoon, to be picked up on our way home (the pizza place was right next to The Nut House, which eventually had to change its name because of all the prank phone calls it got). Now I make my own pizza without a recipe, because our son was severely allergic to all milk products – so I’d split his off and make it on a toaster-over sheet, and do ours on a baking pan. I do cheat and use jarred sauce, because we don’t care for real tomatoes. But a few toasted sesame seeds from a Chinese grocery store pressed onto the crust, and whatever else we feel like adding to the usual pepperoni and mozzarella and parmesan on top… yum.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Martha, that’s interesting – I’ve never thought to add sesame seeds, but it makes total sense, when you think of Italian scali bread. I’m definitely trying that next time – thanks so much for sharing! PJH

  76. Pennie Saadallah

    In our family, homemade pizza was Chef Boyardee pizza every Sunday night as our weekly treat. We got really fancy after a couple of years and added shredded mozzarella cheese to the Parmesan topping!

    Seeing the recipe using tomato soup as base for the sauce made me remember a spaghetti sauce recipe a friend of mine had using tomato soup. It was surprisingly good!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Pennie, you’re not the only reader who’s reported “surprising” good results using canned tomato soup – in fact, check out our Mystery Cake. :) PJH

  77. Georgia

    I remember my mother making pizza crust with Bisquick in the 60s, using olive oil. I think the best part for the kids was to watch her trying to stretch it out on the round pizza tin. I have no recollection of the toppings except she always used provolone, a taste I continue to prefer on my own home-mades. I myself make a pretty mean yeast crust, though it re-heats kinda soggy. I’ll have to try the idea of frying in olive oil. Been topping with bulk Italian sausage, plus mushrooms and/or olives for many years; now that I’m in the Southwest, green chili is a must!
    Midwest chain Noble Roman’s is my college memory, and yes, we used to eat the unrefrigerated leftovers for breakfast, too. Theirs was constructed with cheese on the bottom, then the toppings, and just a dollop of thick sauce on top.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      I’ve reheated pizza in a cast iron skillet before, that takes care of any soggy bottoms. ~ MJ

  78. mousepotato

    Okay, I remember pizza in the early ’60′s where we actually had a dine-in pizzaria. No takeout available in those days. We’d go on occasion as a family. I’ve made pizza crust out of all these means over the years, but today my go to pizza crust is my variation on a recipe from ‘The Romagnoli’s Table’ program on WGBH in the Julia Child heyday. I was a young mother at the time and scribbled it down as fast as Margaret Romagnoli could spit it out. 5 c flour, 2 tsp. salt, 2 tbs. sugar, 1 tbs. yeast, and 2 c hot tap water. Mix together and knead until smooth, put in a greased bowl and let rise double. Divide in two, roll out to a 14″ circle, top and bake at 450 for 10 minutes. Of course today I also add a couple of tablespoonsful of vegetable oil, a couple of tablespoons of KA’s pizza herb blend, and some KA pizza dough flavoring, as well as several tablespoons of KA’s Dough Enhancer. I make 3 pizzas out of this and bake them on my stones. this is Sunday night’s supper every week. My youngest granddaughter has been making this with me since she was old enough to sit on the counter, she’s now old enough to make it herself, under adult supervision, using my Kitchen Aid mixer.

    My question to all you out there, what’s the best kind of onions to use to top a pizza. Seems to me that the old standby–yellow onions, are a little too juicy to be the best on pizza. Anyone got a better suggestion?

    Mouse

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Hi Mouse – thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I remember The Romagnoli’s Table – good show, and available to us cooks and bakers way before the Food Network was born. As for onions – I use sweet or Vidalia onions, and I sauté them until golden but still a bit crunchy. The cooking both releases their juices, and concentrates their flavor. Try it sometime – I think you’ll be pleased. PJH

  79. Bonnie

    Just read your entire Down Pizza Memory Lane post and loved it! I went to high school in the late 50′s (graduated in 1960) in a rural area and pizzaria pizza was just newly available in the largest town about 12 miles away. My senior class decided to have a pizza fund-raiser for our senior trip to Washington, DC, so we bought a whole lot of Appian Way pizza mixes and rounded up all the pie pans we could. Very few households had pizza pans, but we recruited all of those we could. I don’t think pepperoni was available in our local grocery stores, so we topped the pizzas with sliced hot dogs or cooked crumbled sausage or hamburger! No extra herbs or spices. No cheese other than the powdered Parmesan. My boyfriend told me that his mother (raised in deep Appalachia) always pre-baked pie crusts about 5 minutes, even before filling fruit pies, and employing that step probably improved our product! We had no idea what we were doing, but we had a huge turnout and a gym full of teenagers and townspeople scarfing up our creations (probably cost something like 75 cents for pie pan size, a dollar for pizza pan size).

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      What a great story Bonnie! Just goes to prove that creativity and enthusiasm can really make things happen in the kitchen. ~ MJ

  80. Marjorie Brown

    I make my own pizza with a homemade yeast crust. I bought pizza seasonings from KA a while back in a zip lock bag. Advertized taking the pizza to the gourmet level. I’m now getting low. Is the pizza seasoning in the plastic container the same stuff? My husband and sons really love the original one I bought in the bag. Just curious, before I reorder.
    Love your shop and products. Always high quality.
    Sincerely,
    Marj

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Marj,

      Yes, the seasoning in the jars is the same one we’ve sold for ages, just in a different container. Feel free to order away! ~ MJ

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