That Pizza Parlor


No matter where I’d moved to, I’d gotten to know the pizza parlors close to my place real well, reasons being that I’d never buy the pizzas, slice by slice, instead, I’d buy the whole pie, and put it in the fridge at my place, and I’d take out a piece at any time, put two sardines on it, or hard broiled egg pieces, ham, or even, mushroom, chicken breasts, then, I’d sprinkle some tomato chunks, chopped onions, or an assortment of vegetables, bell peppers, broccoli, or even olives too, then, I’d bake it inside the oven for ten minutes, then, I’d taken it all out, gobble it down with a cup of coffee, an ice cold glass of beer, or maybe, even some white wine, and that’s become my quickest breakfast and dinner.

And still, the taste buds are very delicate cells, it became trapped by the familiar tastes of things, they’d gotten too bored by the same things over and over again, and I’d gobbled down three months worth of pizzas, then, I’d swear to myself to NEVER have any pizzas again for the next three months.  During those times, I’d missed the steamed buns with the meats and the vegetables, and I’d started calculating, that all I needed to do, was to make a hundred of those buns on a day, then, I’d never run out of food.

At the start of the early 1980s, there are NO chives in the super markets in New York, and I’d gone to the fields, to pluck some, then, I’d hurried home, chop it all up, and mixed it all in with my pork chops, then, I’d opened up a pack of dough, and make it into buns, the kind that the Americans used as dinner rolls, with the strong scent of butter, not only did it taste off, maybe the fermentation process is quite different, and so, the buns after being steamed looked holey, and it looked like it’d had a hard time in the steamers, and even though I’d pinched the tops tightly, it’d always come out opened, it is too ugly to be sold.

Back then, I’d lived on East 96th, going horizontally by foot, I’d get to Central Park, but couldn’t manage to the train stations that’ll take me to the Eastside or the Westside parking lots, and even though, Chinatown isn’t too far off, but I’d hardly made the trips.  One day, I’d gone to a German shop, and bought some silver fish, it’s been so many years since I came abroad, and that, was the very first time I’d seen some, the silver fish I’d had are usually steamed, and that, is what I did the best, I just needed to put the fish on the tin foil, wrap it up, place it into the oven, bake for fifteen minutes, and, it would taste exactly like it was steamed, and if I’d placed the steamed fish onto the pizzas, then, it must taste quite differently compared to when there are sardines on the pizzas too.

I’d imagined the flavors, as I’d carried the silver fish to the pizza parlor, the bosses are three Greek brothers, only the eldest was married, the bride, Lola, just came from the suburbs of Athens, is introverted and lonely, once, she’d invited me out of the blue to their apartment for tea, later, I’d gotten a cold, she’d made a pot of chicken soup for me, there was celery, carrot, rice gruels, and she’d squeezed some lemon juices too, and the effects of that is almost just as amazing as if you’d squeezed some lemon juice onto the freshly pan fried fish.

I’d told Lola of the rare small silver fish I’d gotten, Lola walked out from behind the counters, opened up my package, she’d told me, that back in Greece, the fish like this one was cheap and everywhere, and fresh too, she’d asked me how I’d planned to prepare it?  I’d told her that I’m having it with my pizza, the second oldest this time, came out from the back out of curiosity, and then, he’d gotten all worked up, told me he was going to prepare it for me, but, that they will have half of what’s been cooked, I’d agreed.

Two hours later, I’d gone to pick it up, turns out, that they’d fried the thing, it was crispy to a fault, and I’d devoured it right on the spot.  Even though, I was one of their most frequent customers, I’d never ever sat down in the shop.  At which time, I’d see the three brothers, busying themselves about, they were kneading the dough, it was such a huge piece, and he’d managed it to so white and chubby too, I jumped up and asked him, “Can I please have a piece of the dough?”

The second oldest next to me asked me in return, how big a piece?  I’d used my hand to draw it, he’d chopped a piece off, and wrapped it up with tin foil, handed it to me, and gave me a rule, “Whatever you’d made, you must give me some to taste, just a little bit.”

I’d agreed to this gladly, and I’d carried that dough, with a heart of bliss home, the second day, I’d chopped up the pork and the cabbage, made over ten large pork buns, put it into the steaming basket, after thirty minutes, holy, why is it still so holy, and unsightly?  I’d taken a bite, actually, it didn’t taste that bad at all, it’s just that how it’d looked, and the Americans who didn’t know, saw the way it appeared, would assume that it didn’t taste good at all, how can I give this out to someone?  But, if I didn’t give them anything, it feels as though I’d cheated them out of their dough!

I’d thought about it the next couple of days, and so, I’d gone to the Chinatown on the weekends, bought a small package of red bean buns, along with meat buns, and, pretended that I’d made it, but, as I’d steamed them, and the meat buns looked so beautiful, and so, I’d given them two small red bean buns to give to the brothers at the shop.  As the second oldest of the brothers opened up my package, he became stunned, he thought, that the red bean buns are just round dough, and still, at that time, it’d radiated of a sort of attention-getting quality I’d never noticed in it before, on its beautiful white body, there was a shy red dot, it was beautiful to the point that I became ashamed, “Was this made by the dough I’d given you?”, he was so shocked, as he kept on asking.

I nodded my head weakly, and this time, he’d proclaimed to the people in the store, “From here on out, NO matter how much dough you want, just come for it!”

“Okay”, the customers who circled around the buns all awaited eagerly, to hear what I have to say, I’d held back my own shame.  But, how would I D-A-R-E, taking any more dough from them again?!

And, I’m sure, that they’d become good friends since, and, sometimes, making a connection is just that simple, and, I’m sure that the person did NOT remain a bad cook ever since she’d made her first batch of failed buns.











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