Rick Houser: Never found one I didn’t like

Clermont County's Rick Houser has released a second book, this one titled "Memories from the Heart."

The years have come and gone. The times have definitely changed. But there is still one thing that has remained constant with me. I have tried to deny it from time to time yet a fact is a fact. So I decided to disclose this to those of you who have read my columns over all these years. I am hooked on something and it looks like I will never escape its grip.

The truth is that for almost my entire life I have been a pizza freak! Even though I am three quarters German and one quarter Irish my taste always heads in the direction of Italy. When my sister Peg was attending college at Wilmington back in 1955 she came home one week end and brought with her a tube that looked like the kind cinnamon rolls come in. On the side it said it was made by Betty Crocker. But the next word was one I had never heard of. Peg said to me that that word was pizza and it was the newest food to hit the market. The words good food caught my attention. When she opened the tube a container of bread dough along with a small can of tomato paste and a small package of grated cheese were inside. Peg flattened out the dough and then spread the tomato paste and sprinkled the cheese on top of that.

When I saw this I locked my brakes so to speak as I wasn’t one to like tomatoes any. But when she put it in the oven and the pizza began to bake there was an aroma that filled the kitchen and my nose that gave me cause to want to try it. Now this was a very basic form of as pizza but once I took a bite it is safe to say the rest is history.

It wasn’t long until pizza parlors began to open. My brother Ben and his wife took me to my first one. Pasquales’ was its name and, my gosh the aroma in there along with the quality of their pizzas was enough to brain wash me.

It wasn’t long after that that a parlor opened in Bethel and it was named Kim’s’. For the next decade they pretty much ruled that area. I have no idea how many I ate from there but I will estimate it at a bunch! At the time I was in high school Ben was living in Bethel and lived only two blocks from Kim’s’. Of course every time I paid him a visit which was often all I had to do was mention Kim’s’ and he was headed for the door to pick a pizza up. I failed to mention my big brother was a pizza addict also.

The years I was in high school my mom was going to summer school in Oxford for her college degree and my dad was a county commissioner and was in Batavia almost every day. So it was up to me to find something for lunch. This was the early 60’s so fast foods were yet to be in our grocery stores yet. But they did sell frozen Pasquale and Chef Boyardee pizzas. So I would load up on these tasty items when I wasn’t working for a neighbor and getting a real meal. Those pizzas were some of the best tasting cardboard with maybe four slices of peperoni or some nuggets of sausage for the toppings. Not the greatest but hey it smelled good when it was in the oven and that would always lead me to thinking maybe this one was going to be tastier. (Sadly I was wrong.)

For five years my cousin Walt and I batched and farmed. So without a cook on hand it was safe to say pizza was on our table frequently. You see cousin Walt was hooked on pizza also. During our years of running our own kitchen I will say the frozen pizzas did improve. Not a lot but noticeable. Finally I got married in 1971 and my wife and I weaned from the pizza and ate different foods with the help of hamburger helpers. Honestly they were really pretty good. Still though when my wife would go to the store she would return with four or five pizzas. There now was a new maker of frozen pizzas out there. Tony’s were their name and they beat the others in the frozen food case hands down. It was something we would have most times on a Friday.

However Cousin Walt and my friend Jim Jennings it seemed to never fail to show up the night we were having pizza. At one time or another each pulled me aside and asks if that was all we ate. By this time we were ordering from Links’ up in Felicity and the Pizza Shack in Bethel. Both I give high ratings to. Years passed and Don Larrison opened the Pizza Cellar. It really was in the cellar but it was worth the walk down to it.

As the years passed we added a family consisting of a daughter and a son and yes I feel it safe to say they inherited my pizza gene as I can’t say I’ve ever seen them turn down a slice. Now I might have missed them do so as I was picking up a piece. Still time has moved on and these days in Bethel Gramma’s and Dominos’ rule the roost when it comes to great tasting pizza pie. As a family we gather at our home for Sunday lunch and I feel you already know what is served a lot of the Sundays. (Yup it is pizza.) I must say here that my wife likes Italian food but she might eat only a slice in one sitting.

I am certain that I have missed quite a few of the places where I would and have and sometimes still do get pizza from. If I missed you I apologize but I promise I will stop by and place and order and that is meant as a compliment. Maybe I should do one of those genealogy searches and make sure my ancestors didn’t come from Italy. I feel safe in saying that this food is one of the most popular foods that our country eats every day. If it isn’t it should be! So to wrap this up I must tell you that the only bad pizza I have ever had was the one still in the freezer and has yet to be cooked.

Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If you are interested in reading more of his stories they can be found in his books ‘There are Places to Remember” and’ Memories ARE from the Heart.” He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.