I think I need to kick off BWR Year 6 with some haute cuisine.
A link from the Serious Eats blog led me to a collection of vintage pizza kit ads. While those beauties hail from the 50s and 60s (during which cheese was apparently a dangerous and scary topping), I remember the boxes fondly from the early 80s. The pizza kit occupied an interesting niche: better than the frozen pizzas of the time, but not as good as delivery/restaurant pies. They were also fun to make, since you got to play with the dough, spread the sauce, and lay on the toppings.
There was another type that I haven't seen since then, sold by some schools for fund raising. A few weeks after placing your order you got a set of blank crusts, packets of sauce, and various toppings, all of which were supposed to go in the freezer. Not only did the basic 8-pack fill up your freezer, but you inevitably ran out of cheese and sauce by pizza #6, and a bag of grey sausage pellets would linger behind the frozen corn for years.
Around high school when I was going crazy with bread baking, I made real homemade pizzas and experimented with lots of different ingredients. I still do it occasionally, though the local master in this regard is Fredric with his Saturday night pizza & movie tradition that's been going on for over 10 years.
I've had wood- and coal-fired pizza in trendy bistros, deep dish pizza in Chicago, crazy variations around the country, and I've even had it in Italy. The strangest was probably a funky Gouda/Edam pizza made at an Italian restaurant run by Ecuadorians in Amsterdam. But those goofy ads ignited a craving that had been lying dormant for nearly twenty-five years.
On my next visit to the grocery store, I grabbed a box of the Chef Boyardee Cheese Pizza Kit. I played it straight by the directions, and only added some shredded American-style mozzarella cheese since that's what we did when I was a kid and it's a permitted variation by Chef B. No artisan goat cheese, no Moroccan lamb sausage, no dash of truffle oil on the finished product. I even used the same glass bowl and banged-up stainless steel pan, part of a set of random cookware I inherited when I moved out of the house. With luck, I could recreate the exact flavor I'll always associate with trying to time the pizza to be ready just as soon as ABC would begin showing a James Bond flick on Saturday night.
The finished product faithfully replicated those memories, so much so that I managed to burn the roof of my mouth like I did every single time as a child. The crust is biscuit-like and soft, the sauce is distinctively tangy and sweet... just as I remember it. With the wisdom of experience, I do recognize that this is salted all to hell, the tragic flaw of all processed foods (which I rarely eat these days). I like salt, but I also like to control it.
What wine to serve with this meal? I needed something that would have been easy to get in Memphis in the 1980s and would be a natural match for a 50s-style pizza. Only five seconds of cogitation were required to arrive at the perfect match: Chianti in a straw basket (or fiasco bottle).
The Tuscan 2007 Bell'agio Chianti from Banfi retails for around $10, 12.5% abv. and is made from 90% Sangiovese with the remaining 10% comprised of Canaiolo Nero, Trebbiano, and Malvasia. Interesting woody nose, with cedar and pencil shavings. Medium body with a dominant black cherry flavor, firm tannins, and a long finish. Just a touch of bitterness from the tannins, but the sweetness of the tomato sauce balances that out.
It's not the greatest Italian wine I've ever had, but it's solid, drinkable, and affordable, the kind of wine that would show up in a Billy Joel song.