Confessions of a Pizza Girl

In which I wax eloquent about pizza . . .

I love pizza! I love it plain, with just cheese. I love it with mushrooms and pepperoni. And I love it even better with LOTS of toppings: several meats, several veggies. Oh, and extra cheese, please, if you will. (Oh, yes, we are cheese lovers from way back.)

But lots of people love pizza. It's practically an American pastime. Forget the hot dogs and baseball. Send me to a county fair, or a boardwalk, or an amusement park that has pizza, and I am a happy, happy girl.

And I have to tell you a secret. My husband and I were chatting the other day about "What was the best job of your life?" And so we wound our way around that topic, and it turns out we had lots to say about it, lots of criteria to discuss. By best, do we mean the most fun? Or the most rewarding, meaningful, and impactful? So for now, let's narrow it down to just the "fun" quotient. We'll save "meaningful" for another day. :-)

And so here, now, is the unvarnished truth. I had what may have been the best job of my life in the summer of 1984. I was between sophomore and junior years at Penn State and was looking for summer employment, when my second-oldest sister and her husband set me up to meet friends of theirs who ran a pizza joint called Caesar's (these days it goes by their family name, which is Cesari's) at Knoebel's Amusement Resort, in Elysburg, PA.

Knoebel's is one of my favorite places on earth, and it is, in fact, my favorite amusement park anywhere. It bills itself as "America's largest free-admission amusement park." The park itself is very rural, with gravel under foot, no charge to park or enter, free entertainment, great food, and lots of trees amid the green rolling hills of rural central Pennsylvania.

I wish I could tell you how freeing and fun it was to work as a pizza counter girl for that summer. I was 19 years old, and my oldest sister loaned me a car for the summer to get me back and forth to work. I was paid cash weekly, and my hours were pretty predictable. And have you ever seen how happy people's faces are when you hand them their fresh, hot pizza?

Many week days, the pace was very laid-back. And on such days, we pizza girls might take turns manning the counter and walking around the beautiful park. On weekends and on days when there were lots of events and company picnics, the pace was just plain crazy. But if you kept a cool head and smiled, it would all work out fine.

I learned a lot about working with people that summer, including how to fend off unwanted romantic encounters. (I admit I do still remember fondly the guy who came to my counter, smiled sweetly at me, and with eyes twinkling, ordered "a large Pepsi and a pair of blue eyes to go.")

And in the hours when things weren't quite so busy, they let us "counter girls" help MAKE the pizzas! Oh, beauty. You pound the dough and then twirl it carefully above your head to make the crust. Toss it on the counter. Take the big spoon and swirl the red sauce on. Then add handfuls of gorgeous shredded cheese, followed by whatever toppings you want. Veggies first, then meats, of course, with pepperoni always on top. You can do it sloppily, or you can do it beautifully; but I am here to tell you that if you are lucky, and you are doing it right, there is a meditative zen state to be found, even in the making of pizza.

In the grand scheme of things, being a pizza girl is not a high-stress job. Had I been the OWNER of the place, I'd have worried about things. I might have kept track of the numbers. I might have worried about employees stealing from the till; whether the dough was rising right; whether we were getting our market share. But as a pizza girl, you get to eat ALL THE PIZZA YOU WANT! And guess what: the only thing you take home at night is . . . you guessed it . . . PIZZA!

I often dream of taking up being a pizza girl again in my old age. Forget about waiting till you're old to wear purple; I do that now. My old-age dreams are more about pizza. Pull out a beautiful pie, steaming and melty with cheese, loaded with whatever toppings you like, and slice it up good, and serve it, hot and steaming. Aaaaah. Life doesn't get any better than this!

For the record, the pizza in this photo is NOT a Knoebels pizza. For alas, I did not manage to get there this year, though I hope to next year. (To enjoy stories and photos from prior year Knoebel's adventures, see here, here, and here.)

No, this is one of two Pizza Hut pizzas we picked up on this day, at the "two medium pizzas with all the toppings you like for $6.99 each" special. We were heading to a small family event in the Johnstown area, and the pizza was a lunch treat we were taking along to share. (The weather, I might mention, was something just short of atrocious, with lots of rain and wind and fog; so we traveled in conditions that were less than ideal.)

But back to the pizza . . . this pizza features a hand-tossed crust, as well as pepperoni, black olives, mushrooms, green peppers, red onions, bacon, ham, and parmesan cheese. It was delicious and not a smidge was left when we were done! Two thumbs up from this pizza girl!

Bizarrely enough, as much as I love pizza, this is the FIRST photo of pizza I have ever posted on blip. I scratch my head. How could that be? I've photographed soups, salads, breakfasts, burgers, you name it: so now, let's add pizza to the blip-list!

I admit that this morning is the first I've ever even thought about whether there might be songs about pizza. And you will be happy to learn that yes, indeed there are! So here is one; here are the Jonas Brothers, with Pizza Girl.

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