On the nights their mom works, the responsibility (or burden, whichever feels right to you) of finding something my children will eat for dinner is put on my shoulders. I fumble through Disney cookbooks, stare into the freezer, or rummage through the refrigerator. I promote the virtues of eating breakfast for dinner. I usually include applesauce. I’m great with canned soups, carrot sticks, and remembering to peel the cellophane from the corn on microwavable dinners at the 30 second mark.
The other night, I paged through the Disney cookbook and figured out “Mickey’s Easy Chicken Catetori” wasn’t happening. I stared in to the freezer hoping that if I looked long enough, a meal would emerge from behind the frozen peas (it didn’t). Then I went rummaging through the refrigerator. I never go in looking for anything specific (I usually yell items I see to the kids for approval) but every time I look, I check to see if we have any Thousand Island salad dressing.
Before microwavable everything gave parents the convenience of 1 minute chicken nuggets and spaghetti (the closest thing we had to quick was eating Spaghetti-O’s uncooked), dinners had to be created. In my house, that was my mother’s job. For one thing, I grew up in an era when mothers were expected to do those sorts of things. For another, my father had the pallet of a goat. Put hot sauce on a shoe and he would have been chewing on the soles. And for another, my mom didn’t trust him around the stove with my sister and me in the house. So dad did not cook…except once.
My mom was going to be gone until later in the night. I don’t remember why or where she was going; I just knew my dad would be assuming her duties for the next 14 hours.
When dinnertime rolled around, my sister and I heard noises coming from the kitchen. It was my dad rummaging around in our refrigerator. Panic immediately hit the two of us. Surely mom had the foresight to leave something we could eat after 30 minutes at 350 in the oven? How about leftovers? A Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich would work. A bowl of cereal.
Timidly, we asked, “Um, Dad? Are you making dinner?” My dad had his strong points (Playing ‘Coma’, digging out homemade swimming pools, breaking his nose, fixing the car…dad things), cooking was not one of them.
“Didn’t mom leave anything out?”
“What are you making?” Our eyes closed and we twisted out of the way a little when we asked.
He was holding American cheese, Thousand Island salad dressing, and a loaf of bread. “Pizza!”
“Oh, pizza. Phew…Wait, what kind of pizza?!” We were now beginning to slowly back away from him.
There was a two second pause, “Hungarian Pizza.” Not sure when he became an expert on Hungary’s cuisine? I do know he was prone to improvisation (I submit his made up ‘Crononym’, the game ‘Coma’, and washbasket basketball as evidence)
“Dad, what is Hungarian Pizza?” Thankfully my sister hadn’t been rendered mute by his answer.
“You’ll see, now sit down. It will be ready in a few minutes.”
“Dad, we’re not eating Hungarian Pizza!” My sister invoked her freedom to assemble.
“Sit. Down.” My dad invoked his veto powers.
We sat and we watched. Dad laid out the slices of bread out on a broiling pan. He lathered the bread with the Thousand Island dressing. He covered the bread with the American cheese and slid the pan into the oven. A few minutes later, he was setting our slices of Hungarian Pizza in front of us.
We wound up eating the “pizza”. All of it. We sang the praises of Hungarian Pizza. We couldn’t wait to tell our mom when she got home (when she found out, it should be noted, it was the last time my father made us dinner outside of grilling a hamburger). And even though we would never eat Hungarian Pizza again, we never stopped talking about it. It became a part of the mythology of my father (Zeus’ mythology had him slicing open Cronus’ belly my dad made Hungarian Pizza).
Now I find myself in my dad’s position, twice a week. I dig through cookbooks and stare aimlessly into the freezer. Depending on what my kids want, I am heating up leftovers or scrambling eggs or making pancakes. Sometimes I peel back cellophane covered microwaveable dinners. And sometimes, when the kids are hungry for pizza, before I preheat the oven, I’ll look through the refrigerator to see if we have any Thousand Island salad dressing.Hungarian Pizza
- Take any store bought White Bread.
- Slather (depending on how much you like Thousand Island dressing, you can smear or dump too) Thousand Island dressing on to one side of the bread slices.
- Place slices of American cheese on top.
- Place the pizza on a cookie sheet and place in the oven at 350 degrees.
- Cook until cheese is melted.