Slice of American Pie

Pizza a delicious piece of our past, present

By Hilary Berg

Who doesn’t love pizza? With so many styles, crusts and sauces, there’s a pie for almost every taste.

There’s also one suitable for every allergy, too. Can’t eat tomatoes? Try plain olive oil instead. Gluten gets you down? There’s now a recipe for cauliflower crust. Don’t have an oven? Cook it on the grill. There are simply no excuses.

Pizza is so much a part of our culture and past, too.  In fact, it played a role in forming my destiny — I’ll get to that in a bit — and could have changed my grandmother’s, too.

Back in the early ’30s in Wichita, Kansas, my grandma dated a certain gentleman prior to meeting and falling in love with my grandpa — they went on to have five children, 25 grandkids and too many “greats” to count. My grandma’s suitor — before my grandpa — had children of his own. Two of them founded what would become one of the world’s largest pizza chains.

Had my grandma chosen him over my grandpa, would their offspring have become franchise giants? Impossible to say and irrelevant, really, yet a fun little aside in my homage to pizza.

Fast-forward to Lawrence, Kansas, where I studied at the University of Kansas and worked at a pizza joint called Papa Keno’s. It was owned by a man whose father worked for the same pizza headquarters in Wichita. But that is not why I mention this place. No, Papa K’s was where I met the man I would marry.

I tossed dough and topped pizzas alongside one of his bandmates. Chris would swing in to chat with him and eventually strike up conversations with me. It was the fall of 1997. We soon started dating the following February. We’ve been inseparable ever since.

Pizza is part of many Americans’ stories, whether as a celebratory meal or a reason to gather with friends on a Friday night. No matter where it fits into your own narrative, it is there, smelling delicious and helping make memories.

One such nostalgic nugget comes from the small town where my beloved grandma and grandpa raised my mom and her siblings. It was always a treat to go to Gambino’s in Colwich, where they made a “German Pie.” As I recall, it had fresh sauerkraut, juicy sausage...

Like I said, there’s a pizza for everyone. Seriously, what’s not to love?

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