The challenge was to write an essay that answered this prompt:
What is your favorite comfort food, and when do you tend to reach for it?
John shared a story from his childhood that shows how food can leave a lasting impression on all of us. Enjoy his winning submission:
My Favorite Comfort Food… Double Pepperoni, Double Cheese Pizza
A short story from my vault:
I will always remember being 10 years old and living in Rosemont, Pennsylvania. Rosemont is a very Norman Rockwellian–type city but with tough areas like Garrett Hill, which is where I grew up. By the way, Rosemont is on the Main Line, just outside Philadelphia.
When I was 10 (a long, long time ago), I would work every day mowing lawns, and raking grass and leaves. In the winter my brother and I always prayed for snow so we could make money shoveling. My brother’s goal was “his goal.” But my goal was to make certain I always had enough money to walk the half mile to the nearest and bestest pizzeria, Nudy’s! I’d pay, with my own money, for my favorite… double pepperoni, double cheese pizza. This was my reward for hard work and saving money.
When my mom and dad went out, they always left me to watch over my younger sister. My older brother was usually out with his friends or pulling his “runaway” gimmick. We always knew where he was and that he was safe.
When my lil’ sister would ask me what was for dinner, I always knew what I would say: “Let’s walk up to Nudy’s and get a pizza… a double pepperoni, double cheese pizza.” My sister would get so excited and ask how we were going to pay for it. I would look at her and say, “I’ve been making and saving my money — let’s go.” With big, beaming smiles and wrapped up for winter weather, hand in hand we would make our walk to Nudy’s.
Now, most people would have considered Nudy’s a straight-out dive. But to Garrett Hill people, Nudy’s was the best. Nudy’s was a straight-up pizzeria. Only pizzas, subs, and french fries (nothing fancy). When Joe Nudie saw me and my sister enter his restaurant, he would ask, “How’s your mom and dad tonight? Where’d they go?”
I’d always answer, “They’re on a date, Mr. Nudie.” Joe would already be tossing the dough. Their double pepperoni, double cheese pizza may not have been the best pizza in the world. However, to my sister and me… it was the best thing we had ever eaten!
Now, 48 years later, and with Nudy’s defunct, I still enjoy the feeling of going to a pizzeria and ordering my classic. It may not be the pizza for everyone, but it still brings me a sense of pride to be able to walk into a pizzeria and pay for the gastronomic, artery-clogging meal known as a double pepperoni, double cheese pizza.
So, when I am feeling down on myself. Or just wondering “what the heck!” Or feeling a little lost… I go to a local pizzeria and order a double pepperoni, double cheese pizza.
Thankfully, I am genuinely a happy and positive guy. Otherwise… I would weigh 400 pounds!