For my work this morning I've been making preparations for planning my prize winning short story for the Brisbane competition. I started by simply typing random words about my childhood in Brisbane and was making great progress until I got to my mid-teens and out came: ‘Pizza Hut'. It got me thinking.
When we were children in our very modest home, in a very modest suburb of a city known throughout our land as an overgrown bush town, we had a very plain modest diet. Chops and three veggies for dinner most nights, fish and chips on Friday night, a Sunday roast of course, followed by ice-cream and jelly, and very occasionally the bizarre and exotic offerings from the local take-away Chinese. What those people could do to cabbage was nothing short of miraculous. But there was otherwise little influence from ‘foreign' elements. So little in fact that when the Pizza Hut people invaded our shores it was with trepidation and fear that this Eyetalian cuisine was considered.
Actually, youngsters like myself were busting to get there thanks to the influence of such provocative new age television shows as the Brady Bunch which often depicted the Brady teens heading off to the Pizza Parlour, so rich were their lives. I suspect even Patty Duke and Gidget may have done pizza too, a television generation earlier, but I was a Brady Bunch kid and it was from them I learned of the world.
I was about fifteen when slightly older friends started to drive and have access to their indulgent parents' cars, so freedom to roam and discover became possible. (Yes, the slightly older friends were boys. I was normal back then in most respects.) One marvelous Friday night after a couple of Southern Comforts and coke at the local leagues club (things like under-age drinking laws didn't seem to exist at the time) a car load of us decided we had enough cash between us to venture off to the Pizza Hut for a late supper. I was the only one of the group to have not been before but I wasn't going to let on that I was a neophyte in this regard. I knew how these things worked. Marcia had trained me well.
Oh, the aroma of that place. I had never imagined such exquisite olfactory delights. I was overcome, overwhelmed, I was in heaven. This surely was where taste buds came to die. We found a table and along with dozens of other teenagers started contributing to the noise and laughter that filled the room. I allowed the newness and excitement to envelop me and along with a mild southern comfort buzz was feeling pretty bloody pleased with myself.
When our pizza arrived (probably some crazy cosmopolitan combination of ground beef, onions and mushrooms.. but hey, with extra cheese, we were young thrill seekers after all) things only got better. How freaking delicious was this? How did Marcia keep her lovely figure when she had this to eat whenever she wanted to? But then it happened. One of my company sprinkled their slice with something that was definitely not salt and then passed the shaker to me. "You want some?" Why, of course I wanted some. This was an adventure right? Living on the edge. Taking no prisoners. "Hand me that jar young man, and don't spare the horses."
Marcia had not prepared me for the jars of powdered vomit at the Pizza Hut.
I have since grown to love parmesan cheese and won't eat my spag bol without it, but at the time I was convinced someone was playing a nasty practical joke on me. I can laugh about it now but it was an abject lesson in feigning a competence one does not actually possess and the dangers that lie therein.
I'm wondering now if some day my son Dale will look back on the diet of his childhood and scoff at the mundane offerings of curries and pastas, mexican dishes, lebanese foods and Thai delights. Perhaps one day he'll admit to his friends that he never had a Tanzanian Zebra stew until he got away from his mother's pedestrian cooking.