I don’t know where the message came from, but I couldn’t argue with the content. Perhaps it was a message from God. I turned my computer on this morning and was greeted with the following: “SOMETIMES YOU GOTTA STOP AND SMELL THE BRISKET. AND THE BLUEBONNETS. AND THE WHATABURGER.”
Actually I wondered if Jake, my seven-year-old grandson, had written the message. Last night he told me he wanted to write a blog for me to post before he goes home on Sunday. The content had Jake’s his name all over it, but I don’t really know the origin. Honestly, the message sounds like something his father would have written. You know what they say, “Like father, like son”. Seldom does the apple fall far from the tree. In every respect, Jake is a “chip off the old block.”
A couple of nights ago, Jake excitedly told me: “Aunt Dre’ said we’d have Chicago style pizza one evening this week. I think she bought it just for me.” Honestly, when it comes to being a supportive aunt and uncle, Aunt Dre and Uncle Kevin, go the second and third mile. They are intent of building positive memories for the kids. Honestly, they are amazingly patient and involved. Jake went on to say: “I’ve never had Chicago style pizza before, but Aunt Dre’ says it is an inch think and really good”. He added: “I’ve never been to Chicago, but Aunt Dre’ and Uncle Kevin have been to Chicago.”
I told Jake that I’d been to Chicago several times and that Aunt Dre’ is right: “Chicago pizza is really good.” Later as I thought about the conversation, I remembered back to my first trip to Chicago. The year was in 1997 or 1998. I was at a conference in a downtown hotel and I was mesmerized by the city. I found the architecture beyond belief and the walk along Lake Shore Drive provided an incredible view of Lake Michigan. In addition to the conference, I used the off-hours (every waking moment) to explore and discover the city. After all, I’d never been to Chicago before.
The architectural boat tour of downtown Chicago provides a close up view of the city like no other. I even took the time to walk through the Marshall Fields building. I remember thinking at the time that it was larger than Herrods in London. Actually, what I didn’t know is that the Marshall fields building is the third largest store in the world and is a National Historic Landmark. And of course, if you see Chicago and miss the view from the Sears Tower, from my perspective, you haven’t really seen the City of Chicago.
I am a fan of Chicago and I am a fan of Chicago style pizza. In the file of memories from my first trip to Chicago is the vivid recollection of my first taste of Chicago style pizza. It was probably 10:00 p.m. Like I said, “I took the city in for all it was worth.” Even at 10:00 p.m., the pizza place was packed and the taste of the pizza was like no other.
Several years ago, I was back in the Chicago area with two colleagues. We were attending a national conference about forty miles outside the City, but opted to briefly run through the city before we went to our actual destination. The friend from Oklahoma City said, “I’ve been to Chicago. I want us to eat at my favorite place. I remember exactly how to find it.” Of course, I had visions of Chicago style pizza in a quaint but crowded venue. I could almost taste it. I was in a state of utter disbelief when, after blocks and blocks of walking, we found the restaurant that was his favorite place to eat. God as my witness, I am not making this up. His favorite Chicago restaurant was Bennigans.
Just for the record, I was conciliatory beyond belief. I didn’t make a fuss, but walked into the restaurant and attempted to wear a smiley face. Who knows, maybe I knew the memory would one day be fodder for a blog. I was surprised by my flexibility. However, you can only bend so far without breaking. As I looked at the standard nondescript “Bennigan Menu” that you can apparently find anywhere in the U.S.A. except Oklahoma City, the friend from Chicago said: “I’m not very hungry. Would you like for us to share a meal?” Losing my smiley face, I said: “All they have on the menu is burgers. I’m hungry. I don’t think so.”
Last night Aunt Dre’ and Uncle Kevin orchestrated a lasting culinary memory for their youngest nephew. The Chicago style deep-dish pizzas they brought over were uncooked. While we waited for the pizzas to cook, Uncle Kevin decided it was time to create another lasting memory for Jake. He took Jake and the General for Jake’s first ride in a convertible. Wow! Wow! Wow! Jakes eyes were as big as saucers when they returned and his smile was from ear-to-ear. He also proudly said, “Uncle Kevin let me shift the gears.” The kid is ahead of his time. I can assure you I didn’t ride in a Porsche convertible when I was seven. Actually, until two weeks ago, I hadn’t ridden in a Porsche convertible. Unlike Jake, I still haven’t had the privilege of shifting the gears. Uncle Kevin didn’t make that offer to me.
Last night’s pizza took me back in time. It was as good as my first memory of Chicago style pizza. It some respects, it was better. The ambience of our home is more comfortable than the crowed venue in which I first lavished the taste. I turned to Andrea and asked, “Where did you buy this?” Of course, I knew she’d respond: “Whole Foods”. She buys all their grocery from Whole Foods. She surprised me with her answer, it wasn’t, “Whole Foods”. She said, “ I bought it in Chicago”.
I looked at her with disbelief and said, “You did what?” She repeated: “I bought it in Chicago.” She got the idea from the “Food Channel” on television. They featured, “A Taste of Chicago”. You can order fresh food from Chicago and it is delivered to your door within two days. It is packed in dry ice. I had the thought: “If you can drive a Porsche convertible, why not order carry-out from Chicago.” Actually, I was surprised when she added, “It’s about the same price as the pizza you can buy at any pizza place in Dripping Springs, only it is better”.
I guess you could say, “The evening proved to be two firsts for Jake – Chicago style pizza and a convertible ride”. It was also a first for me, “Now I know how to get Chicago style pizza without going to Chicago.
All My Best!