It’s happening. Right now.
I’m sitting on a high stool in my kitchen, propping my torso up with my elbows. The oven is humming away at 425°F, emitting the quenching aroma of melting cheese.
In mere minutes it will be sitting on a cutting board in front of me, cut into quarters — begging to be consumed. I will oblige it.
It is a Dr. Oetker thin crust Pizza Funghi. It will be the best thing I’ve eaten all day.
In a culture that has come to increasingly fetishize food, this is an uncomfortable confession: the frozen foods section of the Qwanlin “Mall” Shoppers Drug Mart remains a staple of my grocery shopping routine.
It’s the deals that keep me coming back.
Once, Lean Cuisine lasagna was on sale for approximately half price. I found a shopping basket and filled it to the brim. Yes, I did get sick of lasagna.
And while the half-price pasta was a score to be sure, nothing delight’s this frozen food connoisseur like seeing Dr. Oetker’s thin crust pizzas marked down from their usual $6.99 to a more reasonable $3.99.
In such a situation it is rare for me to buy less than four and it is not unheard of for me to wobble my way to the check out till with a dozen — stacked up like the Leaning Tower of Pizza (couldn’t resist).
Somehow Dr. Oetker — I don’t know who he is or where he is from, but I’m sure he got his PhD in Pizza Studies — has created a pie that transcends our expectations of what a frozen food product can be.
Cheese on the roof of the mouth is the first sensation — a warm wave of lactose. The tongue sifts through the flotsam to locate the toppings (in this case mushrooms, but spinach is also very good) and press them together with the mozzarella and whatever shards of crust find themselves pulled by the tide.
Each bite is not so much a taste explosion as an engulfment — less of a firecracker, more of a warm bath on a winter’s night.
What’s remarkable about Dr., Oetker’s little masterpiece is how unremarkable it is. Nothing about the constituent parts of the pizza (crust, tomato sauce, cheese, etc.) would lead one to believe that an extraordinary eating experience is at hand. But the sum of these constituent parts illustrates that the mundane and the magical may be separated by a very thin line.
It was my folks that introduced me to Dr. Oetker, and that is perhaps the greatest compliment of all. My parents’ culinary sensibilities have evolved from the perogy-Mondays of my youth — a very beige plate, indeed — to feasts of risotto and juniper-infused salmon.
Wisely, they have all but forsaken pre-made, frozen foods. There is only one exception to this regiment.
You guessed it.
For four bucks a pop, everyone enjoys a house call from the doctor.