Cooking With Myra: Ingredients come together to make great pizza
Aug. 9, 2010 at 3:09 a.m.
Updated Aug. 10, 2010 at 3:10 a.m.
By Myra Starkey
My trip to the Seattle area was a welcome rest from the heat and general routine of Victoria. In the South, summertime is sometimes best experienced from the air-conditioned interior side of the window. In the Pacific Northwest, the winters are long, wet and dreary, but summertime is usually cool with gentle winds and blue skies. The summer season thrills tourists and reminds locals why they moved there.
We had hiked along the seashore that morning and then explored a snow sprinkled high mountain path that afternoon. Port Angeles was our evening destination and the golden sun was setting across its harbor on Puget Sound. The locals told us the best restaurant was Michael's, which was in the basement of an old brick building on Main Street. The place was packed, and we felt lucky to find a table. We shared a crab pizza. They use lots of meat in their recipes because large Dungeness crabs are plentiful in the surrounding chilly waters.
The pizza was the kind that was made just right, with a thin crispy bottom, spicy sauce, a medium amount of cheese, plenty of meat and served when it is almost too hot to eat. We were each finishing our second slice when an old guy with a big smile and aged teeth stepped up to our table and asked us if we were enjoying ourselves, and we assured him we were.
He introduced himself as 'Bill.' His hands were wrinkled and he had a slight tremor in his head, but he still seemed quite young in spirit. I figured he was either a greeter from the local tourist bureau or was Michael's (restaurant owner) dad. The latter was true. We engaged him in conversation ... had he lived here a long time? ... and he obliged us with his delightful story. He kept asking us if he was bothering us, as if his son had told him once or twice that it would be good to greet patrons, but to not overdo it.
Bill told us he was actually from Nashville and that his dad had been the manager of the auditorium for the Grand Ole Opry. As a kid, he would hang around there often and knew all the big stars.
When he was about 18, he was sitting back stage with some friends, and Minnie Pearl asked him when he was going to ask his best girl Sarah to marry him. Minnie told him he better hurry because she was so pretty that someone else might snatch her away.
He knew those were wise words from Miss Pearl, and he was all for the idea, but he says it took him another year to convince Sarah.
They did marry and moved to Chicago, then found the city life was not to their liking and ended up in Idaho as farmers.
"She was the love of my life for 57 years," and at that moment we could see a deep loneliness in his face, and he paused a moment before he continued. "After her death, there didn't seem to be much left in my life, and Michael asked me to move out here so I could be nearer to him. So here I am, and I've been here seven years."
He was now smiling with sort of a deep contentment. "About three years ago, I met Ingrid. She is 81, and I'm 83. Well, though she doesn't look like she's 81," he said in a reassuring way as if he thought we needed some sort of clarification on that. He pulled a faded photo from his wallet so we could each verify that Ingrid looked younger than her birthday years.
Bill told us he had just walked into the visitors' center one day where she works, and there she was behind the counter. "I thought, Wow! She was trim and attractive, and she loves to polka.
The problem was that I never learned to dance, and so when I would go with her, all the other guys kept asking her to dance. Well, I couldn't stand for that so I told myself, 'Billy Boy you are going to learn to dance.' And then I went right over to the library and got a book and a video on polka dancing and taught myself to dance. And now we go dancing twice a week."
"So are you going to marry her?" we queried.
He was still smiling and told us that he was working on that, but that she hadn't agreed to anything yet.
Ingrid was probably holding out for just the right time.
When he finished his story he politely told us that he hoped we enjoyed our meal and then went over to the bar for a beer. For an 83-year-old, he seemed to have a happy bounce in his step. I guess love puts a bounce in your step, even at 83.
Enjoy my version of crab pizza.
Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.