Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Pepperoni & Sauerkraut

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This summer, I took a trip to Montana and my hometown of Bigfork where I went to high school. My parents still own the house in which I spent my teen yearsand my husband's family also lives in the Flathead Valley not far from there.
Amid days of taking our Texas-born kids to experience our most beloved Montana nostalgia, one night my husband and I were able to sneak a town away with my brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law to  our ABSOLUTE favorite dive ... Moose's Saloon.

Moose's Saloon
Photo credit:

Allow me to try and convey just how much we love the pizza here. Among the six of us, we order three extra large pizzas and darn near eat every sliceplus a quart of Moose's unparalleled ranch dipping sauce. This pizza is last-meal good. It is stranded-on-a-deserted-island-with-only-one-food good (It may be a short life that ends with carotid arteries, but it will be a good island life!). That crisp, cornmeal-dusted crust ... You guys, what I'm trying to get you to understand is this: pizza.paradise.

There is no discussion on which flavor of pizza we will shout at the order window of the kitchen in the noisy bar where the ground is covered in sawdust and peanut shells and the lights are so low and so red you feel like you're in the biker remake of Moulin Rouge.

We order pepperoni and sauerkraut. Period. No menu or debate necessary.

If you've read my book, RYAN REVISITED, you may remember the pizza with these star-crossed pizza toppings. It's the "Manny's Ryan": main character Ryan Ester's favorite type of pizza from her favorite little pizza dive, "Moose's," in her Montana hometown. Yep, inspired by the very same Moose's Saloon I just visited for the umpteenth time in Kalispell, Montana. (In the area? GO!
There was a brown paper bag that wasn’t there before. Inside revealed a warm foil wrapper. Not in the mood for perky, fresh, Sorority Rush sub sandwiches, I was thrilled to find what looked and smelled to be the real deal. I bit into the most delicious, most heavenly slice of pizza I had ever tasted—or at least since my Goodbye Moose’s Night a month ago in Bluffs.
(excerpt from RYAN REVISITED)
We carve our "D" for Davis into the table under the crimson-lit sconces and racy portraits of painted ladies and laugh the kid-free night away (Thanks for babysitting, Mimi and Pop!), much like I'm sure Ryan and her former boyfriend Manny used to do in high school back in Bluffs, Montana, their fictional hometown.
In the story, Ryan Ester moves back to the South where she grew up after spending her high school years in the mountains of Montana (I may know a little about that particular part of the scenario *wink-wink*). Ryan is forced to find out whom she really is while thrown into a Southern sorority scandal and struggling to please everyone in her life. One comfort that Ryan finds at the University of the South is inside the college hangout, DaVinci's Lair. Its pizza reminds her of a piece of home ... and a person from home.
We sat in front of Da Vinci’s La Scapigliata and his drawings of the horse, both done in colorful electrics. We chose the table closest to the windows so we could try to hear one another talk. 
I didn’t survey the crowd. I hoped I would blend into the masses, and I was afraid searching the room with my eyes might land them on his.
“What kind of pizza do you like here?” 
I blushed when Goody directed the question at me in front of everyone. “I don’t really know the menu. I have a strange favorite that I used to get back in Montana.” I hoped I was diverting attention from why she asked me. “It’s sauerkraut and pepperoni. Weird, I know.”
“You mean Manny’s Ryan?” Goody asked, her eyes on the menu.
I froze, and I was sure color left my face. “What did you say?”
One slice of Manny's Ryan pizza could take her right back to Montana, where Ryan last felt herself. But at times, it drives her crazy.
“Go back to your friends, Helga Horrible.” Svea looked at my hand in Manny’s. “Might as well pack up your pizza to go. Manny’s Ryan will never be anything but warmed-over leftovers anyway.”
“He can taste and decide. I’m confident his palate is way more sophisticated than you.” I pulled Manny toward me again, and Svea walked away, shaking her head at Manny.
My heart was beating so fast.
I remembered Manny’s hand and dropped it.
He looked at me and smiled.
“What?” I asked him.
“Where did that come from?”
“Ugh. It’s just so maddening!”
“What is?”
“Her. You. All of it,” I told him.
I looked up at his eyes, and he looked happy. I hadn’t seen that look in a while.
“Go enjoy your Manny’s Ryan,” he said. “It’s dang good pizza. I still enjoy it whenever I can.”
I returned to the table feeling a sense of satisfaction and a spark of hope.
I smoothed my fringed skirt to sit down, placing the napkin in my lap like I had manners and hadn’t just reduced myself to a screaming match about personified pizza over a boy.
This summer, as I walked with my husband through the dark tavern in search of my own slice(s) of Manny's Ryan, I couldn't help but search for the ghosts of Ryan Ester and Manny Leon. I felt them, heard their laughs, and savored the moment. I tucked it away with all of the other beautiful memories my husband, kids, and I made back home in and around Bluffs, Montana ... I mean, Bigfork. ♥

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  1. It is amazing how certain foods stick with you for life. I also have a remembered pizza from when I was a child from a little hole in the wall mom & pop pizza place. The owner used to ride his bike down our street on his way to work and it was like seeing a rock star, especially when he'd smile and wave.

    The food I remember that I have never found anywhere else (also from childhood) was the Foo Burger. While everyone else was eating hamburgers, we'd go to the storefront Chinese place a few blocks away and pick up some Foo burgers. Basically Egg Foo Yung on a burger bun. I still get cravings for those today... but alas can no longer have Egg Foo Yung.

    1. I love that memory! I have never had a Foo Burger, nor even Egg Foo Yung. But now I want to. Thank you for sharing your pizza/bicycle and Foo Burger memories!

  2. Ah, such good times!! I adore you Sam and can't wait until we are all together eating sauerkraut & pepperoni pizza again!!

    1. So much fun! Always becomes one of my favorite Montana memories. Let's do it sooner than three years!



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