Thursday, March 30, 2023

Pizza is supposed to be a universally loved food. On any given day, 13 percent of Americans are consuming it. It would probably be higher, if not for the sauce haters out there. Every family has one, a child so averse to sauce that he eats most meals with napkins by his side, blotting out anything red that might provide moisture or flavor to the food. This totally ruins pizza night. Or meatball night. Or anything that isn’t dry-food night.

I remember growing up, one sister didn’t like sauce, and so my mother would have to specifically order something else for her when she’d buy a pizza to feed the rest of us. Sometimes it was a knish, a falafel, or just a home-made pot of noodles, and the other five of us had no options. At one point, we all rebelled and decided we hated sauce because that particular store made it too chunky or it had green-things in it that some would call “parsley.” We’d lift off the cheese of the pizza, take tons of napkins, and wipe everything off, before returning the doctored up cheese to the slick dough. When my mother discovered the piles of saucy napkins in the garbage, she yelled that she would no longer buy us pizza, but would just make us grilled cheese, because essentially, that is what we were eating. We took a break from pizza after that.

One of my children also hates sauce. I attribute this to the fact that when I was pregnant with him, I was able to eat anything, except things that had sauce, and so I was forced to avoid everything with even a hint of tomato. So strong was this food aversion for those nine months that he must have inherited it. And now, I am doomed.

It’s pizza night in our house; this is typically on Thursdays, so that I don’t have to spend time contemplating and preparing a complex dinner when I have my impending Shabbat cooking looming before me. Also, it is two days after school’s pizza day, so the kids have a one-day hiatus from this food group. However, I’ll admit that I tend to make the dough and pizza myself, imagining this to be healthier and tastier than frozen or store pizza. Sometimes I buy store-made dough, but when I forget, it’s actually easier to just make it at home than it is to pack my toddler in the car and run to the supermarket.

I did this routine for a few years—make the dough, roll it out, and spread sauce on half the pie, creating a cheese-pizza and regular-pizza combo. God forbid, if a milliliter of sauce should leak onto the just-cheese side, I’d have to perform micro-surgery and slice off the “bad parts” for the discerning child. But it seemed that my kids grew tired of my laborious pizza routine, and if the pizza was going uneaten, I wasn’t going to put in the effort anymore.

And so, I bought pre-made pizzas from the kosher supermarket. This was a huge hit, with everyone except for the sauce hater, because they don’t really sell sauceless, flavorless pies. “Did you buy me a pizza with no sauce?” he’d ask on a weekly basis, his eyes wide and hopeful. I’d shake my head sadly, hoping that if I presented him with the food often enough, he would grow to acquire the taste for it. It hasn’t happened yet.

“I’m sorry, there’s only sauce. We can wipe it off. Or just try it! It’s so good.” But to him, it never really is. And after some tears, a feeble attempt at biting the not-so-saucy parts of the slice, the peanut butter comes out and he begins to make a sandwich.

“Oooh! Can I have a sandwich?” another child cries, and this desire spreads like fire. They are all suddenly so incredibly excited about having a sandwich, and immediately, the pizza is cold and congealed and forgotten. And I think of the sorry demise of our family pizza night due to the sauce hater, and how I should really just let them make sandwiches because this is what appeals to them most. My mom was right all those years ago. Sandwiches are better than pizza.

Sarah Abenaim is a freelance writer. She lives in Teaneck and can be reached at [email protected]

By Sarah Abenaim

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