While recently researching clambakes, I grew nostalgic. Not for the lobsters of my native New England (though I miss them—they’re about $17 a pound down here in Dixie, which effectively prices me out of the market). And not for clams, but I sure wouldn’t mind a good cup of chowder, or a basket of fried whole belly clams (not those nasty, rubbery clam strips, thanks much).
No, I became nostalgic for Papa Gino’s pizza. If you’re not from New England, this won’t mean much to you. And if you are, you still probably don’t understand why I’d crave it, so let me explain. Papa Gino’s is a pizza chain, one I used to frequent as a kid. Thoughts of clambakes led me to thoughts of other foods I used to enjoy, which led to Papa Gino’s, but I’m hard-pressed to defend it. Lobsters and clams, those are crave-worthy items. Papa’s pizza? It’s not like the artisanal Neopolitan-style pizzas now commonly available in most metro areas, with their beautifully charred and blistered crisp-chewy crust, creamy, fresh mozzarella, and tangy San Marzano tomato sauce. In fact, Papa Gino’s is kind of the anti-artisanal pizza.
And here’s the thing: if I tried it for the first time today, I probably wouldn’t like it. At all. But I loved it as a kid, and would probably really enjoy a reheated slice (they never seem to be fresh out of the oven) right about now. As a force, nostalgia is stronger than logic, and it even trumps good taste. It’s why I will always love a nice cold glass of Tang, even though my plans with NASA fell through, and why a bowl of soggy Rice Chex gives me comfort in hard times.
Please tell me I’m not alone. Not about craving Papa Gino’s (because I may well be alone on that one), but about my irrational love for foods that don’t necessarily deserve to be loved. What’s your nostalgic guilty pleasure?