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May 1, 2009

Of Chef Boyardee pizza and Andy Griffith



What impressed me most about this Bucky's World is that our guest poster would undertake such a dangerous culinary experiment for our benefit. EL

Last week, noted blogging psychologist Dr. O.M. Gravy shared with us his ground-breaking studies of Recovered Childhood Lunch Trauma (RCLT).  Commenting on Dr. Gravy’s work, Old Phil prompted my own personal recovery of a non-traumatic culinary memory from the 1950s:  Chef Boyardee Pizza Kits.

You might recall that my early years were spent primarily in a place so small that there was no café or restaurant of any sort.  Regular Bucky-readers have also certainly deduced by now that I spring from a decidedly meat-and-potatoes background. ...

All of this is to say that Old Phil’s comment brought back warm memories of the one exotic food that I ate when I was a kid, Chef Boyardee pizza, made from a box kit.  This was the only pizza I knew until our family moved away from Wyoming to a town that had a Shakey’s Pizza parlor.

Feeling nostalgic after Old Phil’s comment, last Sunday I baked up a Chef Boyardee pizza for Mrs. Bucky and myself, and we ate it while sitting at some old TV trays that originally belonged to my folks and have been in our basement storage room for decades.  (In our first apartment, the TV trays served as lamp tables in our living room, which is why we had them.)  While we ate our pizza, we watched Andy Griffith in black and white on the TV Land network.

The pizza, of course, was nowhere near as good I remembered it.  Neither was the old Andy Griffith show.  This is a lesson I have to re-learn from time to time.  The gossamer memories of youth are best left undisturbed, their beauty admired only through the distance of time.   

By the way, research reveals that Chef Boyardee was, in fact, Ettore Boiardi, an Italian-born chef who immigrated to the United States in 1915.  He Americanized his first name to Hector and eventually ended up in Cleveland, where he operated his own restaurant, Il Giardino d‘Italia. 

His canned food empire started when restaurant customers kept asking to buy his marinara sauce, which he originally sold them packaged in spare milk bottles. 

That is, indeed, his picture on his food products.  Chef Boiardi died in 1985.  

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 12:59 PM | | Comments (35)


Excellent post Bucky.

"gossamer memories of youth "

Wow, we really did grow in different places.

Glad to offer inspiration. Any warm memories of creamed chipped beef on toast?

Since my mother refused to buy Chef Boyardee products, I purchased the ravioli or beeferoni from my high school vending machine every day for lunch. I also had a bag of salt and vinegar chips and a snickers bar. I had never even heard of the pizza kit until this blog. Hamburger helper was not allowed in my house either.

I also grew up in a small town without pizza parlors and ate many Chef Boyardee box pizzas. The first restaurant pizza I ate was Pizza Hut. The main draw to Pizza Hut was the ability to be served beer when we were 16. About 4 years ago when my wife was out of town I decided to relive my high school memories and wondered down to the Pizza Hut for pizza and beer. Won't do that again. Not nearly as good as I remembered.

We have used the Chef Boyardee pizza mix since we were married in 1975 and still think it is the best. We use the mix as a base and add mozzarella, mushrooms, onion and whatever else we may be in the mood for. You can't buy a pizza as good, especially from the chain outfits (I can't believe they call that pizza!). very economical too. I hope they continue to offer this product for years to come, I wish they would offer their sauce for sale as a seperate item, it really is the best.

Well, it is a good thing that TV Land didn't have one of their God awful original shows airing at that time. Think how this nostalgic moment would have turned out if you ended up watching "The Cougar" instead.

Bucky, another traumatic memory from childhood as a result of Chef Boyardee pizza: one Halloween evening, the same friend's mom who was responsible for the hellish so-called Hungarian goulash made us pizza from that kit. We ate before going out to trick-or-treat. As usual with her cooking, it wasn't very good, but I finished my portion and waited for my friend. My stomach felt funny. I told my friend I needed to go home, ran for the door, and just as I pushed it open, I threw up all over the front step. Fortunately, my Halloween costume ( a homemade little Dutch girl outfit, complete with blond braids and painted wooden shoes) was spared.

I don't remember that pizza kit being good, but that may be because my father (he of the otherly temperatured oven) made it.

That was very brave of you, Bucky.

That certainly must have kept the trick or treaters away.

my Halloween costume ( a homemade little Dutch girl outfit, complete with blond braids and painted wooden shoes) was spared


Yum - My sisters and I each had that exact dutch girl outfit (sans puke) including braids, wooden shoes and a little felt hat with rickrack. Mine was brought to me by an uncle who was stationed in Holland while in the Army. We were oh so cute

my Halloween costume ( a homemade little Dutch girl outfit, complete with blond braids and painted wooden shoes) was spared.

Obviously I had my priorities straight even at age six.

4 corners Pizza- Pelhamdale Avenue, Pelham NY. STILL the best pizza, after 40 yrs. I'm sorry to hear you had a bad youth. And today, if you cant appreciate the simplicity of the Andy Griffith show, that's too bad as well. Today, it's a 30 minute vacation to a stress free destination. Next thing you're gonna say is you never played Capture the flag on a warm summer night. This summer take the time to find that glass jar and catch a firefly... hopefully, not in the food of your favorite restuarant.

KitKat, how funny! I always thought it was homemade, but not by my mom -- a neighbor gave it to me when her daughter outgrew it. I'm sure someone must have brought it back from Holland as well. Those shoes were just too adorable!

Go Pelham

But I thought it was a bad "yute".

Sniff--I only got to play with the shoes--no outfit, no blonde braids ... I never realized what a deprived childhood I had!

Thanks for the great story, I laughed right out loud at that!

I thought the same thing, Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny.

Like Tom S, I ate the pizza-in-a-box stuff into the 90s. It is better if you doctor it up with good toppings.

Now I go for the Kashi or Amy's pizzas if I feel like pizza. They are good, but nothing like a good pie from a pizzeria.

Remember the Swanson TV dinners in aluminum trays, that had to be heated in an oven? The turkey one was my favorite as a kid.

"Tony's Pizza Pit" on Greenfield Ave. in New Berlin, WI, changed our culinary lives by introducing us to the mighty pie. Mezozoic era, I believe; receding glaciers, dodos everywhere, Opie had more hair than our pet mastadon.

EEL - beer at 16? Let me guess...Louisiana? We could drink 3.2 beer at 18 (no longer) but I had never heard of 16.

Tom S - I agree, the pizza would have been better if we had added our own toppings. The crust was fine, baked on our pizza stone. But we were going for an authentic 50's evening. Or, I was. Mrs. Bucky was humoring me, because she knew I needed a post for today.

Pelham - I had a great youth and could regale the Sandbox with numerous stories such as the time RJ Lane and I built a raft, set off down the North Platte River and had to be rescued by a group that included nearly every law enforcement officer in Natrona County. We were five at the time. However, none of those stories have a food hook. I did play Capture the Flag on summer nights. It was during a Capture the Flag game, as a matter of fact, that I got my first kiss from a girl who was three years older than I, while everybody else was trying to capture the flag. Finally, let's just say you and I have different tastes in television. But you'll have to read other Sun blogs to find out exactly how different.

PCB Rob - we did eat those dinners once in a while. Not often, though. I still have a hard time convincing my parents (ages 90 and 87) that the convenience is worth the money.

jl - I don't recall the glaicers, but that Opie's hairline is receding.

And to all our female friends who like to dress up as little Dutch girls: y'all keep this up and howie is going to lose interest in Barbie Hargrave and start stalking you.

Dahlink, but you know the shoes were the best part of the outfit!

With the topic swerve that exists here, go ahead and regale us!

Just sneak in a line about what snacks you had along the way.

Yum, did the shoes come from Zappo's?

Back to the pizza, somehow my father got that crust thin enough to fill a jelly roll pan and served five children on a Friday night. He probably threw some ketchup in the sauce, and I know he sprinkled that cheese stuff from the green can on it as well. It was a go-to meal on a Friday night, when we didn't eat meat. We first discovered it when we lived in Texas in the late 50's.

We also had the box pizza in the mid 50's but for a family of four. Friday or Saturday we also had a treat of a 6 1/2 ounce coke with some popcorn to watch the favorite 30 minute comedy show. The coke lasted for the entire show.

My wife regularly brings up the subject of a salad bowl that my family of four shared. Looking at it from the perspective of today's portions, the bowl wouldn't be enough for one.

Is it any wonder that we are generally characterized as "big", as my doctor recently told me. When he was dictating his report, the "big" changed to "overweight".

Aaah, We can't leave out the summer treat of roasting "marshmellows" and exactly how everyone liked theirs differently. some roasted, oh so carefully to create an even golden brown color, or the burned to a crisp treat. When our tummies were full, we'd look up and try to find the big and little dippers. I think once you turn into a "grown up" you're not allowed to look at the stars anymore., unless you're on vacation and even then it takes a few days to look up.

Oh, Pelham--how true! I will never forget that on the very last trip we made with my in-laws (now departed) my mother-in-law got enormous pleasure from just looking at a beautiful full moon over the water.

MD Canon, I remember that green can of grated cheese. I had an enormous revelation in high school when I stayed with my Uncle Jack and Aunt Kay for a couple of weeks while I was taking a workshop at USC. They grated their own cheese, and it was light years better than what I was used to. I've never gone back to the can.

Pelham - thank you for that vivid image of summer evening marshmallows. I didn't notice when you first started posting but I do enjoy your comments. You even managed to extract some more repressed memories out of Bucky, always a worthwhile exercise.

Bucky -- a most entertaining post indeed. And I haven't even told you about my Dutch Girl costume.

YumPo -- my jaw dropped when I read about your costume. I also had one but had always been under the impression it was one- of- a -kind. And now, years later, we're all grown up to find our illusions of specialness crushed. Mine didn't have the wooden shoes ( I guess Dahlink got them) nor yellow braids but it did have an awesome white three- pointed cap, as well as a black lace-up vest over a white cotton blouse and long blue skirt. Red lipstick circles on the apples of your cheeks, and you were good to go. Trick-or-Treat?

Laura Lee, back in those days I didn't need any makeup to have pink cheeks. Sweet little old ladies were always pinching them. Ouch!

".... The gossamer memories of youth are best left undisturbed, their beauty admired only through the distance of time."

"when to the sweet sessions of sweet silent thought..."

Well you gals are getting me in a bit of randy lather here. with your Dutch girl kit and togs. Now that also reminds me of holiday in Utrecht

I'm twittering. The talk re roasting marshmellows reminded me of my g'ma's candied citrus rind. I'm making some right now. grapefruit, oranges, lemon, lime. Hope its as good as I remember.

Dahlink ... I retreat to my "Lipton Instant Iced Tea Mix" defense. I loved the stuff in my youth, and in truth still do. But now I simply remind myself that the LIITM and real iced tea (made with leaves, not bags) are different species (maybe phyla). Ditto the salty crunchy stuff in the green can and the savory dust from a block, unwrapped from its paper and grated a la minute.

I'm late to this post, but I have to comment...

When my parents decided that we 4 kids were old enough to not need a "babysitter", they were going to a dance and asked what we wanted to have for dinner in their absence. We all voted for "Mexican TV dinner" and a bottle of Pepsi that we didn't have to share. We debated among ourselves about Chef Boyardee Pizza, but rejected it because sometimes Mom let us have that - but never did she buy Mexican TV diinner! So that's what we chose. We gorged ourselves that night. And to this day - even though I know better - "Mexican TV dinner" still makes me salivate. Go figure.

:-D Allo! Psketti is good food! Chef Boiardi's relatives are alive and well in Paris, France.....Bon!

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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