It is something that I try to disallow, or put off as long as I can. In the morning, my resolve is certain – not this week, probably not next. But somewhere around mid-afternoon, my willpower is exhausted and the urge is far too strong to ignore. It passes from the realm of desire to that of need; a necessity, something that simply must be.
I am fortunate to be wed to a woman who is willing to indulge this craving, so long as I humor hers, too. As we plan the menu for the week, divining seven meals from a stack of coupons and a Publix sale paper, two of the seven lines are already inked in: Spaghetti for her, pizza for me.
Lo, but it’s not simply the pizza – it’s the ritual of the evening. It isn’t just food, it’s an experience. It’s something I don’t have to cook. Something that comes when it comes. Something I don’t have to worry about. (I’m a man who needs more things to not worry about.)
For some families, it’s family game night. For others, it’s family movie night. In our abode, the highpoint of the week (so far as I’m concerned) is pizza and martini night.
The decision usually is made over the phone, though my heart has settled on the selection earlier than that. There are evenings I arrive from work, and slide the plastic tub of processed barbecued meat from my wife’s hand. She knows by the look in my eyes that the hunger is upon me. Like a vampire in legend, I need to feed.
I go to the pantry and withdraw the ingredients for my libation. Gin (vodka is for women and pansies), dry vermouth and a cocktail shaker. I spread my special towel out on the counter (yes, I have one – the pattern is of olives). I gather my ice from the freezer. My 3-year-old helps. She loves the sound the ice cubes make as they clang inside the metal cocktail shaker. I always say “last one!” one cube before the shaker overflows, knowing that she’ll insist on withdrawing at least one past that. I pour the gin, the vermouth. I stir – shaking will bruise the gin – and strain into the funnel of the cocktail glass, right up to the top. Two olives for the martini, one for my daughter to munch. Not enough booze to be drunk, but enough to warm me up and gain an improved perspective.
I stand behind my wife as she orders the pizza at the computer, draining the last of the martini from the shaker that wouldn’t fit in the glass (indeed, I make a little extra just for this). With she in graduate school and both of us working full-time, meals are more a course of necessity than pleasure. Food has to be prepared quickly, and there’s little room for variety. But pizza and martini night, variety is the order of the evening, so long as you don’t mind it coming atop bread and covered in cheese (and who would?). The only limits on the possibilities are owed to the selection of online coupons available that night.
Pizza order confirmed, e-mail checked for delivery time, we go upstairs for another reason I love pizza and martini night: usually, my wife bathes the kid so I can be ready to get the pizza when it comes. So, I get to post myself by the bedroom windows, way up on the third floor of our bigger-than-we-thought-it’d-be-when-we-built-it house, looking out over the front yard and driveway, waiting for the pizza to come.
It’s a rare and relaxing moment to savor the sun and the peace of having nothing in particular to do but wait. Any other evening, and I would be obliged to do laundry, or vacuum the floors and the furniture or do any of the other many chores that result from having three cats and a preschooler. These responsibilities are shelved for pizza and martini night.
(Also, we typically do them on the nights my wife does not work – she’s a floor nurse at a local hospital working a 12-hour shift, and doesn’t get home until after 7 – and on those nights she picks our daughter up from day care, which leaves my van available for me to have a pipe on my way home. This is the cherry atop my sundae of vice.)
The tradition began by tying the festival to the night of the week that my wife and I watch our favorite television shows, which have seasons that overlap. “Ghost Hunters,” “Justified,” pizza and a martini is my idea of bliss. As the seasons conclude, we have typically shelved pizza and martini night until they begin again. But with my wife in school, continuing them over the summer has been a welcome respite from the worries of the week. If an excuse is required, I maintain a list of occasions handy to justify the celebration.
She says that, when she’s out of school, they must stop; indeed, they are not healthy for our bodies (or my liver). But they are damned good for my soul.