Have you ever walked by one of those wall plaques with a fake fish mounted on it and all of a sudden the fish's head pops out and starts to sing? Or have you seen those expensive voice-activated toys that just need a keyword to start beeping or dancing? People are like this to a certain extent: mention a certain topic or buzzword and they'll go off on a tangent on the ethics of open source or the benefits of free range meat.
My close friends know by now not to bring up the topic of pizza toppings because my eyes light up and I can’t wait to open my mouth and share my favorite pizza topping: cream cheese. The obsession started back in high school when Old Chicago was one of the hangouts of choice, and my small group leaders at the time were absolutely convinced that cream cheese was the best pizza topping ever invented and we all HAD to try it. It isn’t what you think – most of the time, people assume the cream cheese is spread as a layer like sauce but it’s actually dropped in small dollops and distributed much like pepperoni or sausage would be. I refused to try it for a while because, after all, does cream cheese really belong on pizza? My instincts told me no but finally, at the behest of all my converted friends, I forked a bite in my mouth. The combination of flavor was enough to make me a lifelong fan and persistent proselytizer to anyone who will listen. Cream cheese pizza was easy to come by in my hometown. Not only did Old Chicago offer it as a secret ingredient (you won’t find it on the menu), but so did a hometown favorite pizza joint, Roma’s. My guess is that Roma’s offered it first and it became so popular that Old Chicago eventually added it to its repertoire because I’ve been to a couple different Old C’s around the country (Portland and St. Paul) and was met with blank stares when I asked for it. This changed on Saturday when Mark and I went with some friends to a different Old Chicago in Portland. I almost didn’t ask if they had cream cheese because Greeley has been the only place I’ve ever found it (and I ask everywhere). Also, whenever I ask for the topping, I get some weird looks and an occasional “Cream cheese on pizza? That’s… interesting.” It’s tiring always being on the defensive. Nonetheless, I asked the waitress if they had it and was so shocked at her “Yes, we do!” that I could only stammer my surprise and re-open my menu to build my order around it.
I’ve tried to scale back my excitement lately because I know I’m kind of like that singing fish. It doesn’t matter if you’ve heard it before, I’ll still tell you that you should try it because it’s just SO good. I’ve already converted two people and I’m hoping for a domino effect so I won’t continue sounding like a broken record. But no promises.