The Pizza Parable
We slid our plastic trays along the metal counter. That piquant smell of so many disposed milk boxes wafting up from oversized garbage bins, mixed with the undeniable aroma of hot, delicious pizza. Rectangular pizza that filled the main-course partition of your lunch tray from edge to edge. Pizza we only got once or twice a month. Pizza with the softest, almost raw, pockmarked dough, covered in the gooiest of cheese, and topped with little bite-sized cubes of “pepperoni.” Pizza only a public elementary school kid could possibly love. Pizza you’d one day grow out of, but for now was the greatest thing on the planet. The air was electric with anticipation. The usual shouting, shoving, and wet willies, replaced with anxious shuffling of feet, and hushed chatter. My stomach growled, but my heart sank. I couldn’t eat the pizza. It was Passover and I couldn’t eat bread. I could only eat Matzah, the “bread of affliction” (whatever that meant). As we filed through the line, I leaned over and whispered to my friend, “I can’t eat it. I can’t eat the pizza.”
“Because it’s Passover and I can’t eat anything with leavening.”
“What’s that? I don’t think pizza has that.”
“I don’t know what it is, but it makes the bread rise, we can only eat flat things.”
“Pizza is flat.”
“Look, I only know that we definitely can’t eat pizza, because it’s what we go and eat when Passover is over to break the fast.”
“Because, the Jews had to flee the Pharaoh and they didn’t have time to let the dough rise, so it cooked on their backs and turned into this cracker and that’s what I have to eat for the next week.”
“But you’re going to be hungry! We have kickball today!” She said this with genuine concern for my wellbeing.
Kickball. I looked down with pride at my glossy white Payless version of LA Lights. The last time we had played kickball, I was wearing my most favorite pair of red velvet Chinese slippers and it had ended poorly. It was finally my turn, and as I ran up to kick the ball with my right foot, my left foot slipped out from under me on the black top, and I fell flat on my butt. There had been a lot of laughing and pointing and fighting back of tears. I had convinced my mom I needed tennis shoes, (and of course ones that lit up!) and today was my shot at redemption.
My friend elbowed me, “What’ll happen to you if you eat it?”
Her eyes gleamed mischievously. I was quick to respond, but nothing came out of my mouth. I stammered trying to find an answer to a question I hadn’t actually considered. What would happen if I ate the pizza? I was eight years old, and God was definitely real. God parted seas, and looked a lot like my dad but also like this painting we had of a curly haired guy with a bunch of grapes.
I prayed to God at night. I don’t think my parents knew that. It was our private conversation. Would I let God down if I ate the pizza? Would God be angry? From my understanding, God got mad a lot, kind of like my mom. Only God never got mad at me, unlike my mom. But what if I ate the pizza?
“What’ll happen, Elena? Will lightening strike you down? Eat it. Come on, let’s see!”
My friend was getting excited at the prospect of some sort of divine intervention. This was a girl who reveled in the supernatural. She had introduced me to Bloody Mary, that terrifying game of locking the bathroom door, turning off all the lights, and repeating Bloody Mary three times to make her appear in the mirror. This was the girl who made ouija boards out of construction paper and her sister's deodorant cap. This was the girl who ate the wafer and knew it was the body of Christ.
I looked up. The lunch lady was staring at me quizzically, her arm extended, the cheesy slab of pizza dangling off her square spatula. It felt like time stopped, and a spotlight from the heavens shone down on her. Her grey eyes were kind, but tired. A single, long hair protruded from her chin, and puffs of white poked out from her hair net. The world around me deafened, and I swear I could taste the chewiness of the pizza in my mouth. That's when I felt the floor give way beneath my feet to a black sea in which I drifted very, very far from shore. Suddenly, I knew. I knew nothing would happen to me if I ate the pizza. I knew there would be no lightening or plagues. I knew God would not strike me down, because God did not care. In that moment, I knew there was no God, and I felt so alone.
“Hand me your tray honey,” the lunch lady said as she looked away. She sounded resigned, or was that disappointment in her voice? Then just as suddenly, the sky lit up and I wasn’t alone in a black sea, but on a boat with the sun shining, and a warm calming breeze around me.
“No thank you ma’am! But can I have an extra chocolate milk?”
She smiled and winked. “Here you go, baby.”
I wasn’t alone! I had a choice! I had my own free will! Somehow in my eight-year old brain I ascertained that God existed in the actions, in the choices that I made or didn’t make. God existed in my own “still small voice.” I felt free, and couldn’t wait to double fist my chocolate milk and kick the hell out of some balls in my knock-off LA Lights. My friend eyed me, mouth agape. I teasingly pushed her and skipped ahead. The lights on my kicks twinkling all the way to recess.
Find the recipe inspired by this tale HERE.