I grew up in a little Pennsylvania city called Erie. The city isn’t anything too extravagant (or extravagant at all), but it boasts 2 beautiful things that no other place in the world has. The Peninsula on Lake Erie and pepperoni balls. The Peninsula is a manmade beach (I think) that was separated by different entrances to different beaches. And in the summer time, it has some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets on the planet, second to Hawaii (fact not opinion).
And pepperoni balls are little puffs of pizza dough filled with pepperoni and magic. They are baked to perfection and require no utensils. You can just bite into them if you want. But I prefer to pull them apart with my hands on all sides and then eat the part stuffed with pepperoni last. Actually, I’m pretty sure that is the correct way to eat a pepperoni ball.
My daughter recently went to Niagara Falls and she had to pass through Erie on the way to and from. So my friend Cammy met her with an arsenal of pepperoni balls to send to all of us back in TN….me, Bradley, my brother Greg, and my mom.
Yes. I do know pepperoni is meat. No. I do not usually eat meat. But, when an occasion as special as pepperoni balls come up, you make an exception.
And so I heated up two of them in the oven. Put them on a plate and began reminiscing. First, I lovingly picked up the pepperoni ball. Held it close to my nose and inhaled. There is nothing special about the smell of a pepperoni ball. It actually smells really plain. Like baked pizza dough with no frills. But it smelled like home. It smelled like 19th Street. It smelled like Arnones bakery. It smelled like the times I would go buy antipasto salad with my last $5. It smelled like shoveling snow and frozen toes. It smelled like where I came from.
And then I took a bite. I sunk down in my chair a little bit the way you do when you get a chance to enjoy something you thought had been lost forever…like a phone call from your favorite lover. And I remembered my little city where I learned to roller skate, learned to hula hoop, learned to kiss, learned to love, the place where I fell in love with poetry and drama, the place where I could stand on stage fiercley and my voice would not shake, the place where I got felt up for the first time, where I lost my virginity, where I learned I hated the cold and loved the feel of sand between my toes, the place where a boy I loved turned into a man I loved and then died. Where I made friends and learned that some friendships last forever no matter the distance or time. Where I learned that I don’t love Italian subs drenched in Italian dressing but I did love Italian boys whose lips tasted of pizza sauce and secrets. I rarely think of the town that made me. But biting in to that pepperoni ball brought all of that back and made me feel a small tinge of longing to go visit my old home.