by T.S.Green, 7th
The yellow bowl, once filled with raspberries, sits on the counter empty. The delicious, pink berries were from our neighbor Tony.
“Why don’t you come with me to return the bowl,” my dad says.
“Sure,” I grab the bowl. We walk down our steps, through the walkway bursting with weeds, up some steps again, and onto Tony’s porch.
My dad rings the bell and Tony opens the door and then the screen. I thank him for the berries while handing him the bowl. Without hesitation, Tony invites us in. He tells us he’s making pizza, and sure enough, the house smells of tomato sauce. Tony is Italian and he’s lived in the house next door since my dad was a kid. His garden is filled with fruit trees and vegetables, and he makes the best pasta and pizza I’ve ever had. When we walk into his kitchen, tomatoes from his garden are boiling into sauce on the stove; a tupperware is sitting on the counter with the pizza dough he made; alongside some figs, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms.
Another neighbor Tony invited in, Bob, is standing in the kitchen. As we converse, we watch Tony puts together the delectable delicacy. Instead of an apron, he wears a towel over his shoulder to wipe his hands on. He separates the soft white dough into two portions and rolls them out. His humble way of working doesn’t include tossing the dough in the air. Tony slices the figs, onions, and mushrooms. The figs are from the tree in his backyard. He spoons the tomato sauce onto the dough, and carefully grates the cheese on top. The grated cheese falls down like a blanket of snow on top of the pizza.
“Look at these! I can tell you the story of how I got them,” says Tony holding up a dark red tomato.
As Tony slices the tomatoes he explains where he got them. The tomatoes were from a woman who lives on a street about 5 blocks away. She grew the tomatoes. The kind woman gave a few tomatoes to Bill - the neighbor standing with us - who then gave a few to Tony. And now, Tony is sharing the tomatoes with us. I’m astounded that almost everything on the pizza was grown locally, right in my neighborhood.
“Wow,” I think to myself.
“Isn’t that cool!” my dad says.
Tony places the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients on top of the pizza, and slides the pizza onto a pizza stone - which conducts heat from the oven to help the pizza cook faster. Into the oven the pizza goes. Daddy looks at the pizza stone.
“What is that?”
“Well, it’s a pizza stone,” replies Tony.
“It heats up in the oven so the pizza will cook faster.”
We talk and talk. Soon enough, the pizza is done. The gooey cheese bubbling and the sweet aroma filling the air, Tony pulls the pizza out of the oven. I watch him using the pizza cutter to divide the pizza. Each layer of topping pops up a bit as the wheel cuts through it.
We each receive a slice of pizza. Bill, Tony, Daddy, and me; all standing together. As I take a bite of the perfectly crisp crust and a sweet bit of fig, it reminds me of where the pizza came from… our neighborhood. I’m reminded of all the times that Tony has shared not only delicious food, but his kindness with us, and I’m reminded of how in my neighborhood, we all help each other out. We are always a family, from the people who have been here forever, to the new families moving in, and even the ones that left. Everyone is warmly welcomed, and will never be forgotten. The pizza reminds me of the community I live in.
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Oakland | East Bay, CA