Monday, January 30, 2006

Within twenty-four hours of mentioning Celeste Cheese Pizza-For-One's in my Friday Fragments column last week, I rediscovered them at Sam's Club. Normally, Sam's Club is something of a poor man's Costco -- its only redeeming features are its larger selection of TV DVDs, and the flour-shelled Beef & Cheese Chimichangas in the Frozen Foods aisle. The only reason I was there on Saturday was to pass the twenty minutes until the Best Buy across the street opened up. With a box of Chimichangas under my arm, I happened to glance across the aisle to see the pizzas sold in a bulk box of eight. The box looked just like it did in the eighties, with slightly darker earth tones. When I opened up two boxes for lunch that day, I discovered that the cardboard crisper circle now has an ornate design on the back, giving the impression that you could cut it into a Burger King crown if you so desired.

So, I popped a pizza into the microwave for exactly two minutes and forty-five seconds and then took the pizza (still on top of its box and crisper) to the top of the steps with a Calvin & Hobbes book to relive my yesteryears (Almost eighty percent of meals in my childhood were eaten on the landing in my split-level home, with me sitting on the second step and my food and a book on the top step). It still tasted exactly like I remembered!

Celeste pizzas are never fully cooked -- despite the space-technology crisper circle, the pizza will be crisp on the outside and the middle, but soggy along its inner radius. The cheese stays frozen in tiny pockets of tundracity while other areas of cheesiness melt too much, turning into a dark red rubbery material which some Amazon cultures use in place of honeycomb to repair holes in their skiffs. If you try to cook it any further, the cheese starts to harden and become unappetizing, and then the pizza becomes permanently attached to the crisper circle. The consistency of the pizza is much like the consistency of the crisper -- cardboard with a slightly papery aftertaste. Despite all of this, they still taste pretty darn good, because it's a childhood food, and every food you eat as a child elicits charming memories of wood elves and fairies. On the international pizza scale, I'd say they're still below Totino's but above Ellio's "Our pizzas look like giant rectangular Go Fish cards" pizzas. In the long run I'll stick with Totino's, but who can argue with an 80 cent pizza that takes less time to make than a bowl of soup?

Somewhere in the fuzziness of my memory, I'm recalling an old 80s movie where someone takes a whole Celeste pizza, rolls it up, and eats it like a wrap. I can't remember anymore than that though. Was it the refrigerator sex scene in Hot Shots with Charlie Sheen?

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