Editor's note: In honor of National Pizza Month (aka October), the Serious Eats editors, staff, and Slice writers will top off our regular content with their deepest thoughts on all things cheesy, saucy, and crusty.
College is the setting for lots of "weirdest _________ ever" stories. Weirdest hot tub experience ever? Freshman year. Weirdest party at the onetime home of a legendary author? Senior year at the Vonnegut House. Weirdest brush with Mother Nature that nearly resulted in permanent bodily damage? Sophomore year, during a Finals Week blizzard-of-the-century. So it's probably not shocking that my weirdest pizza topping ever happened while I was a junior at the University of Iowa. And, like those other college stories (and countless others seen now through the prism of hindsight), this one is a tad fuzzy around the edges when it comes to details.
It happened at the local Hy-Vee grocery store. My two roommates and I were doing our weekly stock-up, which would have included obscene-in-any-place-other-than-a-college-town quantities of Hamburger Helper and cheap beer. At the end of the freezer aisle, a woman was cutting up free samples of a frozen pizza, just out of a toaster oven on a cart. And while this would have normally necessitated multiple trips down the same aisle—each time pretending like we'd just stumbled across the sample table for the first time until she said something—the pizza she was handing out stopped us dead in our tracks.
"Peanut butter pizza?!?"
It's important that you understand what I'm saying here. I am not talking about a dessert pizza, where some well-intentioned sweet tooth takes a 14-inch chocolate chip cookie and uses it like a pie crust, loading it up with peanut butter, coconut flakes, and broken-up candy bars, and finally drizzles the whole thing with Hershey's syrup. Although that actually doesn't sound too bad, this is not that. This is also not a cheffy Asian-themed pie dressed with peanut sauce, like CPK's Thai Chicken.
This was an honest-to-God find-it-right-next-to-the-pepperoni-pizza frozen pizza that had real-life peanut butter slathered all over the crust instead of pizza sauce. On top, the traditional blanket of melted mozzarella. I don't recall any other toppings, though when I think about that pie now (as I clearly do, more often than I should admit), I can see sausage crumbles or bacon bits working quite nicely. It was a cheese pizza... except there was Jif (or some commercial alternative) where the tomato sauce should be.
And I loved it.
My roommates were totally turned off. (Odd, given some of their questionable post-party munchies.) They may not have even tried it, now that I think back. But I know we didn't buy one, which is now a legitimate regret on my coulda-shoulda-woulda list. (Right up there with never kissing the Black Angel in Oakland Cemetery at midnight.)
I have no evidence now to substantiate what may seem like just another substance-induced-hallucination from someone's collegiate glory days. I would swear, though, that the pizza was manufactured by a company called Jack's Pizza, which I would have sworn was based right there in Coralville, the next town over. I can't even find the company online today, which leads me to believe they didn't sell enough of their frozen pizzas (peanut butter or otherwise) to make it.
And now, I'm left with vague memories of a scant few bites scarfed down over a shopping cart... and the deep-down urge to one day put those recollections to the test and just make a damn peanut-butter-and-cheese pizza, to see once and for all. I'm fascinated with the idea of re-creating it myself... but kind of want that memory to remain pure and untainted, like the hot tub and the Vonnegut party and my frostbitten-eyeball story.*
*But the Black Angel? Pucker up, baby, I am totally coming for you some Homecoming Weekend.
Good, bad, or somewhere in between... what's your weirdest pizza topping ever?
About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers for AHT and pizzas for Slice, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for Hootie & the Blowfish. Or both.