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She Seeks Sensual Salad Secrets!
Welcome to an advice column by me, Sara Benincasa, a person with many opinions. This column will not diagnose or cure anything. Hopefully, reading it will entertain and perhaps comfort you. Think of it as easily digestible pizza. Send questions to email@example.com. If I use your question, I’ll keep you anonymous.
I recently got the unhappy news that my favorite pizza parlor will be closing its doors for good. The owners are quite elderly now, and on top of that, they can’t keep up with rising rents. I am bereft. I remember going there with all the other theatre kids back in high school. My favorite food isn’t even the amazing pizza or garlic knots - it’s the kale salad with perfect dressing! I’ve tried to dupe it on my own with no success. Would it be tacky of me to ask for the recipe? How should I go about it? I don’t want to be unethical or rude. I do want to keep those memories alive in my own cooking. - Already Missing the Kale Goodness
Okay, I instinctively love you. I love anybody who takes the time to write a letter about the ethics of salad. This is the most fibrous advice query this column has gotten yet!
A subscription to Wonkette is even tastier than leafy green roughage!
I am assuming these pizza-mongers are of my and Robyn’s people (more Robyn’s people tbh, she’s closer generationally to the homeland than I). While I am certain these are non-violent humans who are not at all like characters from The Sopranos, I must bring up that show. For was it not Christafuh Moltisanti himself who once shouted in the midst of a kerfuffle, “DON’T DISRESPECT THE PIZZA PARLAH”?
In some cultures, and I will include Italian-Americans here, family recipes can be a fiercely guarded treasure. A good recipe is like a loving message handed down from generation to generation to generation, bypassing all the pain and trauma and grief that may be inherent in the family line. It’s something meant to make people feel good, without guilt or conflict. In that way, it can even be sacred.
I think you’ve got a good shot at getting the recipe, even though you’re not a member of their family. You’re not from a competing restaurant. You’re not trying to profit off the family’s labor. You’re just someone who loves their restaurant and their food. I think that’s beautiful.
Scenario 1: Write Mr. and Mrs. Pizza a kind and respectful letter or email telling them about the happy memories you have of their wonderful local institution. Thank them for their service to the community. Ask them their permission to have the secret kale salad recipe, promising that you will not sell it, post it or try to profit from it. If they ignore the message or say no, hey, at least you gave them a compliment.
Scenario 2: Same deal, but see if you can sit down with them in person to discuss. Maybe you will charm them IRL. Or maybe it’ll just be a nice way to show them deep gratitude for all the good times.
Scenario 3: Pick one of the above, but also offer something in return, like a donation to their favorite charity, or helping them pack the place up, or pitching in for the rental of a moving van - something useful, you know?
Don’t push it, of course. You are approaching them not just as a customer, but as a devotee of their temple of culinary goodness! A prayerful supplicant.
I’m sorry the pizza joint is closing. I remember when the old school Jersey Greek diner closed in my hometown. I still think about it every time I pass the spot where it used to be.
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