Satisfy a craving for a certain type of pizza
The pizzas were half-baked and frozen by Antonino’s in Windsor, Ontario, placed in shipping boxes and left overnight in Victoria.
John Palmer left his hometown of Windsor, Ontario to join the navy in 1977.
Trudeau 1.0 was prime minister. Gretzky was playing Junior B in Toronto. You can still fly with CP Air, drive a Ford Pinto, drink beer in a stubby, and pay with a dollar bill.
Anyway, that was a long time ago. And for every minute of that time, Palmer has been craving pizza.
Not just any pizza. Pizza Windsor. Back in the East, it is celebrated as a regional delicacy. There’s something special about it, says Palmer. The Colwood man almost drools over the canned mushrooms they use, how they grate the pepperoni instead of slicing it.
He now works for BC Transit, where one of his colleagues is Nigel Couch, another former Windsor guy who shares Palmer’s passion for pizza. Over the years they talked and talked and talked again – until they finally decided to turn the dream into reality.
On Wednesday, after weeks of working on logistics, they had a pile of pizzas from Windsor overnight. A pizzeria called the five of its largest half-baked pies from Antonino, cut them to fit shipping boxes, boxed them up, froze them and sent them to Victoria via UPS. Pizzas are $264. Shipping was $350. Worth every penny (if we still had pennies).
“My colleague Nigel and I are going to separate them and not invite any of our relatives,” Palmer said as we waited for the pies to arrive. Then he relented, mentioning something about inviting his sister-in-law, another Windsoronian (or whatever they’re called) for a slice at dinner. “But not his children, damn it.”
The thing is, efforts like this aren’t all that uncommon, according to a Windsor pizza proselytizer named Averey, Palmer’s contact at Antonino. The pies are sent all over the country. Palmer’s equally zealous contact at UPS, Abdul, told him that two mediums had been flown to Dubai.
“People will go out of their way to bring back childhood food-related memories,” Palmer says.
Why? Well, there’s a comfort factor to relishing at home, especially in times of stress. Don’t forget that from 2006 to 2011, soldiers serving in Afghanistan were able to swallow double-doubles in a Tim Hortons at the Canadian base in Kandahar.
COVID-19 could be a factor these days. Note this line from a 2020 Smithsonian magazine article about the skyrocketing business of an American company called Goldbelly, which works with small food sellers to send their products to distant mouths: business have grown 200% since the pandemic took hold. , with classic comfort foods like New York bagels, Chicago pizza, Philly cheesesteaks and Texas barbecue being among the top-shipped items coast-to-coast.
Or maybe it’s just about craving food once we can’t have it anymore. CorilAir, Campbell River’s seaplane company, occasionally answers calls from the lone caretaker of a nature-cut marina across the strait, dropping off a bucket of KFC, an A&W burger or a case of Lucky. A million years ago, all along the coast in Ocean Falls, a remote community accessible only by air or sea, I was among the carpenters who helped lift a mailbag full of Big Macs into the seaplane from Vancouver.
Later, while living in England, I couldn’t get rid of my craving for Miracle Whip. I didn’t particularly like it in Canada, but once it was out of reach I wanted it like Gollum wanted the ring. My wife, bless her, found an overpriced little jar for my birthday. Similarly, the parents of a Times Colonist colleague shipped her Kraft dinner to her when she was looking for it in the Philippines. I knew a constable from remote Alberta who went straight from the airport to a poutine stand every time she flew back to Quebec.
The greater the isolation, the greater the urge. In 1996, Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk celebrated Canada Day by handing out Salt Spring Island smoked salmon to his space shuttle crew, which included American astronaut Susan Helms. Five years later, while Helms was serving on the International Space Station, she radioed Mission Control in Houston and asked Thirsk if he could muster more. Of course, he said and called his father Les in Cobble Hill. FedEx sent a batch to NASA, which shipped it to Helms on the next resupply shuttle.
Compared to that, Windsor is just down the block.