“Ojala,” my grandmother always used to tell me when the topic of marriage came up, “one day when you get married, I’ll be able to watch you walk down the aisle.”

“Abuela,” I’d roll my eyes, the concept of death so foreign to me at such a young age. “Of course you’ll be at my wedding.”

Throughout my life, I had no reason to doubt she would be at my wedding. My Abuela was always there. A solid figure in my childhood, adolescence and well into adulthood too. But I took my time to get married. 

One of my grandmother’s greatest legacies is the same as many grandmothers’ around the world. Her ability to cook the most delicious comfort food. Her shepherd’s pie was delicious, her pastas and stews always a delight, but without a doubt, her speciality was her Uruguayan style pizza. 

Bakery dough rolled in oil, with a fresh tomato sauce. That’s it. No cheese, no additional toppings needed. Similar to an Italian foccaccia bread, with a few key differences. The bottom and outer crust were crunchy while the dough is light and airy, and the tomato sauce had onions and never dried out atop the pizza. The tomato sauce is always a rich shimmering vibrant red that tasted as good as it looked. The sauce always maintained that freshness, despite being cooked in the oven. The pizza was always made in a deep dish black pan and was always cut into little squares. There’s no other way to eat it. It was a staple at all large family gatherings throughout our lives, and everyone who tasted it would fall in love. We used to joke that we’d open up a local restaurant called Abuela’s Pizza serving nothing but the best. 

As the years went by, she eventually stopped being able to cook her pizza. My Abuela developed Lewdy Body Dementia, which left her in a wheelchair, with very little cognitive awareness. Luckily, my grandfather was able to step in and take the reigns in cooking the pizza with my mom, so we were never long without it. 

It was around this time that I finally did become engaged. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if it would ever happen, or if my grandmother would ever get the chance to fulfil her dream of watching me walk down the aisle and get married. 

On August 27th, 2022, I married the love of my life on a beach in southern Ontario. On the night of the rehearsal, my mom told the staff at the venue that my grandmother would need a seat front row with her wheelchair. The staff was skeptical of the request, and suggested the wheelchair be parked on the rocks behind the beach, some 20 or so yards back from where the ceremony would take place. Naturally, this was unacceptable. We insisted wheelchair be seated front row, exactly where she belonged. And so she was. It was a beautiful day with perfect weather and a fantastic reunion for several of our families after two long years of Covid restrictions. Everyone present at the wedding was willing to step up and help my grandmother’s wheelchair around the beach. She didn’t miss a thing. 

The ceremony was held inside, with typical venue food, and then the dance party began. It was a great evening that really embodied what Ant and I wanted all along. 10 months of planning, one perfect day, well worth it. 

It was just after 11 that the late night food was brought out. We’d had a dinner tasting night at the venue months prior where we had been able to choose the menu and upgrades, but we’d gone with whatever the hall offered in terms of late night food. Pastries and artisan pizzas, the menu read, they didn’t offer them as part of the tasting dinner, but we figured by that time everyone would be pleasantly full, dancing the night away and too drunk to care. 

For the most part I was right. My new husband and I were on the dance floor with some friends, when my cousin Franny approached me. She looked excited. She asked me, “who made Abuela’s pizza?!”

I blinked and frowned at her. Abuela’s pizza? I glanced over to what had once been the receiving line table to see it had been replaced with pizza. They didn’t look like the round bakery style pizzas I’d seen in the Google review photos. Little squares of bright red sauce, no cheese, they looked like Abuela’s pizza. I walked toward the table, took a deep breath and realized they even smelled like Abuela’s pizza. 

My brother and his girlfriend were having some when we approached the table. I still couldn’t believe my eyes and nose. I asked them, “doesn’t this remind you of Abuela’s pizza?!”

“You mean this isn’t intentional?” 

I almost wished it had been. I wished I’d been smart enough to come up with such a sentimental touch. 

I finally had a square of the pizza. It was similar. Not as oily. The sauce not as fresh or as flavourful as my Abuela would have made it. Overall, not as good. Naturally, it was missing her secret ingredient, the love and talent that only a grandmother has.  But the smell was uncanny and the likeness just bizarre. I went over to my parents’ table and gave my grandmother the biggest hug and thanked God that she was able to make it to the wedding. 

The next morning we had breakfast with my other cousins, the ones on my dad’s side. Eventually the topic of the famous pizza came up. As kids, they explained that they always looked forward to our birthday parties in particular to have the pizza. 

“Did your mom make it for the wedding?

“How did you get them to get it to be so similar to your grandmother’s pizza?”

Again, I had to explain that it had all been unintentional. Kismet. 

God willing, my grandmother made it to my wedding. She was there physically, as she wished, and she was also there in her prime, in so many of our memories. My grandmother may not be able to cook her famous pizza anymore, but that magical taste will live on in all of our hearts for years to come. 

11 thoughts on “The Pizza

  1. Congratulations on the wedding, and what a heartfelt story of your grandmother. I was worried that the story wouldn’t have her at the wedding, but I’m glad she was there. Uruguayan pizza sounds delicious; I’ll have to try it someday!

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  2. A beautiful tribute to your grandmother couched in the story of your own wedding. My own mother suffered Alzheimer’s in the late years of her life and was unable to attend my daughter’s wedding, a circumstance I’ll always be sad about. But I love your parting comment about your grandmother “… being there in her prime, in so many… memories.” I like to think of my mother the same way.

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