She was the type to hide extra testis rolls in her purse when we went to the chinese buffet, and is the rationality I always ask for a take-home box. One of her—our— most successful hustles revolved around pizza, and not the hat boxes of cold Papa John ’ s she started bringing home once she switched to a fancier high school with a larger operate budget. alternatively of taking on one clueless knob, this scheme saw her ( and her ma ) go after an entire national chain. For those who are unfamiliar, Pizza Hut ’ s BOOK IT ! first step is a school-age children ‘s reading program that has been rewarding bookworms with barren pizza since 1984. While the course of study still very much exists, BOOK IT ! arguably reached its point cultural influence during the early 1990s, when I was in elementary school. The premise for it was beautifully elementary : fill out a script IT ! slip, get it signed by your teacher, then take it to your local Pizza Hut and exchange it for a absolve personal pan pizza. The more you read, the more pizza you got to stuff into your prepubescent face. It was a brilliant way to encourage kids aged 5-12 to read, and in my own have at least, a blessing to cash-strapped parents who still wanted to be able to take their rugrats out for a treat now and then.
Scamming Pizza Hut Was Our Family Tradition
citation : courtesy of Kanbaatar That the pizza themselves were absolutely kid-sized and came dripping in salty, golden tall mallow was an even greater stroke of fortune for kids who were used to the sad, floppy disappointment of Chuck E. Cheese ( or soggy Papa John ’ south ). For those of us who grew up far off from the determine of actual italian food, this was veridical pizza. It was intemperate not to feel particular and cosmopolitan when tucking into those arrant little triangles and slurping down endless refills of Coca-Cola, particularly when, if you were anything like me, you were more use to white bread, white rice, and deer kernel. BOOK IT ! wasn ’ t a monolith ; it allowed for tractability. Outside of the basic rules, each participating teacher set their own requirements. At my school, you needed to write down three books you ’ vitamin d read in order to qualify—and given the total of students who tried to exploit the arrangement, the teacher had to truly believe you ’ five hundred read them. I was the kind of predatory little creep who regularly devoured upwards of a twelve books a week, sol meeting the program goals wasn ’ t precisely a challenge. Bringing up multiple slips every few days became a ritual for me, and an undoubtedly exasperating one for the teachers who had to deal with my smug little face. My mother didn ’ thymine have to pay to feed me in between errands or after soccer games for years. We had a pretty full thing going, until one year, my teacher placed a limit on the number of slips we could get signed, specifically to halt the diffuse of my pizza conglomerate. once that draconian rule came crashing down upon my lead, my mother decided other arrangements had to be made. We needed to call in reinforcements : Nanny.
My grandma ( “ Nanny ” ) is a retire elementary school teacher, and as I discovered, that meant she not lone had access to fat stacks of the covet BOOK IT ! slips, but she besides possessed the authority to sign them herself, sans interlocutor or prying teacher. Prior to the rule change, my edacious read habits had left us with no need for trickery. however, now that our comfortable little racket was being threatened, it was time to bring in the big guns.
The kind, accommodating servers at Pizza Hut—who finally grew to recognize us and greet us by name—opened my eyes to a populace in which food could be a joy rather of a job .
once Nanny was fully in on the game, we ‘d raid her personal hoard and cash those babies in about every weekend. My ma would keep a few in her purse—pre-signed with Nanny ’ s priggish signature, of course—in case one of us kids by chance did something treat-worthy, but ultimately, it was Nanny and I who spent countless afternoons going on “ lunch dates ” to the Pizza Hut a few towns over. It was more than barely a treat ; it was an gamble. It was an opportunity to go on a long, air-conditioned cable car ride ( a far cry from my more customary spot in the back of my dad ’ mho pickup truck ) to a sit-down restaurant where I would be given a choice as to what I was eating. There, drink on the sheer luxury and bangle of it all, I could pick my own toppings, improving to two ; more monetary value supernumerary. That ’ s how I discovered the chicken-and-black olives combo that, two decades late, remains my go-to whenever I have the option—as well as the hazardous joy of pulling one over on The Man. For a finical pull the leg of who was accustomed to being scolded at the dinner table for refusing to eat or teased in the school lunchroom for bringing the same peanut butter ( no jelly ) sandwich every day, those glistening, bum, buttery phonograph record were my first taste of culinary freedom. Before then, I hadn ’ triiodothyronine known that you could ask to have your food made a little differently, or to have something supernumerary added. The kind, accommodating servers at Pizza Hut—who finally grew to recognize us and greet us by name—opened my eyes to a populace in which food could be a joy rather of a job.
The fact that we were scamming our means into an endless stream of free pizza added an extra sprinkle of illicit flavorer, like a crash of scalawag ’ second MSG .
We ’ vitamin d make a hale day of it. First stop was the county library to load up on books, since the Bookmobile only came to my village once a week and they rarely restocked the choice. After a few hours in the stacks, we ’ five hundred seal the manage with a personal pan pizza for me and a salad for her. It was charming. ampere much as we loved the grift, it besides meant that we spent a draw of timbre meter in concert, and that my reading level was stratospheric for a little daughter from an underprivileged nowheresville without a library or a post office. The fact that we were scamming our means into an endless current of unblock pizza added an extra sprinkle of illicit flavorer, like a dash of scalawag ’ mho MSG. I aged out of the broadcast at 12, and we kept milking those BOOK IT ! slips for years thanks to my baby-faced little sister. But, once she hit the doorway five years later, the jig was up. By then, I was 17, and those bitty little pizza weren ’ t doing much for me anymore. I ’ vitamin d graduated to making my own pizza bagels, or driving over to Philly with my friends for a monster slice from Lorenzo & Sons on South Street. I inactive mourned. It wasn ’ t so much the loss of our Pizza Hut bounty that stung as the cognition that I was growing up, and those aureate hours—uncomplicated, barren, and good— with my grandma weren ’ thymine coming back. It was the end of an earned run average, and my empire had crumbled into oregano-flecked dust.
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Those memories run deep, even as my syndicate and I have drifted far apart in the age of Trump. We don ’ t have many meals together anymore, and when we do, Nanny constantly unironically lobbies for Cracker Barrel. I still love to read, though, and even love pizza. By now, I ‘ve spent time in Italy and lived in Brooklyn for closely a decade, but I inactive consider those little pucks of slightly-burnt mozzarella and lemony sauce the best pizza I ‘ve ever had. Nostalgia makes everything taste better. It does break my heart to think of what the at hand close of 500 of the chain ’ sulfur sit-down locations may mean for the next general of resourceful, pizza-loving little bookworms—and for the overwork parents who found a few moments of buttery, garlicky easing in those crack leatherette booths. Pizza Hut ’ s ship’s company motto at the time was, “ You ‘ll love the gorge we ‘re made of ” —and thanks to BOOK IT !, I in truth, actually did .