Eilers Pizza

While pizza was introduced to the USA in the early 1900s, it wasn’t until after World War II that it was eaten by other than Italians. The first pizza chains popped up in the 1950s.

When we moved to Hart, in 1964, Dad met a man named Claude Ferris. I was so young, I don’t remember the man. I think he owned a grocery store. With a name like Claude Ferris, maybe he made wheels for the French. No matter; he only has to be remembered for one thing.

He gave a pizza recipe to Dad.

We fell in love. Mom and Dad tinkered with the recipe—How about this? Some more of that!—and made it their own. We dubbed it Eilers Pizza. To this day, all of us kids still make it. Our kids love it, too, and some have added it to their recipe repertoires.

My efforts for Christmas 2017, ready for the oven! At left is the traditional Eilers Pizza. At right, the combo satisfies two sets of taste buds; the top half is “Meat Sweatpants,” and at bottom is the meatless adaptation, “Healthy Pizza Is An Oxymoron.”

It would take a princely sum to get me to give you the recipe. Please, don’t let that stop you from trying. I can be bought.

The dough for the crust surprises many. Pepperoni sausage is replaced with something you would not expect. The sum of ingredients is greater than the ingredients by themselves.

The pizza is baked on a jelly roll pan, what we always called a cookie sheet. The big sized one. The one that no one in history has used for jelly rolls because they are always using it for cookies.

It can also be used for pizza. You’re welcome.

Cooked and ready to cut, these babies were busting over the sides of the cookie shee—ahem, jelly roll pans.

By the time the crust is heaped with all of the toppings, the finished, baked product slices up at over one inch thick. I know this because Eilers Pizza rises above the rim, and when I Googled the difference between jelly roll pans and cookie sheets I learned that the kind of pan we use has sides that are an inch in height. The lady on the website writes how this pan works in a pinch as a cookie sheet (in a pinch?), then she concludes, “It’s also a terrific roasting pan for veggies and more.” Veggies? Pish. More? It’s perfect for pizza, lady.

When there are real, adult-like people at the table, the pizza is cut into eight pieces. Punks divvy it up into twelve. Those babies should be forced to eat spinach until they are strong enough for respectable-sized pieces.

When it is cut into eight, I eat two. Okay, two-and-a-half. Away with you, calorie counters. Don’t you have some kale you need to be harvesting?

We would make two pizzas. Sometimes, three. (Note: your kitchen should be stocked with three jelly roll pans, the kind everyone calls cookie sheets, in case you want to make three. If you only make two, use the third pan to make cookies for dessert. The oven is already hot, so why not make good use of that? See how economical I am?)

We always hoped for leftovers. Eilers Pizza is the reason people like cold pizza for breakfast. Honestly, the tradition had to have begun at our house. If you say otherwise, I will come to your house and singe off your taste buds.

My first slice on Christmas Day, 2017.  Yes, kids, it IS as thick as it looks.

When, in the 1990s, we found ourselves getting our first email address and wondered what it should be, we didn’t scratch our heads for long. You guessed it: eilerspizza@xxx.com.

For a growing family on a modest budget, Eilers Pizza is a bit pricey to make too often. Because we are true Americans, and we were rearing true American kids, Friday night became pizza night, though—gasp!—more often than not it was of the store-bought, frozen variety.  (Read that: quick and inexpensive.) Today, that’s still the practice of Julie and I. Yes, we had it last Friday night—the frozen kind, of which our downstairs freezer always sports at least a half-dozen—and will have it this Friday night.  (On Sundays, I obey my other supper tradition: popcorn, popped in a pan on the stove, in canola oil, with copious slices of Colby cheese on the side.)

When, at age thirty-nine, I became a minister, for the life of me I cannot recall how I began to include references to pizza in my sermons but, being one who likes to keep people awake by tossing in a teaspoon of humor here and a tablespoon of “did he really say that?” there, I would spew things such as, “This next thought will make the cheese slide off your pizza.” On Christmas Eve, it might be, “It is almost as hard to wait for Christmas morning as it is for the pizza delivery guy to ring your door bell.”

At my first parish in Iowa, the comments were occasional. When I arrived in Port Hope, I just happened to make a pizza crack each of the first few weeks. The people noticed, so I kept them coming. My first year in Port Hope was 2001; the only Sunday I didn’t make one was the Sunday after 9/11. By the end of my first year there, I was exhausted.

After that, I only put in a pizza comment when something popped into my head while writing the sermon. When there was no pizza talk, certain members always made sure I knew about it. They gave me a pizza their mind. Some cheesed the parsonage windows. They withheld their dough from offerings. We couldn’t pay our volunteers.

The payoff for me in becoming the Pizza Pastor? Christmas and my birthday found me getting a lot of gift certificates for pizza places. A lot of them.

A LOT of them.

That’s how Eilers became synonymous with pizza—from the oven to the pulpit—and then the name for my blog. It really wasn’t of my making. If you want to blame anyone, pin it on Claude Ferris.

Retro Christmas

One year in Port Hope, with some of the kids coming home for a special occasion, I dubbed the parsonage the Party Plaza of Exitomania. A proper announcement with the tantalizing title was affixed to my office door, which was next to the foyer.

Our front door gives away the wacky couple residing behind it.


This year, that wacky Julie revived it, making a sign for our front door. We now live in the Party Plaza of Exitomania 2. I fully intend to have the sign remain right where it is. Let all who come to our house marvel at the sight of it.


Not only did our kids grow up and go out on their own, they spread out around the country.  Family gatherings became a challenge. It was in 2009 that we last enjoyed having more than one of them with us for Christmas. This year, both Jackie and Alex would not be with their kids, so Jackie drove across town, and Alex came down from Michigan.

Jackie was given a spot in the garage for her car.  Alex?  Not so much.

It has been years since Julie and I bought Christmas presents. Usually, our tree’s underneath is bare. One year, while in Port Hope, we didn’t even have a tree, receiving our enjoyment from the two huge ones in church.

To make special this Christmas-with-kids, we set out to buy gifts. Julie came up with some useful and fun items for both, while I purchased their favorite snack foods. All were wrapped, so they both had a half-dozen to open.

As usual, I didn’t buy anything for Julie, and I was sure that she had not purchased anything for me.

I would be wrong.

White Christmas

Being from Michigan, I have seen way more white Christmases than not. Among them, there was the one in Port Hope where we entered 11:00 p.m. Christmas Eve worship from the grassy outdoors, only to exit worship just after midnight to a blanket of white and those so-romantic, huge, fluffy flakes.  Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it better.

White Christmas 2017. Before the sun’s rays melted some snow, the bushes and grass were completely covered.

This was our fourth Christmas in Indianapolis. Indy does not get many a snowy Yuletide. The day before Christmas Eve, we got a nice tease of snow to cover our grass. That was preparation for the two inches we received Sunday afternoon, providing us with an officially-white Christmas.

Midday on Christmas, as Alex and I sat in the living room, we watched a vehicle come flying into our ditch, having fishtailed after turning off Emerson and onto Marrison.  The driver just kept going, out of the ditch, across our yard, into our driveway, and back onto the road and, we hoped, arriving safely at his destination.

Eilers pizza

On Friday, I will post an updated piece about our family pizza recipe, and the reason my blog is called Eilers Pizza. This dish has become a holiday favorite. It’s not that we save it for holidays; it’s because it is a bit of a chore to create.

This was my first piece of Eilers Pizza on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve, we sat down to it. Then snacked on it in the evening. And for breakfast on Christmas. And for lunch the day after. And every bite was as satisfying as the last.


I come from a long line of card players. When family gathered for whatever the occasion, we found ourselves gathering at the kitchen table for cards, gathering  into our hands one hand after another.

Thankfully, our kids fell for our card tricks. Where, in my youth, canasta was the game of choice, for years it has been shanghai for us.

Here is the version we play, except that we changed two of the hands because we found them too easy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_rum

Instead of the first hand being two sets and the fourth hand three sets, we play it as three and four sets. The four-set hand is cutthroat shanghai!

Am I supposed to be saving runs or sets?  What’s that old joke?  “This isn’t a hand; it’s a foot.”

Each day of the three day weekend, Julie, Jackie, Alex and I found our way to the dining room table. Alas, I came up on the short end of every game.

The surprise gift

The kids had wrapped up unwrapping presents, when Julie slipped out of the room. She reappeared with a large, skinny, wrapped box, and presented it to me.

I asked her when she bought this. She said it was at least a couple of months ago, and that when it arrived I had brought it into the house and asked her what it was. She said that she played dumb and I didn’t press her, and then after she removed the box to the basement I never inquired. Now, yes, I recalled the oddly shaped box’s arrival.

I began to open it. I got the edge unwrapped, which was only visible to me, revealing “Skittle Bowl.” I looked at Julie. She smiled widely. I started crying. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

At once, I was the kid who got the gift which seemed that it would forever remain in the wildest of dreams.

Skittle Bowl came out when I hit the teenage years. I don’t recall the Christmas I got it, but I suspect I was fourteen, in 1971. I was the only kid in the house who cared for the game, and I played it like crazy. Because of the pins hitting the plastic tray, it makes a racket. I was never allowed to play it anywhere but in a bedroom, with the door closed.

In this action shot, see that the ball has struck the front pin, launching it toward the others.

I never knew what happened to that game. I grew up.  I moved out. It stayed home. Mom died. Dad married Louise. Louise had a garage sale. That’s all I can imagine.

I don’t know what made me think of it a few months ago, but I googed the quest, to see if it were being manufactured. It is not. I showed Julie and told her of my love for the game. I especially like it for two reasons. First, I’ve always loved bowling. Second, I find this the best home version of bowling because it is contained in a small area.

Not to mention that it is extremely challenging.  Strikes and spares are not gimmes.

When I showed it to Julie online, she acted unimpressed but, being the Jewelee that she is, she quietly went to work searching for the game at a good price.  Hello, eBay!

Skittle Bowl capped off what was a marvelous retro Christmas, one with all of the elements of Christmases past—from kids at home, to snow on the ground, to Eilers Pizza, to playing cards, to wonderful surprise gifts.

Most importantly, it was all wrapped up in the reason for this pleasin’. We had Jackie’s kids with us long enough to take them to church with us, to sing Oh, Come All Ye Faithful, and O Little Town of Bethlehem, and close with candles lit for Silent Night. We heard the Christmas story, and our pastor told us what child is this we worship, the babe of Bethlehem who grew up to be the Christ on the cross and the Victor over the grave, the One who loves to bestow upon us His eternal life.