UNITED STATES—Pizza in my book is about as appetizing as measles; it’s just a hunk of bread. And consuming bread deprives us of an effective way to maintain and improve shape, which is to prefer veggies and fruits over bready, starchy foods. Generally speaking, pizza is on my no-fly list.
Now a funny thing happened in my house. My daughter found some white flour and yeast. The next thing I know, she’s whipped together pizza dough. It rises in the microwave, which she’s pre-heated with a cup of water to create a warm, swampy atmosphere for the rise. She covers the bowl of dough with a towel I use to wipe my shoes on.
I hold my tongue. A) Making a pizza is a pretty fun activity. B) When we have our own “way of doing things” but nobody else knows about it, that’s yeast for ignorance, and ignorance is gateway to getting ticked off pronto and being at each others’ throats. True, I am already uneasy about being exposed to pizza and now the unease is being compounded by that filthy cloth being used to cover the bowl. But my better angels are watching me and I will later calmly inform my daughter that the towel has been demoted to floor wiper.
So here’s what we do: I get tomato paste and cheese—mild California Cheddar—and I’m put in charge of smoothing the paste on top of the dough, now flattened and ready for the toppings. I get upbraided for laying the paste on way too thick. “Nobody does that,” my daughter snaps. “Anybody who knows how to make pizza knows that’s too much paste.” My bad. Pizza professionals like her know that one tiny can of paste makes three pizzas. After scraping off excess paste, my daughter shreds a ton of cheese on top. And I hold my peace about using that darn shredder which is a pain to wash.
Her half of the pizza is slightly less demarcated than North from South Korea: hers all cheesy gore on red paste, mine chopped onion, celery, tomato, garlic and carrots piled high. While baking it at 450 degrees, the whole house fills with a rich warm bread-in-oven smell. Beat me with a whisk, you might not like coffee, but few can resist swooning at the aroma of coffee beans just out of the grinder. Ditto baking bread.
Browned on the edges, we took the pizza out of the oven. We cut it and shared it and it was delicious. For both the mouth and the soul. This is what food is about, to connect people. What is this much maligned gluten stuff, anyhow?—it’s gluey matter whose elasticity you can feel emerge in your hands as you knead away and flour, water, sugar and yeast transform into dough. It magically gels like egg and the first drop of oil in homemade mayonnaise when you beat it and beat it and beat it. I behold this with wonder.
When did cavemen discover this stuff and why? Who tied the first bow tie? Oh the mystery of yeast, metaphorical stand-in for money, plant growth and the whole stinking universe in expansion? It’s alive!
Now you gluten-avoiders (among whom I count myself) you can always sit at a table and don’t have to eat. Just be there. That’s all food is asking us to do, be there and share ourselves.
Humorist Grady Miller is the author of “Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet,” available on Amazon. Reader mail is welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org