Throw out those takeout menus, hang up your cordless phone, and tell Steven, the delivery kid, that he’s off the hook for tonight. It’s homemade pizza night, and before we begin, I need you to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. Do you trust me? Do you trust yourself? Do you trust the ineffable, illusive definition of pizza?
First, you’ll need to forget about that menu’s list of toppings: the limp veggies, the lifeless meats, the bags of shredded cheese product. At homemade pizza night, we harvest the veggies fresh from the one basil plant on our balcony, we grasp the tube of sausage with firm hand, and we over-pronounce the third syllable in mozzarella. You’ll know that our vegetables are straight from the earth because they will be covered in dirt, sand, and those little white stickers with barcodes. We will wash them carefully, turning them in our hands under the cool water, and we will delicately place them into the salad spinner to ram the pump and whirl them around at high speeds. We will chop everything with the dull knife we got from my mom. In preparing the toppings, you’ll feel connected again to our hunter-gatherer ancestors, to the force of creation that has led you to this point in your life, and to your 1/16th Italian heritage.
Yet we won’t just be following traditions. When we prepare the crust, you will see a world of new possibilities. On homemade pizza night, the crust can be anything: A Papa Pita Greek Pita, a loaf of French bread, a whole cauliflower head pulverized into mush by a Ninja Foodi. We’ll explore the definition of crust with the whimsy of a child and with the iconoclasm of the avant-garde. Can a bagel be a crust? How about a mini bagel? How about a bagel that’s medium-sized? We’ll try them all. We’ll try a sourdough pizza dough recipe that needs 24-hours to rest—a fact for which we did not plan at all. We’ll put the sourdough pizza dough in the fridge for weeks and forget about it until we need the Pyrex bowl for something else. We’ll adapt with tortilla, naan, a half-eaten box of Mediterranean-Style Olive Triscuits.
In the crust, you’ll break with tradition and forge ahead. You’ll tap into your own unique spirit. You’ll quiet your mind of all the outside chatter to hear your own true voice. You will recognize this voice as the one you heard when you fell in love with your art, when you left that difficult relationship, and when you tried mixing Mellow Yellow and Grape Fanta at the Coke Freestyle Machine.
You’ll ask: Surely, with so much change to the crust, the sauce is a constant, right? No, as philosopher Heraclitus said, the only constant is change. Yes, with his toga and pizza wisdom, you may think he has something in common with another small Greek dignitary, but I assure you, at homemade pizza night, there is no Little Caesar allowed.
Sometimes, we simmer fresh tomatoes in a fragrant mirepoix; other times, the sauce is a bottle of Prego left over from last night’s mozzarella sticks; and you’ll see that sometimes, the sauce is no sauce at all, just as sometimes the absence of something is not nothing, but in fact, something extraordinary. In the sauce, the lack of ingredients is just as important as the ingredients themselves. No fresh tomatoes? We’ll use canned. No canned tomatoes? We’ll use ketchup. No ketchup? We’ll use that Bloody Mary mix we bought as a healthier alternative to breakfast beer.
You’ll feel as though you’ve been meditating, letting opportunities bubble up and simmer away. You’ll see that the loss and longing in your life is not failure or mistake. It’s all part of the system. You’ll make peace with the death of your cherished pet, you’ll let go of the dream job that never made you happy, and you’ll finally forgive your mom for throwing out your X-Files t-shirt.
Are you ready? Are you sure? It won’t be easy. The path to homemade pizza is paved with tomato splatters and floured countertops, but just as the yeast rises, so will you rise to a higher state of consciousness. Also, it’s your turn to do the dishes.