Monday, February 26, 2007

There go Mitch's dump trucks

I have a dream. Not nearly so profound a dream as Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, but a dream nevertheless. I will tell you about this dream as long as you promise not to laugh, the way Juan Epstein’s girlfriend did in an episode of “Welcome Back Kotter,” when he told her he always wanted to own a fleet of dump trucks, so that when one of the dump trucks went by, everyone would say, “There go Epstein’s dump trucks.” If you will promise not to laugh, I will promise not to mention the words “dump truck” again in this posting.

My dream is to own a pizza place. I have the perfect name picked out for this pizza place, but I will not tell you, because it is so perfect, you will feel compelled to steal it and open your own pizza place. It is not “Domino’s”. Suffice it to say that there will be a theme, and the name of each individual pizza will revolve around that general theme. The name is that good.

But that is not the point. The point is, I am a journalist, and therefore have little experience making pizzas. That has changed recently, thanks to our neighbor, Susan. Susan is an educator, and thus you would not imagine that she has pizza-making savvy. You would be wrong.

Shifting out of that strange narrative tone for a minute, Susan had me and my wife and daughter over for a pizza dinner recently, and I was stunned to find out she was making her own pizza. But she was, and it appeared not to be too challenging. Of course, my role in the pizza making was limited (spreading pepperoni on top of the cheese), while hers was a little more involved (making the dough, making the sauce, rolling out the dough, chopping up the ingredients, etc.), but it led me to believe my dream is within reach.

So, thus empowered, with Susan’s recipes for dough and sauce at hand, I recently set about making my own pizza. My wife and daughter scattered to the living room, while I set about creating a masterpiece. But first, I had to locate the appropriate CD to accompany pizza making. Settling for some reason on Bebel Gilberto, I returned to the kitchen, only to decide I needed older clothes for pizza making. (You’ve probably already gathered that some of my trouble is in setting appropriate pizza-making priorities.)

The sauce came together without too much trouble. It seemed to be a matter of, mainly, dumping stuff into a pot and stirring, which is the kind of culinary art I can get behind. The dough, on the other hand – a different story. There were all sorts of cautions to use water at the proper temperature, and to add flour periodically, to make sure the dough didn’t stick to the side of the bowl. My trouble revolved around our electric mixer; namely, that I had no idea whether I was using it correctly, or if I even correctly identified the “dough hook” attachment. I was never quite sure I wasn’t using a left-handed pasta inverter, or a feta cheese crumbler.

After coming to the conclusion that the wad in the mixing bowl bore a passing resemblance to dough, I followed the directions to let it rest for a half-hour. Of course, by this time, the sauce was long complete, so I entertained myself by deciding whether, as a pizza maker, it looked better to wear my baseball cap backwards. I decided it did.

Next up, cutting the dough into thirds and rolling each into a ball. This I did, though he balls looked more like movie-style blobs of slime. No matter, I figured, they’re just going to be flattened out, anyway. Then, they each got to rest for another ten minutes. I decided to speed up the process next time, I’d just add some Tylenol PM to the mixture.

Finally, the moment of truth. Rolling out the balls of dough. It turns out that the ball shape is pretty important, so that your finished pizza is in the shape of a circle, rather than what mine turned out to look like, which was Antarctica. I called my wife and daughter in from the living room, and we added our variety of toppings to our Antarctic pizzas, and waited for them to bake.

In the end, they were… not entirely unlike pizza. Pretty decent, actually. The crust was more doughy than you might want to eat in a restaurant, but the sauce was excellent, and none of us were hospitalized. I’m definitely on a pace to open my pizza place, inasmuch as my wife is insisting it wait until after our daughter graduates from college, or roughly 19 years from now.

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