“Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Small, large, circle, square, thin crust, thick crust, stuffed crust, extra toppings.”Anonymous
I love travel, writing, and pizza, not necessarily in that order, or exclusively. So after a prolonged game of chicken with the muse last week, I got to thinking, why not combine all three? Brilliant, I told myself. Start small and local with a Ramble or two around Boise and move on to destinations further afield later. Chicago. New York. Yes, travel writing could be a good excuse to eat pizza.
And I’ve been learning a lot about you lately, Gen Z – about how you’re becoming the predominant focus of savvy travel and hospitality marketers, and how anyone who wants to succeed – be they hotel, tour operator, magazine, or writer – must begin to feature purpose-driven, sustainable travel or get left behind. Heads up. This is me, doing that (she said, tongue in cheek).
Seriously though. I’ve decided to blog about stellar pizza from time to time, wherever I can find it, since so doing allows me to hit all the targets a successful blogger needs: I can eat pizza and travel, the muse will get reinterested so I can tell more stories, and this blog will get the kick in the pants it needs from an infusion of new readers. Does that work for you?
I’m thinking I won’t be eating at chain restaurants or patronizing run-of-the-mill take-n-bake places, or surrendering coupons for two-for-the-price-of-one pizzas. I’ll seek out tasty, unique pies featuring local ingredients to jumpstart my storytelling. Starting today.
Here’s a story about a pretty awesome pizza we made last week after a short Ramble outback to the garden. [Just in case you didn’t know, a Ramble is what I call short trips no further than 125 miles from Boise. Here’s a link to my last one.]
So anyway, G-kids #3 and #4 came over for a sleep-over last Friday. Urban kids and real livewires, they love coming over to our little acreage – they think it’s a real farm – and we love having them. It’s probably as close as they’ll ever come to experiencing a farm so we like to do things that infuse them with appreciation for the West’s formerly rural, agrarian lifestyle.
They used to help us feed Rudy the Rooster before he got killed by a coon (they still talk about that years later). Now they lead horses to the pasture, toss hay and pick up poop, pick cherries, tomatoes, and grapes, and ride out on 4 wheelers with us to move irrigation pods. We stop to count the number of ducklings still with their mamas on the canal when we can find them. Poor things, they disappear at the rate of about one per night, sometimes two. If you ignore the houses being built all around us, the fact that we have off-farm jobs (or I did until recently), and block out the traffic whizzing by, visiting us can seem like a visit to a real farm.
Because it was too hot for man, beast, and children last week, I decided to engage the G-kids indoors in an activity we could all enjoy: pizza-making. The rub was that G-kid #3 is allergic to dairy, eggs, and peanuts, and I didn’t want to go to the store. Making a pizza without dairy cheese was the biggest of rubs for us. We had to make pizza she could eat that the rest of us liked and that tasted good. Good thing her mother had left a bag of faux-cheese the last time she visited.
I work extra-hard to make sure she never feels like she gets less at our table. You might say I’ve learned to be extremely purpose-driven in that respect, but it just breaks my heart that she’ll never taste real eggs, butter, milk, or cream. And I know, soy, almonds, and other plant-based foods are also (most of them) grown on farms but it’s just not the same. She never complains except about the Epi-Pen she carries with her everywhere.
Before they arrived I picked cucumbers and tomatoes, basil, cilantro, rosemary, and oregano from the garden and made the dough. At five and seven years old it’s just easier that way. I’m proud to say that I never left home to drive to the store for ingredients either (does that count toward sustainability?).
My heavy-duty Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook made short work of the whole process. I’ve only made pizza dough once before. Here’s what I learned last week: fresh yeast can make or break a pizza. Last time the dough barely rose, but using fresh yeast it ballooned out of the bowl looking like a heavily pregnant woman in a knit t-shirt. Apparently expiration dates (mine was 2015) matter.
By the time they got there, the dough had been punched, rolled (I haven’t tried tossing yet) and shaped for the pans. Speaking of pans, I didn’t have but one round aluminium pizza pan in the house – the kind with small holes in it. So I rummaged around and found two pans that were vaguely evocative of the pizza pan. They both had smallish holes, although neither was round. No matter. They worked fine and in fact, the larger rectangle pan was perfect.
Before I go any further, I have to confess that the kids didn’t eat the Thai Chicken Pizza (their tastes are less sophisticated, obviously), although both could have. Their pizzas were Hawaiian and were equally delicious, though by the time I got ready to take a photo, both had been consumed.
They layered pizza sauce, canadian bacon, pineapple and cheese and brushed the crust with olive oil. G #3 used plant-based Mozarella Shreds (better than they sound), pineapple, and added some extra-jumbo kalamata olives for good measure. G #4 used a ton of Mexican shredded cheese and left off the olives and pineapples. Both were equally tasty.
On the chance that G #3 might try the Thai Chicken Pizza (so that didn’t happen), I substituted almond butter for peanut butter. Roasted chicken coated in almond butter, reduced sodium soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, red chili garlic sauce, and ginger married well with the hoisin sauce we spread on top of the pizza dough. Pineapple chunks and Mozarella Shreds topped the pizza. It was almost vegan, if you don’t count the chicken. A most unusual (and enjoyable) pizza – purpose-driven and sustainable to boot – and well worth the effort to create.
And while it may be stretching things a tad to call this blog post really and truly purpose-driven or sustainable, or a Ramble and therefore, travel, I’m doing it anyway. Because it’s an introductory post and the next one will involve meaning and travel somewhere to meet a new pizza. I do so love those G-kids, travel, writing, and pizza, afterall, and I hope you do too.