How Is a Pizza Like a Story? Let Me Tell You The Ways...
I love to cook. I love to write stories. I love to eat while I create, but that’s another story! (I gain ten pounds every time I write a novel.)
A recipe itself is very much like a story—it has a beginning and a middle and an end, and the ending is sometimes happy, sometimes not so happy. Both cooking and writing create order out of chaos; I think that’s why I love both activities. And while I am tolerating lots of disorder and mess, if I keep in mind some principles, a recipe or two during that messy process, I may get a cake or a pizza pie. Or a story.
For me, that messiness is vital. A first draft and a kitchen must be messy while creating. You can’t stop to wash the dishes or the floor when the tomato sauce needs to be stirred. You can’t stop to rewrite Chapter One when Chapter Two is aching to be written, because you may need to change things yet again.
Every single one of my books has something about food in it. Several have a recipe at the end of the story. STRUDEL STORIES is about a family’s stories told while baking strudel; both the family and the recipe undergo changes over the decades. ONE DAY AND ONE AMAZING MORNING ON ORANGE STREET comes with a recipe for ambrosia. That sweet concoction becomes a metaphor for memory and connection.
My new novel, THE FIVE LIVES OF OUR CAT ZOOK, isn’t about food. It’s about a family’s beloved, sick cat named Zook, and includes the stories Oona tells her brother, Fred, about Zook’s past lives. But food is very important in the book; Zook himself is named after the fried zucchini everyone loves. Gramma Dee makes taffy that makes teeth stay glued together for “seven scary seconds.” Oona’s mom invites The Villain home for a gourmet meal. Oona is entranced by Oakland’s urban gardens, where herbs and lush vegetables grow profusely. And the whole neighborhood enjoys the pizza at O’Leary’s, the kids’ home away from home, where Oona struggles to make conversation with her Secret Love.
In this novel, too, food is a metaphor for memory and connection, as in my other books. But food also means love and comfort (of course!) and diversity and growth—a wonderful stewy sauce of metaphors. At the end of my story Oona becomes a “pizza intern” at O’Leary’s, mixing dough, spreading sauce, and on her way to flipping the dough in the air, like a pro.
Here’s a delicious recipe for homemade Pizza in a Pan, no air-flipping required. PAN-FRIED PIZZA, based on a recipe from the New York Times, November, 2007. Tried and true.
2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
3/4 tsp. instant yeast
1 tsp. salt
3 Tb. olive oil, more if necessary
2 cups warm tomato sauce, can be commercial pizza sauce
slices of mozzarella-sliced/chopped/julienned (whatever term you prefer!)
fresh basil, if in season
other herbs, fresh or dried, to taste.
Combine flour, yeast and salt in food processor. Turn on machine and slowly add 1/2 cup warm water and 2 T. oil through feed tube. Process briefly, adding more water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture leaves sides of bowl to form a ball.
Put dough in a bowl coated with olive oil, turn to coat with oil. Cover bowl and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 1-2 hours.
Divide dough into 4 pieces; roll each piece into a ball. Sprinkle each ball with flour, cover, and let rise until puffy, about 20 minutes, or less.
Working with a ball at a time (each ball makes one small pizza) roll out to a 10-inch round. (Sprinkle dough with a bit of flour to prevent sticking as you roll.)
Heat an oiled 10-inch pan on medium heat. Put a round of dough in the pan to brown evenly.
Turn dough with fingers or tongs.
Put tomato sauce, cheese, salt and pepper, herbs on browned surface. Cover pan and continue cooking until top is hot and cheese is melted OR place under broiler for a short time.
Repeat with remaining rounds of dough as needed. (Dough can also be refrigerated for a day or two.)
Serve warm, or at room temperature.
These make fine appetizers when cut into small portions.
Kids love them! And my grandchildren and I have made them together:
Thanks Joanne for the wonderful post and the great looking recipe!
Check out the book trailer for The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook: