Need a pizza right away? Pick up the phone. You’re not going to suddenly whip up a pizza (well, not a good one) by slapping together a bunch of raw ingredients in your kitchen in 30 minutes or less. And that’s fine. The reason and the reward are all part of the same, glorious goal of freeing the pizza.
Pizza is a process that requires allowing biology do its thing. Great pizza dough is the product of tiny fungi getting busy and turning a lump of flour, water and salt into a canvas for comestibles that tantalize your tongue and warm the cockles of your heart (if you have any left).
That kind of magic doesn’t happen at the snap of the fingers. But it can be close at hand if you prepare properly. For instance, it’s not unusual to open my freezer and find half a dozen dough balls of various sizes. There are bags of frozen sauce. In the fridge’s cheese drawer, there are several blocks of mozzarella and a couple of wedges of Parmesan and Romano. In the cold cuts bin are at least a couple of cured meats—and almost always, one of them is Spanish chorizo.
If I want to make a pizza tonight, it can happen with about four hours notice. It takes time to thaw that dough. (Don’t use the microwave. I’ve tried it. Save yourself.)
But making good dough from scratch can’t be done in an hour. And embracing that part of the magic process called pizza is what it takes to do the deed. People will try to tell you otherwise. They are not freeing the pizza. They’re enslaving themselves to the blind greed of the time-crunch culture.
Pizza is a transformation of mundane ingredients into a joyous eating experience. As such, it will not allow us to rush things. It forces us to slow down. It’s part of the system and part of the poetry that is pizza.
Think “poetry” is overstating the case? Consider this: poetry is the crystallization of a moment. It is words brought to bear on being evocative. A perfectly poetic moment is a slice of time or life caught in a stage of clarity that sparks the imagination. Come on, you know why the caged bird sings. And the reason is probably bigger than just pizza.
A bite of brilliant pizza is also a crystalline moment. When you take that first fabulous taste and savor the sequence of flavors that make your tongue tango, enlivening your soul just a little more, well—that is arguably a poetic moment.
If it’s the right pizza, of course. And this is not a rant against fast-delivery pizza. It has its place and its devotees. But if we’re going to be making pizza, if we’re going to the trouble of building this bridge between our food and other people, it’s worth taking the time to engineer it properly.
And doing that requires patience. Whether it’s the days required to ferment a batch of dough, or the hours required to thaw one of the resulting dough balls, it’s worth the wait.
The world is in a rush for us to do everything else. Let’s take the time do justice to pizza and poetry.
Want the free dough recipe from the forthcoming Free The PIzza book? Just click here.
Free the pizza!
As the sun sets over the islands, we can hear the sound of a gentle breeze in the rigging, and a scent of toasted cornmeal is wafting across the anchorage from the pizza boat. It’s four hours since lunch, yet the taste of the day’s “Mash Up,” a loaded meat and veggie pizza, is still vivid in my mind and on my tongue. Welcome to Christmas Cove and Pizza Pi VI of St. Thomas.
Pi Day is March 14 (as 3, 1 and 4 the first three significant figures of π). Accordingly, it seemed like an appropriate day to share this tale of Pizza Pi VI, the US Virgin Islands' world-famous floating pizzeria. My wife and I are on a sailing trip around the USVI with some friends, and I happened to put this iconic, blue and yellow pizza boat on their radar.
And I admit to having reservations about trying this boat-bound, take-out pizza joint. I figured there could be no way it's as good as the reports. But the little pizza boat that could, which is permanently anchored in St. Thomas' Christmas Cove, captured the imagination of our merry little band. It became necessary take the plunge.
So, how was it? It's a competent and serviceable New York-style pizza. That may not sound like high praise. It is. Creating such a pizza is not easy under the best of circumstances. And I have to temper this review with the fact that as customers, we were half an hour late in picking up our pies. With the heavy traffic that Pizza Pi experiences, you have to order your pizza hours in advance. Our trip from magnificent Magans Bay to Christmas Cove was impeded by strong headwinds and choppy seas that are atypical for the season. Getting to Pi took longer than anticipated.
With all that in mind, despite our lateness, the pizza was still nicely warm. The pie named Mash Up (pictured above) is topped with bell pepper, red onion, mushroom, sausage and bacon. It had an excellent flavor profile. And their “Plain Jane” cheese pizza is a proper New York slice pie. Pizza Pi gets an A-plus for effort. This is hard work that transcends the mere novelty of the pizza-boat paradigm. The pizza itself gets a solid B-plus for New York-style execution in a humid, unforgiving environment where baking is a challenge. (The craft beer in the photo is a really tasty half wheat and pale malt ale from St. John Brewers called Island Summer Ale. What's an island pi without an island ale?)
And you know what is most important about this pizza? You. With a little practice, you can easily make a pizza as good (or better?) in your home oven. You don’t even need a commercial pizza oven or a mooring in St. Thomas. Want to know how? Click here to Free the pizza!
Want to know more about PIzza Pi VI? Click here.
Blaine Parker is the award-winning author of the new, unusual and amusing how-to pizza book, Free The Pizza. Also known as The Pizza Geek and "Hey, Pizza Man!", Blaine is fanatical about the idea that true, professional-quality pizza can be made at home. His home. Your home. Anyone's home. After 20 years of honing his craft and making pizza in standard consumer ovens across the nation, he's sharing what he's learned with home cooks like you. Are you ready to pizza?
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