Kitchen Cringe: Homemade pizza meets the needless death of a dough. (Is nefarious physical danger lurking in your kitchen?)
This is a sad tale. To borrow from the Broadway musical Hadestown, “It's a sad tale. It's a tragedy. We're gonna sing it anyway.” The good news: It’s short. And no actual pizzas were harmed.
This tale of woe is also a cautionary note. Thumbtack it to your kitchen bulletin board. (Do people even still have those?) Maybe there should be a refrigerator magnet. And this is not just for the home pizzaiolo. It’s for home cooks everywhere. Beware the evil that lurks in your kitchen!
Early this past Monday morning, I was in my kitchen. I was writing a chapter for Free The Pizza II: Escape From New York. (All my pizza book writing happens in the kitchen. Maybe it’s an inviting place because of all the good vibes that linger there from pizzas past.)
I’d sucked down just about three ounces of coffee when the sharp kick in my gut made me think, “Uh-oh.” The sudden wave of nausea that followed confirmed: We were about to experience an unplanned launch event.
Monday became an unpleasant day, spent mainly in various states of repose upon sofa, loveseat and bed. All that horizontalness allowed time for reflection upon my misdeeds. Doing mental forensic accounting for the previous day’s kitchen tasks, I concluded that I was a victim of self-induced food poisoning.
The agent of evil? A chicken gone bad. The culprit? Me. On Sunday afternoon, I’d handled said chicken gone bad and subsequently disposed of it.
However, yours truly did not clean things as well as he should’ve. No doubt, there was cross-contamination involved. And I ended up ingesting whatever joyous microbes were using that unfortunate chicken as their playground. I can hear those microbes now, yelling gleefully, “Goodbye chicken! Hello, pizza geek!”
Don’t worry. It gets worse. A tragedy, even. And we’re gonna sing it anyway. After handling that chicken, I made pizza dough. And I even recall thinking, while kneading that dough, Did I wash my hands properly?
I spent a couple of days enjoying the evil roller-coaster ride with whatever bacteriological demon was plaguing my system. I began thinking about that dough and the Detroit-style pizza that was to result. And I came to an unfortunate conclusion: The dough must die.
This is indeed a sad tale and a tragedy. I believe that pizza dough is a friend. It is alive, and it lives purely for our enjoyment. There are many, many other things to eat. But how many of them are as much fun as pizza?
Still, taking a life, even of a form as low as dough, is not to be done lightly and with caprice. I wondered if I was being overly cautious.
I was reminded of another friend. Ostensibly a higher lifeform, this is a man who often fools himself into thinking he’s being smart. That’s how, on a camping trip to the beach, he once concluded, “No, we can eat that squid! It’s totally safe! It’s been on the beach all day in the sun! Sun is good! Light the fire and cook those babies up!”
I am not making this up. Only the man’s dialogue has been embellished for purposes of entertainment. And in the interests of discretion, we will not be describing the tiny camping tent and the double-ended firestorm that resulted from The Dinner O’ Squid. It’s a sad tale, a tragedy, but I’m sure he’ll be singing it again. There’s always some more squid on some beach somewhere.
So I was second guessing myself about my dough. Was it really that dangerous? Could I bake it into a deliciously crunchy Detroit-style pan pizza without fear? I asked a professional-chef friend if I was just being paranoid. He had two words: “Chuck it.” Then he said, “And deep clean. Sanitize.” Goodbye pizza! Hello, sanitizing anti-microbial wipes!
My Detroit dough friend was sent to the trash bin. I happened to be awake early the next morning, gazing out the window. The beast truck rolled up and sighed heavily, farting and groaning, squeaking and squirting. I watched as the crude mechanical arm grabbed the bin, whipped it up and over, and dumped my friend into the stinking, piled detritus of lesser households. The arm slammed the empty bin back to the ground with a cold, unfeeling finality. The truck groaned, farted some more, and moved on.
Dough is alive. Dough is our friend. But equally a friend is kitchen safety. Don’t fool yourself. Don’t be like my other friend and his Night On Squid Beach. Or, as I like to say, I make these mistakes so you don’t have to. It’s a sad tale, it’s a tragedy. But nobody should have to be singing it into the porcelain microphone.
Blaine Parker is the award-winning author of the bestselling, 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, pro-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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