Spiritual Pizza

Growing up I have these fond memories of my parents bringing us to Mario’s pizzeria.  I could not tell you where it was anymore, I just remember it being one of those foods we all loved.  It was not something we had very often.  I remember the cheese, which seemed to stretch for miles, the aroma of the pizza parlor and time spent with family.  Over the years, my memories of pizza have changed.  With the advent of corporate pizza chains who delivered and frozen pizzas, it went from being one of those special treats that I savored to something you ordered when you didn’t feel like cooking or needed a quick comfort food.  While I have been intrigued by some of the techniques like putting extra cheese in the crust, pizza has been losing it’s specialness for me.  As I have been working to transform our diets and have us eating healthier, it has been one of those foods, which just never seemed to fit the 30 grams of carbs rule.  In order to stay within our carb count, it meant we ate one slice and then filled up with salad.  An hour later, we were still hungry. It seems like pizza is one of those things where you can’t just have one slice.

As it was Inspiritual’s one-year anniversary last week, I thought I would try my hand at homemade pizza using the recipe in Deborah Madison’s book.  I was a little nervous as I had this fear of trying to toss the pizza and it winding up in our ceiling fan or it being too chewy for Zoë or too crispy for me (a huge debate in our family).  However, I took a deep breath and reminded myself how awesome it was going to be and it was.  It was simple, tasty, filling and brought me back to the aroma I remember from growing up. 

I started by making the pizza sauce ahead of time.  What I liked about this recipe, is that unlike many of the other sauce recipes I have seen it had no sugar added.  I have posted the Pizza Sauce recipe, as I will be with all the ones I make from Deborah’s book, at food.com.  The sauce, which was so easy to make, made about 3 cups of thick sauce and was enough for two 14-inch pies.  The 3 cups of sauce contained only 9.4 grams of carbs.

picture by Zoe DavisSo then, I began working on the Pizza dough.  This dough was so easy to make.  It took about 2 hours from start to finish, most of that time being the dough resting and rising.  However, once it had rested for the last time, we spooned on the sauce, topped with fresh mozzarella cheese, vegan Italian sausage, and fresh basil, which we picked from our herb garden.  The carb count for the two pies was 158.15 grams of carbs. 

Before I panicked, I did the math.  Since this pizza created 16 slices of pizza with a total of 167.55 grams of carbs, this meant that each slice had 10.47 grams of carbs, less then ½ the carbs in one slice of thin and crispy pizza hut pizza and it had fresher mozzarella cheese on it.  The other awesome thing was that two slices (21 carbs) filled each of us up and nobody was tempted to down half the pie.

While making the pizza dough and sauce was easy, the new technique I learned was to take my baking sheets, turn them upside down, and bake my pizza dough on top of them in a 500-degree oven for about 7 minutes.  Rather then buy a pizza stone, which I did not have, my baking sheet pulled double duty this week.  It baked pizza on Friday and then moist and chewy peanut butter cookies on Sunday.

While I definitely learned a new use for an existing piece of equipment, what was more important for me was what I learned about myself spiritually in the preparing, serving, and enjoyment of these pizzas.  What I found interesting was that the one suggestion was about the cheese.  Those gathered had become so accustomed to the pre-shredded mozzarella cheese that you can buy in bags these days, that slices of fresh mozzarella placed artistically on the pizza versus the shredded that is sprinkled around the pie.  It struck me how we have become how our perception of what should be and what is right has been so shaped by the commercialization of things, in this case pizza. 

It made me realize how easily we have become domesticated to a way of being in the world.  a simple shift from commercially produced to fresh mozzarella, from shredded to sliced can make something seem “not quite right” and produce suggestions that the next time the cheese be shredded so it is as it should be, scattered throughout.  When did there become one right way of putting cheese on a pizza?  How many other things in life have we internalized there being a right way of being about?

Even before the pizza was ready to be baked, I was struck by the importance of the dough requiring its time to “rest.” It was as if the dough was taking a Sabbath break.  While it did not appear as if it was doing anything, or having anything done to it, the growth was still happening.  Each time you would lift the towel to move to the next step, the dough had risen, transformed, evolved.  It was a physical reminder for me of how important it is for each of us to have our Sabbath moments when we stop, pull the towel over us, and allow ourselves to rest, rise, and be transformed without others observing us.

Even the preparation of the sauce became Zenful for me.  I noticed the gradual thickening of the sauce.  It was not that this sauce required much work in its preparation.  It just needed time to evolve.  For the extraneous liquid to simmer away, for the garlic, pepper, salt and red pepper to fully season the sauce.  It took time for those ingredients to merge from distinct ingredients into a well developed whole.  It reminded me of how a group of people comes together, initially as a collection of individuals, however, over time learns to work together as a whole bringing out the best in each other.

Putting this pizza together was a time to be creative, to push myself out of my own comfort zone, to be ever present and honoring of my ingredients and to be mindful of how interconnected we are in this world.

And I thought I was just going to be making a couple of pizzas.  Who knew I was going to learn so much.