I find it very beautiful and moving that people make connections–not just that we’re able to, but that we need to. We connect little bits of fact to make stories, because it helps us to understand and to share those little bits of fact. When an event occurs that’s hard for us to understand or explain, we find ways to connect ourselves to it, to make sense of it through our experiences. We do this almost without thinking, it’s our first reaction. And our second is to share those connections, to tell others about them, to talk and talk and try to understand. We’ll say, “I’ve lived in that place,” “I knew that person,” “I knew someone that knew that person.” We’ll make connections to other similar events that we’ve lived through, that we’ve survived. It’s tempting, in a less generous or a myopically hypocritical moment, to say, “We only talk about violence when it happens in a place where we love, to people like us!” Or even to shout, “It’s not about you!” But, of course, it is about you, whoever you may be. It’s about all of us. It’s our way to lend our strength to strangers we may never meet, to suffer with the sufferers and explain the inexplicable. It’s our way to give hope for a better time after a strange, sad time. It’s our way to connect ourselves not just to events but to people, our way to extend our sense of family, to create new bonds of responsibility and affection through compassion and empathy. It’s probably facile and foolish to say it, but it seems that if we could expand these connections to reach beyond similarities of geography or experience, if we could make a larger more universal connection–if we could sympathize with somebody not because we lived in the same place but because she, too, has a daughter, or is a daughter, or is human, or, simply, is alive–if we could do this then we would have fewer of these incomprehensible events to explain, and fewer people to mourn.
So this is what I’ve been thinking all morning, as I kneaded dough and rolled out dough and shaped quite a few tarts. Baking as comfort and therapy! Over the weekend we made some pizzas. I wanted to make something the boys liked to eat, that they’d actually look forward to, and pizza never fails. I made the dough before I went to work, and then when I came home we made all the toppings. The dough rose for quite a few hours, this way, but it turned out extra crispy! This makes two big cookie-tray-sized pizzas. I made one plain, with just sauce and cheese, and one fancy, with spinach and musrhooms and brie. I’ve given the toppings in amounts here to make two fancy pizzas, but do as you like! That’s the beauty of pizza!
Here’s Elmore James with It Hurts Me Too. One of the best songs ever ever ever.
1 t yeast
1 t sugar
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups flour
1 t basil
1 t salt
1/3 cup olive oil
Combine the yeast, sugar and half a cup warm water in a small bowl, and leave in a warm place for about ten minutes to get foamy.
In a large bowl combine the flour, basil, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture and the olive oil. Stir well, and add enough warm water to form a soft dough. You want it to be as wet as it can that you can still comfortably knead it. Knead for about 5 minutes until soft and elastic. Put about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large bowl. Roll the dough in this so that it’s evenly coated. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set aside for two to five hours, till it’s doubled in size.
FOR THE TOPPING
2 10 oz packages of mushrooms, sliced across into 1/4 inch rounds (caps and stems)
2 t rosemary
2 t sage
olive oil to coat
Preheat the oven to 425. Coat the mushrooms lightly with herbs and olive oil. Arrange in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast for about 20 – 25 minutes, turning frequently, until they’re dark and crispy.
simple tomato sauce, flavored with basil, oregano and smoked paprika and simmered until quite thick.
about 1 cup grated sharp mozzarella
about 1 cup brie, chopped into small pieces
3 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped quite fine
Preheat the oven to 500 and lightly oil two baking sheets. Break the dough into two parts. Spread each part onto a baking sheet, using your hands to push it to the edges. The dough will be quite thin on the tray (1/4 inch, maybe), with a crust on the edges of about 1/2 an inch on the edges.
Pre-bake the crust for about 5-8 minutes, till it loses its shine.
Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on each crust. Spread the grated cheddar in a thin layer over the sauce. Spread the spinach in an even layer over the cheese. Arrange the mushrooms on the spinach, and arrange the brie evenly amongst the mushrooms.
Bake until the cheese is bubbly and golden, ten to fifteen minutes.