Brave the Kitchen and Eat Pizza

Joel Salatin, an eccentric farmer doing incredible things in the northeast USA, once said something like this:

“Food preparation is easier than it has ever been in the history of the world, and yet few people actually step foot in the kitchen.”

Salatin’s words—not a direct quote, but are from my memory of his interview in this documentary—rang true for me last night while preparing dinner with Aaron.

Brave the Kitchen and Eat Pizza_For the Birds

4:47 p.m. had just rolled around and I started thinking about supper (blue plate special, anyone?). Unfortunately I had not made out a meal plan for this week yet, so I bumbled about the kitchen taking stock of my options. And then it struck—THE pizza craving.

You know what I am talking about. When you want pizza you want pizza, and there is no turning back.

I closed the pantry and opened my mouth to ask Aaron to order in (there’s a delivery joint entirely too close to our home)—when a glint of steel caught my eye. My wonderful mother gave us a pizza peel & stone for Christmas just days before. Of course! I shut my mouth and Googled a bit for a tasty, quick, and multi-grain recipe.

And then, boom. Pizza started to happen.

 Pizza in the making! PS. My kitchen is illuminated with fluorescent bulbs, hence the, um, special lighting here. ha! 

Pizza in the making! PS. My kitchen is illuminated with fluorescent bulbs, hence the, um, special lighting here. ha! 

Aaron called out ingredients as I dipped and measured and tested and stirred. In under 15 minutes I had set the great bundle of pizza dough to kneading in the KitchenAid.  I rinsed dishes and Aaron grated two kinds of beautiful cheeses (so fancy! not really. we did the best with what we had--sustainable win!). By the time the dough finished its summersaults, I had the sink cleared, the toppings laid out, and the oven preheated.

 Photographic evidence. ;) The quote is off that little yellowish circle hiding behind the 7th Generation Soap over there on the left. 

Photographic evidence. ;) The quote is off that little yellowish circle hiding behind the 7th Generation Soap over there on the left. 

Y’all. From start to finish, dinner prep took less than an hour.

And the pizza was REAL good.

This cooking thing is really not that difficult. Heck, I didn’t even have to knead my own dough!

I wonder why we Americans don’t rendezvous in the kitchen more often. Salatin’s “quote” makes me wonder if perhaps we are intimidated. Maybe we think cooking is harder than it really is—which is bizarre if we really think about it. Meal prep, cooking, and baking are simply how we get to do that thing we all have to do—eat! Every human has to eat, in one way or another.

Of course, some of us have not been taught to prepare food, from scratch or otherwise. This is a debilitating shame* on the society that raised us and in which we participate. #RealTalk.

Shame is reversible, however. It can become null and void if people are brave enough to be vulnerable.

To attempt something new. To learn. To mess up and try again.  

Let’s not be intimated by the culinary or by a culture that says cooking is too difficult, lowly, or time-consuming. Let’s brave the kitchen and allow it to be a place of creativity, nurture, priority, resistance, connection, and liberation.


 *Notice earlier that I did not say society is to “blame” for food-prep phobia. American disconnection from real food is a wicked—knotty, multi-faceted, many-layered—problem, one in which we are all implicit. But there is grace for the taking, friends. Take this bread…drink this cup…


4 Ways to Brave the Kitchen

1. Make what you like.

Whether you are a scullery starter or a celebrated cook, get in that kitchen and prepare something you love! Seriously. What is your favorite meal? Getting excited about the end product helps me off the couch (as I mentioned in my #QuickSwitch post about meal planning).

2. Expect mistakes.

Cooking comes with certain risks and there will be recipes that just fall flat. Therefore, be careful with heat sources and flame, always read an entire recipe before getting started, and be patient with yourself. Mistakes = learning! Also, many “mistakes” can be turned into a different dish!

3. Use the proper tools.

I LOVE the pizza peel (Thanks, Mom!). It made the pizza baking experience more efficient and fun. The KitchenAid was an AWESOME little helper, too. Learn to use the tools in your kitchen. They are there to help. And if they are not, send them elsewhere.

4. Share the work and the pleasure.

Invite others to cook with you. I love cooking with Aaron. In fact, we learn a lot about one another when we cook together (from family recipes and the stories that go with them to just how patient we can be with one another). In the very least, take a moment to receive the looks of glee and satisfaction your food brings to those around your table. Cooking is a gift to share.


Now for that tasty, quick, and multi-grain pizza dough...

Whole Wheat and Cornmeal Pizza Crust Recipe from For the Birds Blog.jpg

Whole Wheat & Cornmeal Pizza Dough

Yields 2 12-inch pizza crusts (or one big one)

I found this recipe and adapted the method just a tiny bit to fit my kitchen quirks. Hope it goes well for you!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose white flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

In the bowl of your stand mixer, dissolve the honey in the warm water.

When your honey is dissolved, stir in the yeast with a wooden spoon. Allow this mixture to sit and "prove" itself active for 5 minutes. You will know that the yeast is alive and well if the mixture turns cloudy and forms bubbles on the surface. 

After the yeast has done its thing, add the rest of the ingredients into the mix and use the wooden spoon to stir everything together a bit.

Now allow the dough hook on your mixer to knead the dough for 8 minutes or more. This will make a lot of noise, but it is GLORIOUS. You can totally knead by hand if your mixer does not have a dough hook. 

After you set the oven (and pizza stone, if ya got one) to preheating (450 degrees!), tidy up the kitchen, smooch your favorite person, or look at Instagram.

When the timer heralds the dough completely kneaded, place the ball of dough in a greased bowl, cover with a cloth, and allow to rise for 20 minutes. I set my bowl on top of the preheating oven and it rose very well. 

Go back to your smooching, etc.

Now, after the 20 minutes are up, punch the dough (right in the center; just do it) and divide in two.

 Forgive me.

Forgive me.

***At this point you can either place the dough in a sealed container and allow to "mature" in the refrigerator for a day or two, OR continue on and devour your pizzas right away. The flavor does improve, generally, when the dough is allowed to sit for a while, FYI.*** 

To prepare dough for supper simply press the dough rounds into your desired shape. To keep the dough from sticking to your countertop or pizza peel, dash some cornmeal under your dough.

pressed dough rounds

Par-bake your crust for 5 minutes on the preheated stone OR a regular pizza pan. (You can skip this step, just add toppings and bake for 10-12 minutes. I prefer to par-bake the crust first. Makes the pizza crispier/BETTER.) 

After par-baking, remove crust from oven, top with desired sauce, cheese, and toppings, and pop it right back into the oven for 4-6 more minutes. Watch the cheese. I like it to bubble and toast a bit--YUM. But you do you. 

 Order up!

Order up!

Allow to sit for just a minute or two before you slice and devour/enjoy!

Be brave, friends. And let me know how it goes!!