I bought a Boboli.
The pizza crust, the pre-made pizza crust, the pizza crust Bob would have never allowed in the house.
“Why buy pizza crust when you can so easily whip some up?” That’s what he always said.
When Bob plugged in the KitchenAid and got the flour and yeast from the shelf and carefully placed his stop watch on the counter so he could time the fast and slow mixing as well as the rising of the dough, a peaceful feeling would descend upon the kitchen. His face would smooth out in a focused calm and the smell of garlic and fresh pineapple would begin to permeate the house.
Music was usually involved and sometimes whistling or hip swaying would be added for good measure as he peered at the thermometer sticking out of the measuring cup, making sure the water was just the right temperature so as to not kill the yeast. Bob would remove the silky dough from the bowl, place it lovingly on the lightly floured countertop and effortlessly begin to knead it with a flick of the wrist only an experienced baker can produce.
“This is a beauty,” he would say if he were particularly pleased with the dough that day.
The red pepper, Canadian bacon and garlic was my favorite, the crust was crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. As we munched the pizza and I savored the taste sensations exploding on my tongue, Bob would analyze the crust and determine what could be changed to improve it for the next time. A little less water perhaps, some more salt, bake it a few minutes before putting on the toppings, maybe.
It was a Zen like experience for us both.
“Whipping some crust up”, takes on a totally different meaning when I am the one trying to make the pizza crust. It starts with me dragging out the KitchenAid and dusting it off, attempting to find the proper utensil for the mixer and hoping I have yeast that hasn’t expired.
When the timer on the stove goes off I can’t remember if that was for the 30 seconds on high speed or the 2 minutes on medium because I was distracted by Henry trying to cut his finger off while slicing the olives. I am never sure if the water is too warm or too hot for the yeast because I am never sure where the thermometer is (I think the boys were using it the other day when they were playing shop keeper).
When I remove the dough from the bowl it never feels silky and the flour pile on the counter goes flying everywhere after I drop the sticky dough ball onto the counter in disgust. The kitchen still fills with smells of garlic and red pepper but you don’t bite down into light and flakey crust, it is more leaden and soggy.
So, this year for Bob’s annual birthday celebration I bought Boboli. Sitting around the dining room table eating the pizza my sister-in-law looked at me quizzically and asked; “You didn’t really make all of these did you?” I shook my head sheepishly and admitted to the purchase of the offensive item, feeling guilt creep up from the pit of my stomach.
“I was going to say, nothing we made ever tasted this good.”
Ouch, that hurt.
So, we move forward. This year was the 6th birthday we celebrated Bob’s birthday without Bob and the 1st year we had store bought crust, something tells me it won’t be the last.
A wise friend reminded me that the point of the gathering is to celebrate Bob’s birth, the fact that he was alive and we all knew him and we honor him still today for simply being a part of our lives, not to make myself crazy trying to recreate Bob’s pizza crust.
You can tell when food has been prepared by a person who loves to cook and when it has been made by a person who is trying to put food on the table. Like so many things that Bob did I will never be able to recreate his pizza crust (although I do a pretty good job with his pancakes). Another wise person once told me that I can’t spend my energy trying to recreate Bob because then who would be me?
It makes me wonder, if the situation had been reversed, what would Bob be trying to recreate?
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