…hey, there’s still a great big world out there.
I went to Colorado again; I spoiled myself among the green mountains, crystal lakes and wildflower valleys again; and yes, Louise and I were at it again. I suppose we never really finished last winter’s photo shoot of iconic female duos/troublemakers. In between our slingshot excursion, the local rodeo, some intense rock hounding and a few meandering twilight hikes we unleashed months of pent-up creativity, wildly ironic silliness and perhaps even a little artistic revenge.
This re-creation of Rachel and Monica from Friends isn’t what we originally envisioned – it’s neither literal, nor intentional, but for us it’s utter perfection. After 2 hours and at least 2 hot flashes, we were tired, annoyed and anxious. Louise was covered in popcorn and I in beer (my bad), and we were both swaddled in “wedding dresses” which were cleverly, but precariously crafted from sheets and notions. The entire charade was held together by hope and stubbornness. Make no mistake, it took dozens of clicks to get this photo – 171 to be exact.
We finally resigned ourselves to never getting it right, so Louise formally announced, “we suck.” I then apparently said something hilarious that made us collapse into a pile of white tulle and crumpled merengue. Neither of us can remember my exact words and that’s probably not a bad thing. But I kept clicking and suddenly there it was – we knew we had the shot because it just managed to capture the afternoon’s few remaining bars of laughter. We didn’t have to pretend we were Rachel and Monica – we were them, unbridled and unscripted and seriously over it.
This silly moment between two old friends playing twenty-something dress-up was in fact an act of bravery. If you know, you know. Like all of the others in this series (see below), the photo only exists because we finally surrendered to absurdity and failure. We confronted and then laughed at our foibles, both real and imagined – no easy task for a pair of feisty, independent, competitive women with more than a few submissions for the complaint box. But we finally nailed it. We sat in our drooping wedding dresses quietly for a half-beat and then finished the popcorn and beer for dinner. Guess what? That too was perfection.
There really was some actual Foodishness for me this month. First, in CO Louise and I created a formal feast of sautéed lemon chicken and cacio e pepe panzanella salad with burrata, served with a lovely red blend. Or two. In spite of the light-but-decadent menu, our intricately choreographed kitchen pas de deux and a fairytale purple sunset, we donned blonde wigs to remove all pretense that we were fancy, or even remotely dignified.
When I returned to the reality of steamy Atlanta I went on a grilled pizza tear. This was dangerous territory because in my house there is a well-documented schism regarding crust texture and thickness. So just like I sneak mayonnaise into a recipe by calling it aioli, I created a series of flatbreads for dinner during June. As Daddy always says “don’t start no sh*t, won’t be no sh*t.”
Well it started with that BBQ chicken recipe, which itself was divine, but I then I kept tweaking the dough recipe and grill settings. I really needed to eat some more vegetables, so I then called upon spinach, but not before flavoring the olive oil with copious amounts of garlic. The other toppings just followed, and while the traditional Italian pizzas were no-brainers, I’m already eyeing some Indian and Moroccan flavors for the next round. Because the dough falls somewhere between Chicago style pizza and naan in terms of flavor and texture, it’s become my new go-to for entertaining and frankly a little low-key showing off – more fun than fondue, more exotic than a taco bar and more interesting than stir fry:
my basic weeknight pizza dough
- 2 cups 00 pizza flour
- 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 cup lukewarm water
Mix ingredients with a spatula in a medium bowl to form a sticky, thready dough; cover and set aside in a warm spot for an hour or two. Divide dough into two equal balls and bathe each in olive oil. Allow to rest another 20 minutes then shape into pizza rounds or squares. Toss pizzas on a 400° gas grill for 4 minutes then flip onto a board to add toppings on the cooked side. Return to the grill, cover and cook for another 4-6 minutes until toppings melt and bubble.
For someone who constantly thinks about food – it’s origins, chemistry, flavor, texture, preparation and presentation – taking a deliberate and conscious break was challenging. In fact, at times I found it downright uncomfortable forcing myself to not think about something, especially something so treasured and important in my life. But it took only a few hours to succumb to the beauty of the Colorado mountains and remember to zoom out. Now I’m determined to find that balance anywhere, especially in the pleasant, but claustrophobic comfort of my sleepy, suburban cul-de-sac.
Armed with my new perspective, I think I’ll keep to this lazy summer posting schedule for a while. I’m not ready to re-ignite my daily food-frenzy quite yet. But it’s all good – I’ve got landscaping needs, a few writing ideas, some photography projects, a pile of unread books and so many friends near and far to reconnect with. Now that I know I could exist on nothing but laughter and popcorn, cooking can relax and become a delicious, creative accessory to my story.