If you asked me what my favorite food is, I’d have to say pizza. Like my father and his father before him, there’s nothing I love better to do in the kitchen than to prepare pizzas for my family and friends. Without realizing it until I sat down to write this column, recently I have layered elements of discipline and reflection to my practice of pizza-making.
I’d been an able but largely improvisational pizza cook for years. But for Christmas last year, my partner gave me a book, Pizza Camp by Joe Beddia, and a sixteen-pound, quarter-inch-thick baking steel for the oven. And ever since, just as meeting for worship is on the agenda Sunday morning, pizza is on Sunday dinner’s menu. I started to keep a pizza journal, logging each meal and each pie, noting experiments with recipes and methods, successes and mistakes, trying to refine my technique and hone my craft. Luckily, even a less-than-perfect homemade pizza is still pretty good. I can leaf through my pizza journal now and remember the joy of sitting down at the table with my partner and kids and not just eating pizza together, but the specific pies we had: what was experimental, how the combination of toppings went over, whether the crust was too pale or nice and blistered. Every entry is a reminder of shared time, sustenance, and joy together. Most recently, ramps arrived at the co-op where I do most of my grocery shopping, a foraged wild Allium that is a pungent and delicious culinary harbinger of spring in the mid-Atlantic. You’d better believe they went on our pizza, in this case with a fennel- and chive-spiked cream sauce and a 24-hour fermented pizza dough that might have been our best yet.
Scripture abounds with food metaphors: loaves, fishes, our daily bread, bread that is the body of Christ . . . one gets the picture quickly! And food is hardly sacramental only to Christians. Who can even imagine the ancient person who might have been the first to muse on the sacredness of a shared meal? Gathered with Friends from across the Americas in North Carolina in March, I listened to New England Friend Noah Merrill bring a message about Jesus in Gethsemane, not just about Jesus’s time of torment and betrayal, but about the garden of olives: trees that can survive the harshest conditions and bear a bitter fruit, which when pressed or carefully cured can become a healing balm, a life-sustaining staple, and an ingredient in family meals from ancient times all the way to my ritual of pizza on First Days. For a world wounded and in need of sustenance, Noah asked, can we Friends be as the olives?
In this issue of Friends Journal, we are blessed with a bountiful harvest on the subjects of food and farming, including features from Quaker farmers Kavita Hardy and Allen Cochran; Pamela Haines on growing a front garden and a neighborhood; Deborah Ramsey on a plant-powered soul food table; Sharlee DiMenichi on the care and counsel of Friends with disordered eating; and recipes and reflections from my colleague Sara Gada, our director of advancement. Six more new articles on the theme are available online at Friendsjournal.org. Pull up a chair and dig in!
P.S. Windy Cooler and Erik Hanson have concluded their volunteer service with us as news editors. Their keen eyes for Quaker news, thoughtful writing, and concise editing over the last five years have immeasurably enriched the Journal and our shared understanding of the Quaker world. Join me in thanking them for their good work!