Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year Pizza!

In the beginning...
Crust, sauce, pepperoni THEN cheese...
I'm thinking of starting a new tradition on New Year's Eve: New Year's Pizza.  Not buying a pizza, but making one at home. In my family, we've always boiled a pot of black-eyed peas with bacon and ate them at midnight, which is supposed to bring good luck for the upcoming year. So hey, why not pizza? Gerlyne and I are making a pizza from scratch this evening as a fun-together activity to ring in the New Year.  That to add to her own tradition of watching The Honeymooners marathon on Ch. 11 (WPIX) after the ball drop.  I guess I'm sharing this as a light-hearted post to end a year filled with strife, loss and unrelentingly negative news from all sides trying to overwhelm the  positive strides I've made in life.

Below is a quick account of what took place >;) 

 New Year's Pizza 

        • 1 ball of pizza dough (any size)
        • 1 jar of pizza sauce (Classico™ brand is great)
        • 1 bag shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
        • Whatever toppings you like (I prefer pepperoni)

Yeah that's right, cheese last...
Preheat conventional oven to as high as it can go (with us it's 500 degrees and then broil; I'm not sure about broiled pizza). Knead the dough for roughly three minutes, more or less,  then flatten it out into as much of a round disk shape as possible. Brush lightly with olive oil, then add sauce, spreading around evenly with a spoon or whatever is handy.  Then you lay down the toppings you like, then cover and spread the shredded cheese over the toppings and sauce. This will make a nice blanket that holds your toppings in place and protects your toppings from overcooking (unless they are absolutely raw and you want them thoroughly singed). Put the whole thing on a pan or pizza stone (if you're lucky), or like the second one I made, in a skillet and let cook in the oven for 10 minutes.  The high heat will raise the edge of the crust just like you see in the pizza parlor.  It should be done within ten minutes, so take it out, let it rest until it's warm to the touch and serve.  You can vary it any way you like, but with simple store-bought ingredients it doesn't take more than 30 minutes (take that, Domino's and Papa John's!)
Yeah! Tastes as good as it looks, too! I guess this is our new tradition.
 Yep, turned out pretty good! I topped my slices off with oregano and crushed red pepper (I used to avoid until earlier in the year, believe it or not...) We used store-bought frozen dough that had to thaw for several hours, plus the other ingredients were pre-made, so it wasn't an authentic Pizza Parlor experience in the sense or making it totally from scratch, but for what it was worth it was easy, fun, cost effective and doggone good pizza and great for a last-minute dinner or treat, such as New Year's tends to be.  Being a pizza snob, I can spend a good amount of time analyzing the ingredients and techniques if I want to, but this is not that post; it's just about having a good time.  If you try it out yourself, let me know what you did and how it turned out.  Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Re: Dad's Conversations About Race: "Most White Kids Don't Get This Talk"

"When I watch the news (or worse, read comments on the Internet), it’s easy to feel like practically everyone in the world sees black kids as a threat. But that’s not true, and it’s not what I want them to think."
 - Calvin Hennick, "Dad's Conversations About Race: 'Most White Kids Don't Get This Talk' "

Calvin Hennick and Son, photo from Yahoo publication courtesy of Calvin Hennick
I was forwarded this article recently and asked to comment on it.  Written by a white father with a biracial son, the article details the bullet points of a conversation he intends to have with his young son, who shares an African American heritage with his mother, when the time comes that his son inevitably asks questions about the strange and likely different way he is treated from most of his peers.

It is a conversation he feels that not all parents apparently have with their children.  However, the writer implies, and I agree, that they very well should. Ignoring the issues that Black people face today simply because you or your children are not Black is doing oneself and one's children a great disservice.  Not because Black people should be singled out for special treatment or consideration, but because we are often singled out for mistreatment, negligence or cognizant dissonance.  This behavior has contributed directly to the tensions and strife that has never really gone away from American society since the Civil Rights Era of the mid-20th Century, but has recently resurfaced after an extended, gradual buildup of underlying pressure and activity that can easily be construed as a reversal of the consideration that, many think, or had thought, positively changed modern American sentiments (and progress) during that era.  

It's by no means an easy conversation to have with another grown person, never mind a child.  The dynamics are different: whereas with a child you are teaching, instructing and otherwise adding to their conscious awareness of an issue with wholly negative aspects that challenge their morality, but with adults it's also compounded by the awareness that they already experience, which could either support or deny the points of this discussion, and also has the risk of introducing shame in the event that a person realizes that they have never stood up for an issue that they morally support but consciously or unconsciously ignored or backed down from for various reasons.  I'm not writing to condemn such actions, but to support the awareness of these issues and to pass on any such knowledge that can lead to effective understanding and constructive building on these issues.  I found the article to be forthright and truthful, without the taint of misplaced moral superiority or reflexive anxiety that often undermines discussions of this nature. Take some time to read it and ponder what is discussed.

Take note also of what I quoted above; personally, this was the takeaway for me. I have been hesitant to add my voice to this and similar discussions because I did not very well see that it would be effective, but I'm changing my mind because I absolutely have to.  There is the specter of racial bias and hatred that proliferates the media and comments of many, if not a majority of internet sites and media outlets (Sony Films America being the latest prime example), but I personally know and relate to many people who are not of my heritage who do understand or are capable of understanding the dynamics that force this opinion on the willing, unwilling, complicit or unsuspecting consumer or visitor. There is a dynamic that forces citizens and non-citizens in the very same way to be compartmentalized by race, class and other categories and are then forced to battle one-another for survival and a false sense of superiority when in fact it does not exist except for those who pull these societal strings. Black people are the most obvious target, but by no means does this mean that Black people are or should be universally reviled, and especially not when vociferous media pundits and anonymous commenters proliferate the strongest forms of communication in society and force their ignorance and hatred on others to react to or learn and behave in similar manner.  To me, the continuation of such dynamics is force and acceptance; the willingness to accept such information and conformance to standards and status quo in return for acceptance to society and its benefits to scale (based on historically traditional notions of what is acceptable for whom).  I refuse to accept what bigots and tacit supporters say about me or my heritage based on longstanding hearsay or the basis of guilt by association, and neither should you.

To do so is to drive yourself insane or to commit hara-kiri to your moral compass, your self-respect and your immortal soul. 

All this from a simple discussion you can have with your kids.  What a bargain!