On Pizza

  My housemates and I decided last weekend that we would have a party this weekend; there are three of us  who are new to the household, four from previous times, each expressed a modicum of interest--so the ball was set rolling. Initially we'd thought that inviting a few friends each and getting to know each other was the best way to go; one of my housemates and I talked this over while combing the woods for chanterelles one afternoon. We both thought that we'd need something more than chips and salsa and beer to nurture the social, so the brainstorming began. It's always interesting getting lost in the woods with someone that you don't know very well; at one point in time we totally lost each other, I'd wandered down a deer trail, turned around and Ken was just gone. An improvised bird call got nothing, nor did a wolf whistle or a guttural call of, "Marco..."; making my way back to the trail proper, I combed the area, but ceased to find my friend. I trooped back to the truck, no Ken; I turned around and hiked back into the now darkening woods, stopping occasionally to shout his name or utter more annoying versions of, "Marco...". I hiked past the point that I last seen him, further up the mountain trail, but still he proved elusive; day was fast fading, and the forest suddenly was very quiet. Images flitted through my head, had he fallen into a ravine, been taken by one of the cougars we were joking about earlier in the afternoon, run across a plantation of pot and been transported to the land of the lotus? I broke fern fronds and made arrows down the trail pointing my direction, hoping that none of my imaginings would materialize. Rounding a bed I caught sight of my lost partner in crime; there'd been no cougar or run in with lotus-eaters; in their stead, the rutting and gnashing of what was likely a bull elk (which Ken wisely chose not to disturb, waiting silently for it to pass by). We didn't find any mushrooms to speak of, but we did begin to formulate a plan for the coming weekend's party; perhaps the housemates would fabricate food and we'd ask our guests to bring a bottle of wine or some beer to share?
  A few more days tramping through the woods (and about 30lbs of chanterelles later), we hit on the idea that we'd make up a big batch of pizza crust dough (note to self, next time 3 big batches would be better...), make some pizza sauce, and invite our housemates to supply pizza toppings... The idea was met with excitement, topping planning took on a coordinated air; lists were exchanged, notes were made, responsibilities were doled out--those participating each had a task or two or three.
  Friday arrived pretty unceremoniously, I'd had a couple of interviews to complete, so my pre-party planning was put on hold, an aspect mirrored by the busy schedules of my housemates. I sent a text out saying that I'd be mixing dough at 4 and making sauce right after. The housemates were assembled when I got home, curious as to what I brought from the store to top pizza with; then gone, thoughts of what was going into their own pies leading them off to Fred Meyer or Albertsons or Market of Choice. The sauce was finished and seasoned, my toppings were cut and cooked and set into bowls, the pizza dough was overflowing its bowl, creeping across the counter, looking for a pan, aching for the oven. I had twenty minutes to myself I gauged, just enough time to help said creeping dough onto a pan, try out the sauce, sprinkle the waiting cheese and sausage and ham upon the smear of tomato and toss it to the searing heat. Realization hit with my second glass of zinfandel that I'd had nothing to eat that day, so wrapped up in interview and party planning, the alcohol was trying to satiate my empty stomach. Three minutes remaining, my housemates began to return, lining up cutting boards and bowls, popping ales and rooting for more wine glasses. A few friends arrived, taking no note of my selfish glances at the oven, commenting on how great the kitchen smelled, how warm the wood stove made the house, how it was nice to have a weekend activity that was not the bar. I pulled my pie from the oven, letting it rest just enough to cut it; scarfing down a too-hot piece sans plate to the bemused look of all. "He's not eaten all day," quipped a housemate. I'd not told them, but they knew; nobody belittled me for stuffing my face as everyone looked on. I told the others to help themselves, relieved when they did.
  Pie night was a smashing success, I lost count of the number of pies we made--New York, Sicilian, Chicago & hybrids thereof. Wine was consumed, beer and mead and cider too. Conversation flowed, books were read, little feet clamored up the stairs and down, windows were opened to let in rain-cooled air, tail lights on the drive gave way to headlights. I know my housemates better now, hopefully the inverse is also true. I'm sure there will be pizza in our near future (4 frozen crusts and a vat of tomato sauce almost ensure it...), I'm sure there will be more nights of friends and friends of friends, more nights of food and laughter and merriment. It always amazes me what comes out of cooperation between collective minds, the insights that we gain into others and into ourselves. Next time I'd like to sit and watch as my housemates make the dough, as they stir the vat of sauce and lay out bowls of toppings. I'd like to greet guests at the door rather than beckon through the window from the kitchen. Thinking a bit more, I realize that it's nice to think these thoughts, but really I'd rather be covered in flour, wine glass in one hand and oven door in the other, checking on bubbling pies and formulating what's going into the next one.