By Kathryn Streeter
Oh, Friday. We’re growing old together, you and I. From each joyful weekly awareness — It’s Friday! — that erupts around our home to the sleepiness that ends the evening, you’ve been there like an old friend. Long ago, you watched as the little kids came along, encouraging us as new parents to establish a family tradition to end the week. We wanted something that invited the kids’ participation, and so it was that you became synonymous with homemade-pizza-and-movie night.
The predictability offers a gentle rhythm to the week, like a much-anticipated warm seat before a fireplace, a safe landing from the tempest of work and school.
The thing that chokes me up is that my kids are now teenagers and, even so, they anticipate this beloved tradition, rather than trying to flee the house for better things.
Originally I would prepare the pizza dough using a bread machine. Back in the day, the bread machine was a hot kitchen accessory and a huge help to me when I had toddlers tearing around the kitchen. I would throw in the ingredients and hit the start button.
Over time, I burned through three machines and eventually decided to go old-school and make the dough by hand.
Repetition is the best teacher, and today you’ll smile when you see me mechanically reaching for my Pyrex measuring cup. You know I’ve done this countless times, and your eyes follow my right hand opening the door of the refrigerator and my left grabbing the yeast. It happens in a flash, and now I’ve tapped the faucet lever to its downward position and the water is gushing, changing from cold to warm.
It doesn’t surprise you that I eschew regular measuring spoons and lift out a spoon from the silverware drawer. You blinked and now the Pyrex cup has a package of yeast, a couple teaspoons of sugar, straight from the sugar bowl. I grab the whisk and fill the glass cup with warm water to the one-cup mark before turning off the faucet. I watch it begin foaming on its own, whisking vigorously to completely dissolve the yeast and sugar.
You know it’s time to let the yeast mixture nap, and I loosely cover it with a tea-towel. The mystery is hidden, growing in its dark, warmish world. I toss 3 ½ cups of flour into a separate mixing bowl, and sprinkle with salt.
When I lift the towel, the yeast mixture has percolated to a frothy-topped liquid. Turning my attention to the large bowl, I add some drops of oil to a depression in the middle of the flour mixture before slowly pouring the yeast-water solution into this well. I stir with a large spoon. You watch as I methodically remove my jewelry before grabbing the dough. I flip it over, punching and pinching the mass, helping it form a cohesive dough-ball.
I started the dough in the morning, and it is puffy and pregnant by dinnertime. It’s easy.
The hard part is the memories that mysteriously loosen themselves from the dough and float around me, reminders of times forever past, like when little pudgy hands joined me in that bowl.
Mommy, I want to touch it! I want to hit it, too! Can I taste it?
Taste it? Yucky! Dough is yucky before it is baked.
I let them try it anyway. And they liked it — straight out of the big dough bowl.
I see a flurry of family texts. Anyone have a movie suggestion? This part of our Friday nights used to be easy because the parents would choose.
Tonight we’re watching The Incredibles! Bolt! Up!
Now it’s a bit more complicated, trying to find movies that are compelling enough to satisfy our teens’ thirsty quick minds, without being inappropriate. Or stupid. Or slow. Or something.
Eventually, one teen arrives home, another trickles in and, finally, my husband arrives.
Happy hour is well upon us. Shall we have a glass of wine to complete this final step?
The rolling, smoothing, thinning out to two circles, ready for whatever will land on their respective stages. Today my teens can do all this and more on their own, and they experiment with cheese-stuffed crusts. They know how to use the back of a spoon to smooth out a generous scoop of tomato sauce, followed by a sprinkle of basil, oregano, garlic and salt. Next, a blanket of mozzarella. And, finally, the pepperoni.
Once upon a time, the kids clamored to place the pepperoni on the pizza.
Mommy, can I decorate the pizza?
The oven has been warming to the fiery temperature of 485 degrees. The low rack is the best for baking pizzas and into the heated cavern they go, two perfect pizzas, side-by-side.
We stand around, teens and parents, talking and laughing, watching and waiting, settling on a movie.
The pizzas emerge, and I cut generous portions.
The house smells and tastes like you, Friday.
Easy Pizza Dough
1 c. warm water
1 package yeast
2 tsp sugar
3 ½ c flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
Originally published by The Washington Post and reprinted with permission. Kathryn Streeter’s writing has appeared in publications including The Week, Austin American-Statesman and Brain, Child Magazine. Find her on Twitter, @streeterkathryn.