Pizza around the World, and, a Song of Praise to My Hometown Pizza

Pretty much as soon as I got back from Montana last week, I had to have pizza from my very favorite pizza place in the world, and this reminded me of a post I wrote when this blog was very new…about the pizzas I’ve tasted around the world and the pizza that I love best of all.

Last year I moved back to my native land–the greater (i.e. downstate) NY area–after many, many years away. I’ve lived in Philadelphia, Chicago, California, Scotland, and Germany in the meantime, traveling to Rome and Paris in between. In each place, I longed for a real NY slice.

Before singing the praises of my hometown pizza, I give you the utterly biased and probably unfair generalizations of the pizzas from my travels:

Philadelphia: Renzi’s pizza in Bridesburg is good, but kinda salty and overly tomatoey for my taste.

Chicago: Stuffed crust is interesting, but kinda gross, and Chicago thin crust tastes icky and Bisquicky. Plus, why do they cut it like that? And why no pizza “by the slice”?

California: Yeah, yeah, yeah, the California Pizza. Pineapple? Yum. Fresh Veg.? Yum. But still not quite like home.

Scotland: Can’t tell you how I hate to confirm the (sometimes unfair) “Bad Food Britain” stereotype. But CORN and PRAWNS on a prefabricated crust with bland, corn starch thickened ketchup tasting sauce? Why?

Germany: Joey’s Pizza isn’t fantastic, but it has a major advantage for the expat who speaks German haltingly and has no car–ONLINE BESTELLUNG und LIEFERUNG! (you order it online and they bring it to your door, free!) The best pizza in Germany is probably made by my friend Crystal. (Hi Crystal!)

Rome: I seriously offended some Italians by saying so, but I found Roman pizza seriously disappointing. That could be because NY pizza is more influenced by a Neapolitan slice (or so I’m told), but I don’t know.

Paris: Some may think this is blasphemous, but we actually ordered in Pizza Hut while staying with a lovely friend outside Paris. It took much longer than US Pizza Hut and tasted much better, too. (My son had a broken leg and we were in crisis mode. Pizza is the official food sponsor of Stone family crisis mode.)

The FIRST DAY we were back on native soil, I HAD TO HAVE pizza from La Capricciosa Brick Oven Pizza, right here in Greenport, NY. 

Oh, this pizza! It’s made from scratch, right there where you can see it. Its crust strikes a perfect balance of crispy and chewy, beautifully dimpled beneath just the right amount of a tomato sauce that’s at once tangy and savory. And the cheese: neither too little nor too much, and none of this part-skim stuff. Health food? I think so. It’s REAL FOOD. Nothing prefab. Nothing fake. Made before your eyes by people you can talk to.

(in case there was any doubt about where allegiances ’round here lie…)
The pizza guy was all ‘why you wanna take a picture of my hands?’ I guess he’s not on Pinterest.
playing with cars helps you wait for your pizza–my nephew (kind of) Dante

(note that my sons KNOW how to fold a real NY slice. so proud.)

It’s truly delicious! Even among NY pizzerias, it is king. I haven’t had a better tasting slice ANYwhere in the world.

{Not that I’m biased or given to superlative statements.}

I suspect that we all have some food or foods that just taste RIGHT to us, that make us feel that we’re really at home, and call forth from us spontaneous delight and gratitude.

What’s yours?

Now I’m Grumpy on the Huffington Post, Too!

{here’s the beginning…}

Recently, HuffPost blogger Lisa Turner offered five religiously inspired rules for eating:

1. Eat mindfully, being aware of the food and your body.
2. Eat for the purpose of nourishing your body; treat your body as a temple.
3. Eat only fresh, clean, light foods, avoiding foods that are processed or canned.
4. Eat only what you need, without overeating or binging on food.
5. Eat for the purpose of bettering yourself spiritually.As a set of rules for eating — and living — it’s hard to do better.

I disagree. I think we can do a lot better.

I have sort of a love-hate relationship with lists and rules. Part of me loves to believe that everything — even things as complicated as food and eating and living! — can be simplified down into three or five or seven rules. And part of me knows that rules, even good rules, don’t really help that much.

Who, by now, hasn’t heard No. 4 (don’t overeat) or No. 3 (avoid processed foods)?

It may surprise you to learn that the Bible itself isn’t all that keen on rules, given that so many of the people who claim to love the Bible tend to focus on, well, rules. But even St. Paul admitted that though he knew all the good rules, he couldn’t follow them. Jesus broke one rule after another to prove the point that following God was about loving other people, not getting the rules right, an ethic that’s not new to him but is in fact a theme in the Hebrew Bible.

{continue reading on the Huffington Post religion page–here!}

Strawbaby Pie

I first made this pie when my husband and I were newlyweds in California, the place where most of the strawberries in the US are grown. Tim grew up partly in California, and this is his favorite kind of pie, which partly explains why he cultivated over 500 strawberry plants in our yard last year.

What’s surprising about strawberries is how hardy they really are. The berries themselves are delicate, but the plants are sturdy throughout all kinds of weeds and weather. In another post, I remarked that the five hundred plants we now have–the offspring of the five or so plants we started with–are a slow form of miracle.

But perhaps I digress. One of the first times I served strawberry pie, a guest remarked that her granddaughter used to call strawberries ‘strawbabies,’ and that it was sad when she finally learned to say it correctly. And so I often think of strawberries as ‘strawbabies,’ as it’s a much cuter name, and, anyway, strawberries are not berries at all–they’re aggregate accessory fruits. Because I know that you wanted that clarified.

And without further ado, here is the recipe. I don’t think I need to tell you that local strawberries, when available, will give you the best flavor by far.

Strawbaby Pie

(with a no-bake, gluten-free crust)

First, make the crust by pulsing in the food processor:

1 cup almonds

1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut

1/2 cup other nuts (or more almonds)

1 cup pitted dates

1 tsp. vanilla extract

pinch o’ salt

Then, with the processor switched ‘on,’ pour in

1/4 cup–or less–of maple syrup

until mixture forms a cohesive, dough-like ball. If it seems overly wet, add a few more nuts or some rolled oats (gluten-free oats if you’re serving someone celiac!) If it seems too dry, add more maple syrup just a bit at a time.

Press into a 9″ pie pan that’s been lined with parchment; set aside in the freezer.

{Or you could just use whatever pie crust you like!}

Meanwhile, clean and hull about 6 cups strawberries.

Reserve 4 cups of the prettiest ones for arranging tips-up in the pie crust (see above). Mash 1-2 cups of the homelier ones (or the good parts of bad ones, etc.) with a potato masher in a saucepan until they are close to puree. Stir in:

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup sugar

Mix thoroughly until the cornstarch is fully dissolved. (Important!) Turn heat to medium-high, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil 1 minute, remove from heat. Arrange reserved strawberries in pie crust, and, a little at a time, smooth the hot mixture over the strawberries in the crust, trying to allow it to ‘paste’ the strawberries together. Chill 3 hours and serve with barely sweetened whipped cream.

And that’s how happy people the pie makes people feel. Results may vary.

In the Field of Panties: Sexual Violence and Immigrant Farmworkers

They call it the field de calzon — the field of panties —because so many rapes happen there.
Last Wednesday, the organization Human Rights Watch released the report Cultivating Fear: The Vulnerability of Immigrant Farmworkers in the US to Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment. It’s filled with tales that would make Jeremiah, or Amos, or Micah weep: stories of some of the most marginalized, exploited, and impoverished people in the country.
HRW talked to 160 farmworkers, growers, law enforcement officials, attorneys and other experts in agricultural workplace issues in 8 different states, finding that most women working in agriculture have been — or know someone who has been — victimized sexually at work; confirming the findings of a 2010 survey of California Central Valley workers in which 80 percent reported having experienced sexual harassment or abuse on the job.
It’s common enough that some women farm workers see it as “an unavoidable condition of agricultural work.”
In the US generally, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and rape are underreported, but the groups that make up farmworkers are even less likely to report. For one thing, nearly 70 percent of agricultural workers are Mexican born; Latinas in the US are estimated to report fewer than 7 percent of the incidents of sexual harassment they experience.
“For a woman alone, there is much danger,” said one female farm worker, “A man can catch you in the field where the plants are taller than you.”
Because an estimated 50 percent of farmworkers are unauthorized workers (a number that’s held steady for more than a decade), they are particularly vulnerable, with just 30 percent of them speaking English well. It is estimated that 20 percent of agricultural workers are not fluent either in English or Spanish — because they speak indigenous languages — and are especially at risk of being mistreated.

{From my most recent post at Sojourners’ God’s Politics blog. Read the rest here.}