Today I am officially no longer part of the crew. I was swapped out for Joanna, a mutual friend of ours from Summit County, earlier this afternoon. I’m currently getting screwed by the shysters at this beautiful pizza parlor on Williams Street. This is the only time to my recollection that I’ve ever thought “I should have asked specifically for tap water,” or “I should have asked if there is a charge for that,” or “I should have read to the very bottom of the drinks menu so that when my server asks me if I want still or sparkling water I may enquire as to whether she’s referencing the seven dollar 750 ml bottle of spring water or no.” I haven’t received the bill yet, but I’m looking at this bottle in front of me, this very beautiful bottle, and the menu, and the gears are very clearly turning. The pizza is very, very, very… VERY good though.
That pizza was extraordinary. A simple margherita, but the most perfect pizza I’ve had in my life. I’ve never bit into a crust so crisp yet soft, so perfectly chewy and doughy, so wonderfully elastic, so delicious, so beautiful, so astonishing. It is one of few things that I’ve eaten in my life that was so clearly made with enormous amounts of passion and care. And this got me to thinking about other great cultures in which dough, or bread, is of such importance: India with its Naan, and Central Asia with its obi non, most specifically, but also injera from Ethiopia and surrounding countries, and even Central and South American cultures with their tortillas (made from maize, not wheat, though serving much the same purpose).
Certainly, bread, being one of the earliest staple foods at the dawn of civilization, is of huge cultural importance the world over, but I thought of India and Central Asia specifically because partly the shape (oval), but also the texture (yes, this pizza crust called to mind naan), and also because I think I associate bread with these two cultures most strongly relative to others (the French with their ubiquitous baguette, and here the Italians being the only others where it seems of such a fundamental intertwining of the culture of a people, with a craft, with food).
Bread, when made well, with good ingredients can be wholly satisfying on its own, though it is best when used as a vessel for the transference of dips, sauces, vegetables, or meats into one’s open, salivating jaws, but, as I stated, if the ingredients are pure and good, then yeast, flour, salt, and water is all that is necessary for a tasty, if admittedly very humble, meal (or snack). An interesting note about tortillas (and pasta, which like the tortilla is bread-like in that it’s great virtue is as a way of getting a sauce, or broth, into one’s belly; and of course as added calories to a meal) is that they, unlike good bread, are not at all satisfying eaten plain, that they absolutely need a filling or toppings to be worth a damn. In my eyes this is the great differentiator between bread and other food stuffs made from grain.
And those are some thoughts on bread brought on by a visit to a truly magnificent pizza parlor in Perth.