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Home is where the pizza is

About a year ago today, I wrote a trial column about my love of ingredients, cooking, and culinary exploration in Boston. I’ve been a columnist for eight issues now, a full volume, and at the risk of sounding trite, this gig has turned into far more than I anticipated. It’s gotten me to cook more than I did before the column. I’m no fraud; I’ve actually made everything I’ve mentioned in my columns. It’s turned the lovely Jiho Lee from merely an editor into a friend, Snapstreak, and occasional free-block companion. Lastly, it has helped me maintain my excitement for food and share it with others. I’ve cooked for my friends and hosted a dinner party in December. Now, I regularly cook with my brother, and I occasionally help my mom out in the kitchen. 

It seems only right to end this column on a meal that will always be near and dear to me—pizza, one of the only meals designed to be sliced up and shared. Unlike other slice-and-serve meals, like cakes, there has never been a successful mini-version of a pizza. Cakes, for example, can become solo cupcakes. But pizza is meant to be passed around a table. 

Homemade pizza is one of the few staples in my family’s meal repertoire that I have yet to tire of. Every Friday night in the Lyman household, garlic is roasted, onions are caramelized, sausages are cooked, and dough is tossed by my father, a proud former Domino’s employee. Returning home on a Friday afternoon to the sharp, salty, and hot air of our kitchen blasting into my face is always a welcome and familiar sensation. 

Between the ages of 8 and 14, I was a competitive swimmer with night practices on Fridays in the winter. After a grueling three-hour practice, I’d sit outside the pool, hair freezing, as I waited for my dad’s big blue Subaru to pull up. We’d drive home, the car reeking of chlorine, and I’d be so hungry. I’d step into my family’s ugly, old kitchen with its plastic countertops and green cabinets. The place would smell like a restaurant: good cheese, delicious, high-quality tomato sauce, crackling garlic, olive oil, and mushrooms. The warmth of the kitchen, the steamy oven, and warm, melty cheese pulled the chill out of the air. 

Freshman year, during that horrible, triggering, record-breaking winter, my family decided to redo the ugly, old kitchen. We gutted the room to insulate the ancient walls. We had a huge dumpster in front of our house, the fridge and microwave were in the living room, and everything else was packed away or thrown out. The first four days were sort of fun; we learned all sorts of microwave recipes for things like cakes and scrambled eggs, and we learned all the possible ways to use packets of ramen. 

Then the snow started, filling up the dumpster and making it impossible for the construction workers to get to our house. With no means of cooking, it seemed like Friday-night pizza would have to wait. We persevered, ordering Domino’s occasionally—that garlic crust really is something—or making flatbread, bagel, and English muffin pizzas in a toaster. But it wasn’t the same. 

Weeks behind schedule, the new kitchen was finished. The kitchen now featured a smooth black granite countertop, a 100 percent functional oven with convection bake, and a huge stainless steel fridge with a drawer specifically designed for cheese. The first meal we cooked in our new kitchen was, you guessed it, pizza. 

The kitchen is beautiful. It’s the focal point of our first floor, and my mother shocked us with her keen eye for color. Our cream-colored walls were expertly matched with a bright, tomato-red, and the black granite is striking with the white cabinets. She pulled out all of the stops with things like matching hardware to the appliances. However, it couldn’t replace the memories of the old one. The old kitchen had the wall where my brother’s and my heights were carefully recorded each year, the old stove had tractor and alphabet magnets from when we were little, and the fridge was encrusted with ancient school pictures. 

I don’t miss the old kitchen; it was time to move on. But this new kitchen needed some life—it needed to be cooked in. Two 17-year olds and professional parents have a hard time sitting down with one another, but just about every Friday, we still gather in our beautiful kitchen to toss dough, drip sauce, melt cheese, and get flour everywhere. 

I know that wherever I end up next year, I’ll likely be eating at dining halls, in restaurants, or out of microwaves again. However, when I come home, Friday night pizza in our beautiful kitchen will always be there for me.  

I’m excited. 

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