Winter squash - butternut, acorn, or hubbard are all choice Rustic Pizza elements.
Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
In 2012, I mustered up my best blessing and told a Chicago man, sporting a green and white striped shirt, that his pizza was worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.
To that point, I took pizza for granted. For good reason, not the least of which was an insistent longevity. Around 500 B.C. with military finesse, Persian soldiers baked flatbread facsimiles on their shields and embellished the lot with cheese and dates. Fancy.
My own 1950s introduction to pizza was equally brilliant. A preschool memory foists a trip with relatives to a pizzeria in Atlanta. The hand tossing was a spectacular departure from Chef Boyardee's Pizza Kit, a time saving project that my mother enthusiastically advocated in our Mississippi kitchen.
The sixties ushered in pizza entrepreneurs and the seventies, varied time saving formulas to take the whole she bang to the big time. Though pizza delivery has delighted the masses, pizza wars have the power to bring forth mind numbing discussions on sauce and cheese.
And with each evolutionary turn of the pan, I have gotten hungrier.
Gratefully on the crust, err.. cusp of a new year, our Chicago people suggested that we go out for pizza. They framed their favorite slice with enticement of a fabled, tiny whole in the wall sort of place that had reared its profile unintentionally in the pages of GQ and the New York Times.
Best pizza in America they said.
The owners have since been heard to comment that they never intended to serve mass quantities and that they value time more than money. Nick Lessins and Lydia Esparza, pizza maker and hostess, are intimate purveyors of Great Lakes, a restaurant whose menu is thankfully sparse, but rich in love as each ingredient is locally sourced and thoughtfully constructed.
The pizza, by the way, is mind blowing. No surprise here since Great Lakes pays attention.
I do understand the formula for this unassuming elitism and it has nothing to do with the business plans that have informed the past 4 decades. The man in the green and white striped shirt is enlightened in the same way that my mentors at Arugula Star Farms in Maury County, Tennessee are.
Allison and Matthew Neal maintain the same intuitive connection to a slower pace. They also assemble meals that are in rhythm with the seasons.
This winter, Allison favors a homemade pizza that I will never take for granted. Go ahead, be astonished.