Monday, 24 May 2010

Pizza Express Vs Pizza Depress

'Its easier to write about those you hate - just as it's easier to criticize a bad play or a bad book.'
Dorothy Parker

What wonderful sentiment Dorothy and I think of your pearls of wisdom as I settle down to write this post. Come to think of it, while you had your pearls, I have my perils (of wisdom). For lesser ladies, but by no means less truthful, taught girls such as myself of the inevitability of adulthood: that pride always comes before a fall, dear. All this is a rather roundabout way of explaining what is about to ensue. It is a tale of highs, lows and in-betweens. There were moments when we had flashes of hope that it all might turn out for the best, only to be quashed by the inevitable impending doom of failure delivered in a mournful forkful.

To fully understand the gravity of this incredible fall from grace, one must transport oneself back to last Sunday evening. On that day I posted a rather triumphant post. If I did not exactly wax lyrical, I certainly laboured a point and the point was this, one must celebrate the small achievements.

Oh but that was the kind sentiment of a naive soul and I have proof of its folly. For come Wednesday the following week I found myself in my local Pizza Express pouring over an ever expansive menu of all things not-so Italianate. Don't judge dear reader, but I did choose the only thing on the menu cringe-worthy enough for reflection in the real-world, but legitimate enough to order under the circumstances. For Pizza Express is as about as Italian as the Super-Mario Brothers and I'd feel no more comfortable ordering a Quattro Formaggi there, than I would ordering a McDonald's anywhere. So I did the only thing I could, I ordered this -

Its the American Hot and its laced with all kinds of questionable things, including jalapeno peppers.

It was alright. You can't say fairer than that, but you can't say more either. And so as I relieved my plate with my final forkful I turned to my fellow diner, stretched, delivered the silverware to the plate and smiled. Its around about this time that I uttered the fateful words.

'I can do better than this!'

Smugness is not an admirable quality.

And so now comes the bit about the fall and the pride coming before hand.

It wasn't until Saturday that I decided to take up the challenge. I'd create a pizza to rival the chain restaurant. It would be so good we'd need not ever dine out again! I set about to work, scouring the supermarket for suitable toppings. I'd pile the base high with mozzarella, smooth to the touch, squidgy inside. I'd tear basil leaves from their stems and sprinkle capers over tomatoes. I'd season with olive oil and I'd top with salami and shavings of parmesan.

And it all started out so well.

And the finished article came out vaguely resembling a pizza -

But alas it was too good to be true. For while I had insisted on sourcing the best of ingredients for this pizza from heaven, I'd left the business of dough making to my dear old flatmate. Well I must have taken forty winks. For when I returned to the kitchen two almost-perfectly formed bases sat on our table which she presented with an exuberant smile.

They were so filled with promise. How then did they become the way-ward thing that in years to come we'd ponder, where did it all go wrong? One mouthful of the above pizza only merely foretold the horrors that lay ahead. The topping slid off, the base oozed water, the dough had risen at an unprecedented rate. This was no thin and crispy.

Even more alarmingly the second pizza came out like this -

One may never know the mystery of how the dough ended up this way. We've retraced our steps, we've theorised the possibilities, some even posit the suggestion that the hot weather played havoc with the yeast. We'll never know.

But there are lessons learned. Above all of them, I am indeed a struggling perfectionist, doomed to sometimes fail.

Photographs by Dora Petherbridge

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