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To Find Excellent Pizza, Accept Pizza.

“Good luck is nothing but preparedness and opportunity coming together” -Deepak Chopra

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Navigating through life and finding a new favorite pizza place can share the same anxieties, lessons and triumphs.  I uncovered this several years ago after I relocated to Madison, Wisconsin for work and found myself equal parts excited and overwhelmed. I had the stress of a new job, new living arrangements and the biggest challenge of all; discovering which pizza place would become “my new pizza place”?

Pizza compels me.

I should start out by explaining that I absolutely love pizza, more than most things. Everyone knows I have a serious passion for pizza, my friends tease me about it, my co-workers regularly inquire about it, my wife’s embarrassed by it, and my parents seem confused over it.  I crave it all the time and every week build anticipation for my next pizza adventure. So, this whole idea may seam trivial, but pizza, in my opinion is one of life’s finest pleasures.

Gus’ Pizza in Whitewater, Wisconsin is my all-time favorite pizza.  It’s very thin, cut in squares and really cheesy.  In my opinion close to the perfect pizza composition.

Off to my new home.

As I set off for Madison I had nerves about adapting to a new home, it was my first time moving away from the small town I grew up in.  I had traveled a bit and I knew I would adjust and probably come to love it, but at the end of the day I also wanted a good piece of pizza.

Though I had many things on the table, I would commonly find myself asking “How was anything around here going to compete with Gus’ pizza?”  “Who’s going to have a little hand pinched crust like them?” “What place would deliver that borderline excessive amount of cheese?”

Gus’ and their cracker thin crust had transformed into the security of back home, it was a warm a quilt of high quality mozzarella snuggling me in, delicate hints of basil assuring me I’d be ok.  Worse than that, Gus’ had become the metric by which I was judging all other pizza.

I had put Gus’ pizza on a pedestal.

What I was really asking is “How can a new pizza restaurant compete with the idea of Gus’ pizza” I’ve created in my mind?”

In my first few weeks in Madison, what do you know?  I tried too hard to replicate that cheesy cracker thin-crust I missed from Gus’ back home.  Often, I would force a solution: I would order thin-crust pizza from a notorious deep-dish pizza place, then walk away in disappointment because it didn’t live up to expectations.  I would order chain pizza with extra cheese to mimic the “hole in the wall” pizza I craved so much.  I was forcing outcomes into square “tavern style party cuts”.

Then I learned to let go.

I’m an avid reader, especially into mindfulness, behavioral psychology, personal development, leadership etc.  Through my extra curricular learning, I found how to enjoy myself and enjoy pizza even more.

I discovered how to take delight in an experience and let it soak in, the new pizza along the way was a perk. I started reaching out of my comfort zone and trying new varieties of pizza and savoring every bit of the uniqueness they brought.   Along the way I found new favorites and created fond memories.  And of course I found new favorite spots.

What pizza taught me:

When I attached to a specific result in my pizza quests I set myself up for disappointment.  The pictures I created in my mind of how I wanted situations to play out, created unrealistic expectations and often left me feeling like things didn’t go my way.  By opening up my mind to alternative options and to the infinite ways life can go, I felt the real joy of living.  I was free to ebb and flow with the world and let opportunities present themselves.

We should all invite change and different experiences and enjoy them for what they are. I have to force myself to do this everyday, but the results are worth it.  You will be able to seize unforeseen opportunities because you won’t be set on one specific outcome. Know what you want, detach from the result, enjoy the moment and just be; you will find what you’re looking for.

  • What I’m eating: Rosati’s, Madison West, super thin crust (yes, that’s an option) extra cheese, pepperoni.
  • What I’m reading: “The Happiness Hypothesis”-Jonathan Haidt

Different Pizza for Different Folks

“Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself” -Marcus Aurelius

In Madison, we are fortunate enough to have a pizza for every occasion; slices the size-of-our-heads after late nights out, thin crust party-cuts for family-time on Fridays and even pizza that’s a little more elevated in composition, more sophisticated—worthy of a romantic date night out.

A trip across town.  

Recently Tess and I checked a notch off the 2018 pizza goal list and ventured to the east side of Madison to Grampa’s Pizzeria. In the Willie Street and Atwood neighborhoods, you can expect to get the boundaries of your palette pushed a little further with forward-thinking restaurants like Pig In a Fur Coat and Mint Mark, but where does the pizza fit in?

Grampa’s Pizzeria plants it’s flag as the place to sit down and enjoy an elevated pizza experience and is no exception to the farm-to-table rule of thumb. Grampa’s and it’s on-site herb garden are very much what you would expect from an establishment on the east side; a youthful, carefree, modern scene where art, music, and DIY enterprising coalesce; punk rock ethos infuse the food, fashion and all things craft.

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The progressive side of pizza. 

Inside Grampa’s, it’s cozy, like I imagine the idealized hipster version of what a grandparents home would look like: a dimly lit dining room, strewn about tattered books and old photos—melon coly dream-pop pulsing in the background.

Tess and I were faced with a food enthusiast’s first-world pain—everything on the menu looked good.  From the small plates and salads to the pizza, as usual, we couldn’t make up our minds, so we decided on a little bit of everything.  We started with the Mozzarella small plate (they make those delicious balls fresh every day) and the Beet salad.

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Gourmet pizza.

There are nine pizzas on the menu, which are composed of a handful of simple yet quite experimental ingredients. There’s a pizza with pork confit on it, a pizza with a Korean fermented condiment called gochujang sauce and one of their most popular pies called the Barberini which showcases ricotta, calabrian chiles, watercress, and honey.

To join the party we went with the Brassacre! which consisted of Brussel sprouts, bacon, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, garlic, and grana.  Brussel sprouts and bacon are a great combo so I knew the Brassacre! could do no wrong.  Crispy, thick, asymmetrical chunks of bacon, (more of the pork belly persuasion) were sprinkled throughout, which provided a salty, fatty contrast to the Brussel sprouts.  The olive oil and garlic base was a decadent match to the cheese.

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We also opted for a traditional pie; pepperoni and sausage to provide us a baseline to measure their fundamental pizza components; cheese, sauce, and crust.  The pizzas are very thin and cut in squares which is my preference.

The pepperoni had more of an artisanal flare and depth of flavor than the average pepperoni, they were slightly thicker and had a light smokiness.  The sausage was a highlight for me, it was rich and fennel forward, with a nice spicy balance.

There’s a pizza out there for everyone.

Grampa’s Pizzeria and it’s varieties of pizza parallel the wide-ranging and often avante-garde culture of those east side neighborhoods.  These days with our lives so intricately integrated through technology, it’s more important than ever to practice tolerance and hold ourselves to a higher standard.  It doesn’t matter what your opinion is, just be nice about it.

Deepak Chopra says “You don’t want to stand rigid like a tall oak that cracks and collapses in the storm.  Instead, you want to be flexible, like a reed that bends and survives the storm.”

What pizza taught me:

A night out in the enlightened part of town is a nice reminder that we should keep our minds and taste buds open and not only respect other folks pizza preferences but their ideas and lifestyles as well.

What I’m eating: Grampa’s Pizzeria; Brassacre! Brussel sprouts, bacon, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, garlic, and grana. Pepperoni, half sausage pizza.  Mozzarella small plate and Beet salad.

What I’m reading: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking -Malcolm Gladwell

Are You Going to Eat That?

“Sometimes all you have to do is ask, and it can lead to all your dreams coming true” -Randy Pausch

Who in their right mind abandons a pizza?  Who has the heart to desert a perfectly fine pizza on the ledge of a pizza-truck pick-up window?

Door County Brewing Co. 

I witnessed the culprits recklessly strolling away with a red blinking restaurant pager in tow—one too many craft beers to notice.

It was a bustling Friday night at Door County Brewing Co.’s outdoor beer garden in Bailey’s Harbor WI.

Echoes of live music from the indoor taproom bled into the air and a bonfire flickered a mellow glow over rows of packed picnic tables.  Amidst the patrons, I spotted the highlight for which I’d come to explore.

Beyond the brews of Door County Brewing Co. they provide some delicious eats; epic meat and cheese boards, corn dogs and push-pops; but I was after the pizza-truck parked out back called Harbor Pizza.  With a “mobile stone oven” local restaurant Chives had expanded their operation and set up shop to serve pizzas to brewery customers.  It appears they feature about three different 12-inch varieties on any given night.

No, pizza is going to waste on my watch.

As I walked by to glance at the menu and observe their outdoor operation, I admired the steady stream of pizzas lining up as customers would approach and trade in their restaurant pagers for their pies.

As the night progressed, each time I’d pass by I couldn’t help but notice one little pizza at the end of the counter that was never picked up.  Every so often I’d crane my neck from where we were sitting and notice all the other pizzas joining their owners and that one pizza continually going unclaimed.

With closing time approaching, I couldn’t help but meander over to the disregarded pie and inquire about its future.  A kind dread-locked pizza-truck employee wielding a pizza peel gently turned around from tending the oven and noticed me gesturing towards the pizza.  “Did someone forget their pizza?” I asked.

“No one ever came back for it, man”

I had to ask whether it’s next home would be the overflowing bar trash can or if someone was going to claim it and to my utmost excitement my newfound hero replied: “you want it?”.

The good samaritan then spun his charred pizza paddle, swooped in to pick up the pie and slung it back in the oven with a smile on his face. A true gentleman indeed (he even gave us a box!).

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The orphan on round two.  

A few minutes later and the pizza was piping hot and back in business with a giddy new family. I chuckled all the way home, pizza box open in hand, reliving the silliness of the moment; the forgotten pizza resurrected and gifted by the kind-hearted pizzaiolo.

What pizza taught me:

It never hurts to ask the pizza-lovers proverbial question “is someone going to eat that?”.  Never leave a pizza behind (or a loved one for that matter).

What I’m eating: Abandoned pizza at Harbor Pizza pizza-truck at Door County Brewing Co. in Bailey’s Harbor, WI.

What I’m reading:  Own the Day, Own Your Life: Optimized Practices for Waking, Working, Learning, Eating, Training, Playing, Sleeping, and Sex -Aubrey Marcus

 

Summer into Fall

“Nothing is worth more than this day” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

September in Wisconsin is something to behold. As Summer reunites with Fall, the two grasp each other like old friends, reliving their glory days, hocking it up over the time they made it 70º and sunny in the Midwest.

We luck out with gorgeous weather from both seasons; a vibrant sun and bright green grass—a crisp cool breeze circulating through open windows and of course, football on TV.  When the temperature drops to “just right” time moves a little slower; the magnificence of this world becomes clear and undeniable and our pizza tastes a little sweeter.

As rare as these moments may be, I recently explored Wisconsin’s primary tourist temptation—Door County—I got the weather and the pizza and despite my habit of overthinking everything I managed to savor every moment.

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The Luther’s take Door County.

On the annual Luther family vacation pizza is a must—as you can probably imagine we take our pizza excursions quite seriously—so, we head to Door County’s primary pizzeria Wild Tomato Wood-Fired Pizza.

Picking up pizza’s at Wild Tomato has become a Luther family tradition; a legacy I’m proud to pass down to 5-month old Ellis.  Ellis even showed his support by wearing his “Born to be Wild” Wild Tomato onesie (I can’t believe it’s been a year since Tess and I bought it in anticipation of his arrival).

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As we approached a swarming Sister Bay—one of the main attractions of the Door County Penisula—we became enamored by the realization of soon scoring some wood-fired slices.  In true Luther fashion and overexcitement, I begin to overanalyze: How many pizzas? What toppings? and What time should we call the order in?  With this amount of traffic, how can we assure proper logistics to get this pizza hot and fresh back to the rental?

I often have to remind myself to chill the F’ out.

The busyness of a restaurant is a tell-tale sign of its greatness and Wild Tomato can handle some high-volume. They have indoor and outdoor seating, an outdoor bar, and a designated pick up entrance complete with two operational registers that have a constant flow of customers.  They churn out very high-quality pizzas in a high traffic area and do it with the utmost finesse.

The sauce at Wild Tomato reigns supreme; it’s fresh, earthy and has the perfect balance of herbs.  Actually, all of their ingredients are premium; from the crumbled sausage to the pesto to the dollops of goat cheese.  They don’t skimp on the mozzarella either as everything is covered under a nice snug cream-colored blanket.

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A perfect opportunity to savor the moment.

In Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity he shares advice passed down from his parents that led him through unnerving odds  “Live for the present and the future will look after itself”.  This motto is one I need a constant reminder of.

When I stop fretting about when I’m going to get my pizza, how long it’s going to take and where I’m going to get it, I can enjoy the details that actually make pizza fun.

I can savor the subtle notes of basil in the sauce, the salty, buttery depth of the mozzarella and the crispy crunch of a well-done pepperoni.  These nuances can invoke the same hyper-aware elation that the brief period of perfect Wisconsin weather can.

What pizza taught me:

I can romanticize summer, fall, and pizza all day long, but the truth is life’s magic is everywhere if we slow down and appreciate it.  Those beautiful days that hang in limbo between summer and fall will always be my favorite, just as Wild Tomato pizza is, but there no point in ruminating over when and where I’m going to get them.

What I’m eating: Wild Tomato Wood-fired Pizza

What I’m reading: Losing My Virginity Richard Branson (it’s a long-ass book!)

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What’s Better Than Pizza on a Friday?

“No man needs a vacation so much as the man who just had one” -Elbert Hubbard

Pizza on a Friday that kicks off a vacation.  There’s nothing like the swirling butterflies that accompany an approaching vacation—the same fluttering eagerness that’s often invoked by a slice.  A vacation on the horizon can give us the deep pleasure of anticipation—a joy that permeates our thoughts, can dull our day-to-day worries and make to-do lists more tolerable.

I love vacation almost as much as I love pizza.

The best part of my vacations is that they tend to be filled with pizza and vacation-pizza is no ordinary pizza. Vacation-pizza is guilt free and graces us multiple days in a row, maybe even multiple meals in a row, all in exciting new locales. There are no rules and regulations—unorthodox pizza practices are encouraged.

Vacation-pizza can be found in many varieties: Wood-fired Neapolitan in tourist traps, pizza-by-the-slice on bustling city streets, Dominos in hotel rooms and even take-n-bake around campfires on cabin retreats. Of course, all of it again cold and leftover in the morning—a quick slice for the road.

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The Baileys Harbor Cornerstone Pub.

As I write this on vacation in Door County, WI. I even found some surprisingly satisfying pizza at a family restaurant/bar called the Cornerstone Pub in Bailey’s Harbor which usually specializes in broasted chicken, prime rib sandwiches, and other bar staples (my brother said the prime rib sandwich was outstanding).

The pizza was reminiscent of the bowling alley pizza of my youth, and I do mean that in a positive way.  It was loaded with cheese, had quality sausage and a decent sauce—it was definitely an unexpected treat among a classic bar menu and it goes to show you never know what pizza you’ll stumble across on vacation.

Vacations are like extended cheat-days.

Whether it’s a 3-day holiday weekend or a whole week off often the best part of a vacation is it’s approaching awesomeness.

I’ve found it’s critical for me to always have some sort of vacation in queue.  The giddiness I get for an upcoming trip keeps me motivated and gives me something to look forward to, it can get me through a slump—pushing me one step further when I’m exhausted and want to quit. It’s where hard work gets rewarded.

Most run-of-the-mill two-day weekends I try to achieve this pending-vacation excitement by creating little mini-vacations. I try to indulge in some unique activity that evokes the feelings of vacation-mode; it could be as simple as exploring a new pizza spot the next town over or taking a trip down the Pizza Hut lunch buffet.  Anything that can give me a little tinge of that special “vactiony” feel.

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The best part of vacation besides the pizza? 

According to a CBSNEWS article “New York Times contributing science columnist John Tierney has been researching how to make the most of vacation time. He says people who take more vacations see real health benefits, like fewer heart attacks or bouts of depression.”

Tierney also says ”One of the big advantages of vacations is that it’s the anticipation beforehand makes you happy, for one or two months beforehand. So the more you can do that, the better.”

What pizza taught me: 

While the escape of a vacation is rejuvenating, the allure of its arrival is equally as rewarding.  The time leading up to our vacations is something to be cherished as it gives us something to day-dream about, make plans for, something to prep and pack for—something to look forward to with our families.   Now, back to my vacation, I’ve got leftover Cornerstone Pub to attend to.

What I’m eating:  Half pepperoni, half sausage at The Bailey’s Harbor Cornerstone Pub,  Bailey’s Harbor in Door County Wi.

What I’m Reading: Richard Branson Losing my Virginity

 

 

 

Pizza-watching

“People are the best show in the world. And you don’t even pay for the ticket” -Charles Bukowski

People-watching is one of my favorite past-times; second only to pizza-watching.  If you’ve ever made a trip around Madison’s capital square for the infamous farmer’s market you know what great territory it is to idly observe people from all walks of life.

Many Saturday mornings Tess and I will find ourselves marching along with the market masses doing the slow cheese-sampling shuffle—inching along like we’re caught in a swarm of zombies stuck in a quadrilateral slog.

Though it’s only 9am all the market delicacies like the warm cheesy-bread, fresh curds, beef sticks, and homemade hot sauces begin to remind me of my beloved pizza, but you can’t score a slice at 9am? Can you?

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Up and at’em.

At the square you expect to see folks of all shapes and sizes—statuses and statures; but you don’t expect to get a slice of pizza.  Most pizza shops open 11am at the earliest (some of my favorites don’t open until 4pm), but thanks to Ian’s Pizza on State you can now enjoy a piece of pizza along with your pastries and cold-brew.

Every market season Ian’s hones their revolutionary pizza riffing to breakfast as they start slinging slices bright and early.  You can grab a Denver Omelet slice, a Huevos Rancheros slice or even a sweet Apple Cobbler slice. And if breakfast pizza isn’t your thing, don’t fret, because nestled between Biscuits and Gravy inspired slices and Fruit Parfait pizzas you’ll find all of Ian’s late night classics.

The prime pizza-watching spot. 

Ian’s is the infamous midwestern slice joint that serves up eclectic slices and forever pushes the boundaries of what you’d expect to find on a pizza. My all-time favorites include the “Spicy Chicken Quesadilla” which is a slice with a quesadilla on top of it, Italian Beef complete with spicy giardiniera and of course the Buffalo Chicken layered with bleu cheese crumbles and chicken that packs some heat.

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Whether you want simple or complex there’s a slice for everyone.  Vegan? No problem.  Craving Mexican food? You’re covered. In the mood for pasta?  Do you want Lasagna or Penne Alfredo?  A childhood favorite?  You gotta try the Mac n’ Cheese.

I imagine that a sliver of Ian’s creativity is inspired by the diverse characters you find roaming the downtown area. Perusing Ian’s slice line-up and observing farmers market attendees share similar peculiarities.

People intrigue me as much as pizza. 

When I’m people-watching at the market I can’t help but imagine others daily lives. Where’s home? What motivates them? What’s their routine?  What kind of pizza do they eat?

There’s a lot to learn from people.  Robert Greene in his book Mastery says “the primal source of human intelligence comes from the development of mirror neurons which gives us the ability to place ourselves in the skin of another and imagine their experience. Through continual exposure to people and by attempting to think inside them we can gain an increasing sense of their perspective, but this requires effort on our part.”

Social intelligence is the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes—to take a look through another’s eyes and to imagine how their mind thinks and feels.  Harnessing this skill proves handy in almost any endeavor because it trains us in empathy.  It doesn’t matter how smart or skilled we are if we can’t connect with people.

What pizza taught me:

We all have different backgrounds and values; Ian’s slice selection is as unpredictable as our viewpoints. If we take a glimpse into someone else’s life we can gain a new level of understanding and empathy.

What I’m eating: Ian’s Pizza on State-Buffalo Chicken and Smoky the Bandit

What I’m reading:  Getting to Yes –Roger Fisher and William Ury

 

Hidden Gems

“You can only lose what you cling to” Buddha

What do I want?  Every Wednesday that question wracks my brain; whittle’s my wife’s patience to dust.  So much pizza, so little time, naturally mind goes in circles.

We all face that daily dilemma between a finite caloric intake and an infinite amount of pizza possibilities.  It feels as though we’ve got to pick our battles wisely; line up our cravings, shake ’em down and narrow down the cut.  We’ve got to contemplate crusts, consider cheese to sauce ratios and collaborate topping combinations to ensure a perfect pizza night.

Really though, it’s often after we stop over-analyzing that pizza destiny knocks.

Tess and I gratefully had a babysitter on a Saturday night and set out to relive our glory days of frolicking around downtown Madison, WI.  Fun for us comes from exploring uncharted culinary territory—our favorite past-time finding new restaurants.

To rekindle our spirit of adventure we wanted something new, something hip, somewhere we could observe Madison’s foodie elite.  We figured after 6 years we’d hit every spot downtown, but we had left one rock unturned.

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Natt Spil

Natt Spil has no sign and only accepts cash, but is ever so welcoming to the weary capital square traveler.  The space is as intimate as a Hobbit-hole; a DJ booth and globally influenced decor emit an aura that says “hot-spot for the hip”, the tattoed and those craving finely crafted cocktails.  Apparently, it’s also for those who are hungry for Asian inspired Dim Sum and pizza?

The name is Norwegian (meaning “night play”) and the menu is equal parts Asian, Mediterranean and pizza and that’s exactly the eclectic, eccentric sort of thing we were after.  I would say it’s Madison’s best-kept secret, but people have been telling me to go there for years.

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Stepping into an unmarked door. 

If you’re looking for Natt Spil just follow a trail of logs leading down an alley and you’ll hit their wood-burning pizza oven. The pizza has that great char and chew that you only find when your pie has been kissed by the flames of a raging hot wood-burning oven.

Tess and I opted for the Natt Spil Sausage that came delicately balanced with tomato, chevre, red onion and pepperoncini peppers (my favorite touch).  Bites of sausage and pepperoncini peppers excited the tastebuds with an acidic tang to savory counterbalance.

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Look no further.

Happiness and pizza are spun from the same dough. There are times in life when we don’t know what to do and maybe that’s when it’s more important than ever to detach and let the universe reveal the path.

Meditation master and spiritual leader Lama Gendun Rinpoche wrote: “Happiness cannot be found through great effort and willpower, but is already there, in relaxation and letting go.”  “Don’t search any further… Nothing to do, Nothing to force, Nothing to want, and everything happens by itself.”

What Pizza taught me:

The harder we try for happiness the further away it gets; just like our satisfaction when we set the bar too high for pizza night. When we relinquish our desires and let life happen that’s when a crispy, pristine Natt Spil pizza unexpectedly plops itself in our laps.

What I’m eating:  Natt Spil

What I’m reading:  Robert Greene Mastery

 

You’re Right

“We are never so vulnerable as when we love” -Sigmund Freud

I was out for pizza in a congested restaurant when I saw the perfect snapshot of a slice; the grease pools glistening—pepperoni’s posed in a way that begged to be captured. As I pulled out my phone, repositioned for lighting and went in for the photo shoot that’s when a hot flash of insecurity slapped me in the face.  I envisioned all the eyeballs in the room locking in on me; their collective gaze projecting scorching rays of judgment that stifled me in discomfort.

I began to sweat as I stewed in my own awkwardness; blushing as I imagined myself, the fool, hunched beside the table like a paparazzi who’d lost it— seeing celebrities in slices of extra cheese.

I felt uncomfortable about the impression I was making on everyone around me.  I was that stereotypical millennial unable to experience anything without proper documentation; that guy who couldn’t enjoy the moment without posting to social media.

Then a heaven-send—a voice chimed in: 

Just live your life man.

My inner confidence stepping up? Some benevolent being interjecting?  Sage advice from The Big Lebowski’s the Dude?

No. It’s my wife Tess.  The voice of reason who puts up with me brainstorming pizza blogs, going in circles about “what’s for pizza on Friday?” on Tuesday and a plethora of other pizza quirks that I’m sure would irk the enlightenment out of a Zen master.

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As usual, she’s right; no-one could care less about the pictures of pizza I’m taking.

Beyond the ability to hush my self-consciousness, and reign in my ruminations, I recently discovered Tess also has a profound pizza insight to share with the world.  Her wisdom came unexpectedly as I arrived home on a Friday afternoon to her preparing a Jack’s frozen pizza. I was giddy to join in on her cheesy, picturesque Jack’s pepperoni pizza, and that’s when I smelled the faint smell of burning.

Wait! What??!  What are you doing!?

I gasped in horror as she recklessly committed unspeakable negligence against a poor Jack’s thin-crust.  The pie was at a torturing 425° for way too long; the sweltering heat blistering and marring the pizzas fair yellow mozzarella complexion.  The pepperonis shrieking as they began to sizzle and spit escape pods of grease across the oven walls that scream Help! Help! Let me outta here!

Charring a frozen pizza within near inches of its poor little life, brings a tear to my eye, but that’s the way my wife Tess likes them; dark brown and nearly burnt (no wonder she does this when I’m not around).

As I waited for an explanation and mournfully looked upon my fried friend, I figured “pizza is pizza” and went in for a slice.

To my amazement, it was extraordinarily crispy and delicious.  The cheese had more of a bite to it; more of chew, a deeper flavor too.  Who can argue with crispy pepperonis? I became intrigued by this “almost burning the pizza” cooking technique and the following day I insisted she teach me her secrets.

Upon plopping a Jack’s in the oven I inquired about how she knew when to take it out and she responded: “Once I smell it, I know”.  Long story short, you leave it in the oven for a period that seems way too long and then sprinkle parmesan cheese on it as soon as it comes out so it melts on it.  

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The right one.

Tess is notoriously right and I appreciate her shooting me straight and telling me to chill the F’ out with the pizza nonsense from time to time. Having open lines of communication and tolerance for each other allows us to experience new things, like burnt Jack’s pizzas that are delicious.

Sometimes we have to muster up and give a little more than expected to those we love. We may have to take that 5am shift with the baby or go out of our way to the grocery store, maybe even assure our loved one that no-one cares about excessive pizza pics.  By pleasing them with a little extra effort—  a little more finesse we can exceed their expectations, then it all comes back around.

I’ve heard successful relationships are comprised of the attitude that it’s 90% giving and 10% receiving from both parties involved.  What that means is we should always be prepared to give way more than we expect to get back.

What I learned from pizza:

Successful relationships are comprised of more give than take. The more we give the more we get and a beautiful cycle is born. It’s those little things like the assurance at the restaurant or the lesson on burning a Jack’s properly that add up and build a stronger bond.

What I’m eating: Jack’s pepperoni (nearly burnt with parmesan sprinkled on it)

What I’m reading: Side Hustle –Chris Guillebeau

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