I have a friend who is known in her circle of friends as the ‘Pizza Expert’. She leads tours of ‘the best pizza’ in Brooklyn, runs races where the prize is a slice, sports a pizza costume on Halloween and has now developed a ‘pizza crawl’ around New York City. I have a feeling she’d ditch me as a friend if I admitted to not absolutely loving traditional pizza – well, now it’s out there. I know, I know – how can I be from New York and not love pizza? For that, I don’t have an answer, but I can tell you I married a guy who feels the same. And yet, over our own homemade ‘pizza’ dinner the other night, somehow we wound up comparing pizza to travel. Some things rarely make sense.
This ‘pizza’ debuted in our Long Beach, New York apartment as a cheesy flatbread recipe I had seen on The Food Network®. It was years ago on a freezing New York Superbowl Sunday evening in February. That morning, we had flung our bodies into the icy Atlantic with thousands of others in the Long Beach Polar Bear plunge, then spent the rest of the day trying to get warm. More than three years later, we sat in our San Diego, California apartment on a warm evening eating today’s version. In a metaphor for how far we’ve come in a travel mindset, this pizza resembles the old, but is itself, new.
Initially (as in that day’s earlier events), we dipped our toes in, trying out a new recipe. Made on fresh pizza dough with goats cheese, cream cheese, garlic, zucchini, red pepper flakes, basil and red onions – each bite was delicious. As with travel, in the beginning, you try it out. Those oxymorons of nervous excitement, frightened fascination, and delight-filled trepidation mixed with other feelings set in. Finding the positive magic of the adventures amidst visa applications, language barriers and lost luggage isn’t always easy. Separating likes from dislikes, the ‘I would do that agains’ from the ‘no way in hells’ come after the travel debriefs often coupled with stories of laughter and ‘you wouldn’t believe this’ type of moments. If you dare to think, ‘this could be even better’, you figure out what works for you at any certain point and try to enhance the good while limiting the ‘oy veys’.
After a few tries, we changed the fresh pizza dough to a store-bought base, but kept the rest the same. Although small, it was a step. Years later, the original has become a version of itself better suited for us in the now. Three years on, our travel components as our flatbread/pizza ingredients have adapted. Some surpass time and work because there are parts of us still the same. Others have been ditched altogether, their former selves reimagined or new ones added altogether. Our love of travel (and our homemade pizza) have more than remained the same. It’s gotten stronger over time and changed with each new experience and slice. While our travel continues – it looks a little different. Road trips have made a larger appearance, hiking and inland adventures have been added and international journeys to visit friends and seek out those far flung places are as strong as ever. The same can be said for our pizza. Today, it’s on that store bought crust – but now a thin one. Today, the cheese ratio has been changed, the veggies are different, basil, garlic and red pepper flakes are out and Sriracha is in. It’s anyone’s guess what either will look like three years from now, but, I’m looking forward to finding out what that future might be.