Pizza and a movie night


Dog has the hardest life

It was a hectic week. My colleague on our small team of two was away for two days leaving me with holding down the fort as best as possible. Naturally, by the end of the workday on Friday I was ready to plop myself down in front of the fire and enjoy a glass of wine.

(To be honest, even if I didn’t work I’d probably plop down in front of a fire with a glass of wine in winter, and lounge out in our backyard with a beer in summer.)

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
― Edith Sitwell

I feel like home should be a place of refuge, a place where at the end of a crazy school or work week you can come home and just be yourself. It’s a chance to be with people who love you unconditionally and who won’t judge you for putting on your plush reindeer onesie and snuggling up quietly with a book for hours on end. A place where you don’t feel obligated to act in a certain way or talk in a certain way, heck, where you don’t have to talk at all. Ever since I have lived on my own I have strived to make my living environment a comforting, happy place that envelops me like a bear hug. The world can be a cruel place but I want home to be a relaxing, peaceful place and I want my kids to know that home is where they are loved no matter what.

Of course, as we all pile in the door after the end of the week we are harried, a bit stressed, and looking to wind down. So in order to transition from outside life to inside life Mr. Tucker and I have had our pizza and a movie night ritual since the kids were both young. It made sense to us that having comfort food and a snuggle on the couch would be the best way to kick off two days of rest.

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
― Robert Frost

Pizza was actually one of the first things the kids learned to “cook.” We let them choose their own toppings and make their own pizzas, which has in turn encouraged them to make other things (the eldest made a carrot omelet for breakfast this week. There is a reason carrots don’t feature prominently on breakfast menus. Yuck). Every small step that kids learn scaffolds onto new skills they are eager to take a crack at and for us, pizza was that first step.

Pizza is also one of the simplest things to cook. Although I won’t shame you for stocking up on $3 sale pizzas from the grocery store you really should try your hand at whipping up a dough. I will let you in on a little secret, too: if you let time do the work, you don’t even have to knead. Just toss this into a bowl in the morning before you leave for work (or even do it the night before, oil the dough in the morning, cover it with plastic wrap and then store it in the fridge) and when you get home you just pour it into a pan, let it rise, and then you are good to top and cook.

I use this recipe which I have adopted from Serious Eats. We have small cast iron pans I found thrown out with their stickers still on (a little rusty, but easily cleaned up!) and this recipe makes one medium pizza and two small ones quite nicely. If you don’t have cast iron, I have also made this on a sheet pan with a Silpat, oiled. If you have a Teflon pan you probably could get away with less oil but it does really give it a great mouthfeel.

Practically perfect in every way pan pizza

2 ½ C flour (USians should use bread flour)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1 – 1 ¼ C water
2 teaspoons olive oil

Mix it all in a bowl and then just leave it for 8 hours. The dough should be stickier than a dough you would knead, so don’t worry. If you forget to do this in the morning, it works fine in the dough cycle of a breadmaker if that is available to you. Then just follow the next steps.

When you get home from work, generously oil the bottom of your cast iron pans (or alternative dish). Optional: sprinkle the bottom with corn meal for extra crunch.

Pour the dough into the pans and using your fingers push the dough up to the edges. It may not be perfect but do the best you can. Tip: if the dough sticks too much, use a bit of flour on your fingers.

Leave the dough to rise in a warm place for at least a half an hour. Longer is fine, up to 2 hours. Give it a couple of more pushes up to the side if it hasn’t filled the pan perfectly, and get rid of any air bubbles. About a half an hour before you want to cook it, set the oven to 400.

Top your dough with sauce, cheese, and toppings of your choice. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until bottom is crispy and the cheese is melted. The original recommends sticking the pan on a burner for 1 – 3 minutes if your bottom isn’t crispy enough but we’ve never had a problem.

Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world. – Alan Rickman

With our kids being so young our movie choices are usually pretty basic. That’s not the point though. Movie night is a chance to curl up on the couch together and get lost in fantasy for an hour or two. The kids make popcorn, the parents pour a glass of wine, and we turn off all the lights. In winter, the fireplace is usually going, and during the summer the windows are open letting in a breeze from the warm evening air.

We have Netflix so at some point I went through all the available movies and made a list for movie night. We also will sometimes rent a movie via iTunes or borrow them from friends. Not every movie is a winner but every movie has given us things to talk about. It’s given the kids the ability to formulate opinions (Did you like the movie? Why or why not?) and has contributed to more than one in-joke in our family. It kicks off our weekend of TV and device use, and the kids are thrilled that they get to stay up as late as the adults. It’s become a special ritual for all of us, so it’s rare we miss a date.

When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, ‘no, I went to films.’
– Quentin Tarantino

Make-your-own pizzas and second-run movies (uh, third, fourth, fifth, sixth run more like it) may not sound like the epitome of excitement but creating small rituals as a family is so important. When things are overwhelming during the week, it’s something to look forward to. Spending time together – no matter the activity – is a way to show the people you love that you enjoy their company. To give your time to someone is probably the greatest gift, and if you ask me there is no better way to be reminded that you are loved than to have someone dedicate time to you and only you (and heck, pizza goes with everything).