February 25, 2017
First posted on our Family Pizza blog.
Every New Year’s Eve I poke the hubby and kids into committing to a self improvement goal, and every year, it falls flat. Until this year. I was inspired by the New Year’s resolution episode of The Sporkful podcast, which talked about how people resolve to eat less and exercise more, and most abandon that resolve sometime in February. Instead, why not resolve to eat more of what you love?
I asked my son if he might go in on a resolution for 2017 with me, to eat and make more of a food we both love. He was in. It would need to be something with depth and history that we could geek out on, and opportunities for variation and innovation. Some food types we considered were tacos, donburi, pasta, curry, and soup, but pizza was the winner. A new family project-based learning adventure and this blog was born.
We’ve been casual pizza makers for a long time, in part because I avoid dairy so it’s hard for me to eat pizza out. 2017 would be all about upping our game — eating our way through the best pizza in SoCal and cooking our way through different styles, with the goal of improving our homemade pie. This is a resolution the whole family could get behind.
I’ve never been this excited about designing a curriculum. I’m an educator by trade, and often designed “activities” to do with the kids, including weekend cooking, but this felt different. This was a long term investigation that involved both hands-on learning and what our family bonds most around — eating great food together. I don’t know why we hadn’t thought of this sooner!
I wasn’t going to put together a structured syllabus, but we did need to get on the same page for what and how we wanted to learn. The first order of business was setting up our learning goals.
We tend to make Cali and Tokyo style contemporary pizzas, but we had just taken a family trip to Tuscany, and had experienced real Italian food. We decided we would start at the source, and work our way up to our favorite fusion pizza — teriyaki chicken inspired by the Japanese chain, Pizza La. This meant we would have to master different styles of dough and crust, in addition to trying different toppings.
Our learning goals in order to priority:
- - Have fun together food geeking, making and eating.
- Create the very best teriyaki chicken pizza that we could in our home kitchen.
- Innovate in combinations and toppings, drawing from our family’s unique tastes and cross-cultural heritage.
- Learn about the history and styles of pizza.
- Discover great pizzerias in our region and beyond and be inspired and surprised by new approaches and tastes.
We felt good about having some goals that we were working towards, and the territory we wanted to explore.
Finding Our Experts
Next we needed to find sources of expertise. Ken Forkish’s The Elements of Pizza turned out to be a great early investment and has become our core textbook. We plan to follow the genres of pizza he lays out, starting with Neopolitan and New York Style. This is a beautifully researched book.
The last expert guide we looked for was for eating out. Eater has been my favorite source for restaurant reviews, and didn’t disappoint when it came to pizza. Eater’s 25 best LA Pizzerias is a list we can follow with confidence as we seek the best pies in the region for inspiration.
Gear and Supplies
And of course, we needed to get gear, and gather the best supplies. We had some of the basics, like a pizza peel, pizza stone, and scale. New investments were the long pizza cutter, the dough bucket, and the pizza steel.
We researched local Italian markets, and discovered that we were lucky to have a great one, Sorrento’s not too far from us. The friendly proprietor there set us up with everything we needed to make a real Neopolitan pie, including Marzano tomatoes, Italian oregano, imported yeast, and most importantly Caputo pizza flour from Napoli.
We are off and running! I have a feeling this will be my most enjoyable, and definitely most delicious foray into connected parenting and connected learning with my family. We will be posting updated on our Family Pizza blog.
Posted by Mizuko Ito at February 25, 2017 5:23 PM