Two people doing the same thing don’t always get the same results. In Diamonds and Toads, two sisters go to a well and give a drink to a fairy in disguise. The first returns spewing diamonds and pearls, so the second decides to give it a try, but she comes back spitting frogs and snakes. The story blames the second girl, who supposedly wasn’t as kind or attentive, but to me the story seems less a lesson in manners than a warning about how unpredictable the world can be, how individual our experiences are, even if we do our best to follow in the footsteps of others.
This is especially true with food. Debates rage over what is healthy and what is tasty. One only has to look at articles from the last few weeks to get a sense of how truly confounding nutrition really is. In particular, I found this article about bread fascinating, because it provides scientific evidence that each of our unique bodies responds to food differently. There is no one way of eating that works for everyone, which can make eating with others a challenge.
Growing up, my family ate dinner together every night. During the week we sat at the table, on the weekends we sometimes ate off of TV trays while watching a movie, but we ate together. I still vastly prefer to eat with others, but the question of what to eat can be a challenge.
I wish I could say that I’ve always been sensitive to others dietary restrictions, but, despite having spent most of my twenties as either a vegetarian or pescatarian, when my sister developed IBS I wasn’t very supportive. Instead of trying to make meals that she could enjoy my parents and I excluded her or made her a separate—and much less appealing—dish. Not wanting to eat chicken and white rice while watching the rest of us devour crepes, buttery rolls, or potatoes au gratin, she stopped attending family meals. I thought she was being unreasonable. Now that I have my own digestive challenges I am horrified by how insensitive I was.
I’ve developed a more sensitive and accommodating attitude when it comes to food allergies and intolerances, but I still get impatient with picky eaters, people who simply want a limited range of foods. I get irritated when my already limited food choices are further restricted by someone else’s tastes. But whether it’s a matter of physical well-being or simple enjoyment, eating with others shouldn’t mean being miserable. It should be a pleasure for all.
My boyfriend and I have very different approaches to food. He doesn’t eat nearly as many fruits or vegetables as I do, and rarely feels satisfied without meat. Eating together is a continuous challenge, but it’s also something I enjoy. Sometimes adapting meals to suit each of our preferences means we’re eating vastly different plates, other times it’s a matter of small adjustments.
There’s nowhere in our town that offers pizza I can eat, so when the craving strikes for a slice, I make it. The dough is made from spelt flour, which has a sweet flavor that we both love. I make a basic tomato sauce with garlic and basic, that we both enjoy, and cut up a variety of toppings. Ian makes his with more pepperoni and less sauce, on mine I add in a veggie or two, and we’re both happy and satisfied.
Pizza for Two, His and Hers
1/2 cup (60 ml) warm water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) honey
1 teaspoon (3 g) rapid yeast
1 1/2 cups (310 g) whole spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil
2 teaspoons (4 g) cornmeal, for rolling
1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup (240 ml) canned crushed tomatoes
1 large sprig basil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
Olive oil (mixed with minced garlic & red pepper flakes and microwaved for 30 seconds)
sweet and/or hot peppers, sliced
Make the dough: mix water, honey, yeast and 1/2 cup of spelt flour and let it sit for 10 minutes, until bubbly. Stir in the rest of the flour and the salt, forming a sticky dough. Knead for 2 minutes. Pour oil into a clean bowl and add dough, rolling and lightly working into oil. Cover and let rest for an hour, until doubled in size.
Heat oven to 450° with a cast iron pan inside.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pan and add the garlic. Stir around for 30 seconds, then add all remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes Remove basil. Taste, and adjust as desired.
When dough has doubled, divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, use fingers to spread and stretch each half into a 11” round. This will allow some of the air bubbles in the dough to remain. Crimp edges lightly.
To assemble, remove skillet from oven and sprinkle a teaspoon of cornmeal into the bottom of a cast iron skillet and add one circle of dough. Use a pastry brush to spread some olive oil (the stuff you microwaved) over the surface, all the way to edges. Top with sauce, then cheese, then desired toppings.
Bake for 8-12 minutes, until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown. Remove pizza to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Repeat with the other half.