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Kids making pizza

by Brian Clarey

How hard can it be to teach three kids aged 6, 8 and 9 to make a pizza?

Jean Dailey is about to find out.

She’s in the sunny kitchen of her grand old house off Spring Garden Street which has served in the past as a holistic retreat and a cooking school for health-conscious customers, and the three kids sit at the table sipping organic apple juice and picking through similarly healthful boxes of raisins. Copies of the recipe for organic pizza lay on the table in front of them.

This should be no big deal: She’s taught cooking classes before.

“We’re gonna talk a little bit about safety in the kitchen,” she says.

“Is that a gas stove?” asks the 9-year-old boy, a home-schooled redhead from Stokes County.

“No, it’s electric.”

“That’s good,” he says. “That’s safer. But it still gets hot.”

“Yes,” the teacher enthuses. “Things get hot when you’re cooking.”

“It could start a fire,” the 6-year-old boy says. “We learned about fire safety in school.”

“Yes’….”

“My mom was boiling pasta water,” interjects the 9-year-old, “and she, like, dropped it all down on herself and she got, like, third-degree burns.”

“Oh,” Jean says, “so you could spill hot pasta water.”

“It doesn’t have to be pasta water, specifically,” he says.

Moving on’….

“Okay, so how do you get your food to taste good?” she asks, followed by a short lecture on organic ingredients during which the home-schooled boy interjects with comments about cottonseed oil and a treatise on food crops versus those agricultural products harvested for “clothes and stuff.”

“Pork still has fat in it,” says the 8-year-old girl. “You can cook it but it still has the fat in it and that makes it bad.”

They make their way through the recipe, putting yeast in hot water and setting it on the counter, readying the Semolina and wheat flour for the crust. Jean pulls two garlic cloves and skins them on the cutting board.

“How are we supposed to get the onion smell out of it?” asks the 8-year-old.

The garlic is softened in a pot with oil and the canned tomatoes – organic, natch – are added and crushed with zeal. Flour has mingled with the yeast and the 8-year-old sings strains of the “Blue Danube” as she pounds the dough. The 6-year-old – who, by the way, does not like to get his hands dirty and is also covered in flour – has got his mitts in the dough, trying to fold and press it like he’s been shown. But he pauses every turn to wipe the pieces of dough from between his fingers. Eventually it is ready to be pushed into the pizza pan.

“First we got to taste it,” says the 8-year-old.

“It’s raw dough,” says the 9-year-old. “It tastes disgusting.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.”

“Can I try some?” asks the 6-year-old.

The crust cooks off in the oven and then is topped by the sauce. An attempt is made to grate blocks of soy-based mozzarella and it comes off looking’… mushy. Jean spreads it on top of the pizza with a knife.

“It doesn’t look quite the same way regular cheese does,” she says.

“I think that’s gonna be a problem,” the 8-year-old opines.

And then they wait.

Pulled fresh from the oven, the pizza looks somewhat’… non-traditional’… with smears of white goop atop the bright red sauce, the crust settled into a stiff layer on the bottom that requires a big knife and an adult hand to cut into slices.

The spoils are doled out at the kitchen table and taken to with gusto.

All the kids agree: It is very good pizza.

To comment on this story, e-mail Brian Clarey editor@yesweekly.com.

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