Food marks many of the most important moments in our lives- hellos and good-byes. We get cakes on our birthdays – a hello to ourselves. An ice cream cone on Memorial Day weekend – hello to summer. We have snacks and punch at a baby shower – hello to new life. But for all the happy moments of greeting we mark by eating, there are sad ones of leaving too. The comfort food served at wakes and after memorial services – good-bye to a life. The sandwich eaten standing up in the kitchen after returning from seeing a friend in the hospital- good-bye to life as it was before illness. The catered Greek food at a good-bye meal for a coworker.
Last week, I said another food-filled good-bye. My brother Jacob had spent the summer living and working at the William Penn House with me. Jacob and I have always enjoyed each others’ company, but being five years older than him, I had gone away to college and then a job in a different city and missed much of the young man he had become. I got to know him as coworker and fellow grown-up this summer, and love the person he is. Even now, I walk through the house and think “Jacob and I should. . .” and then I realize he’s back in Ohio, at school.
As Jacob’s last day at the William Penn House drew near I asked him what he wanted for his last meal with us and he chose pizza. Pizza has become a bit of a tradition here at the William Penn House. It started with two former interns who instituted a pizza night on Friday nights. There was an open invitation to all. It lapsed after they left, but we’ve recently revived it – with the addition of board games following the meal. All our friends know its a fairly regular thing, and they just let us know when they’re planning on coming by. Some Fridays are just Micah and me and a housemate or two. Sometimes we have a dozen people eat and have fun with us. It’s become a time of welcome and connection that I miss when we don’t have it.
Before you become to impressed with me and my pizza making skills, I must admit that making pizza is much easier than you think. It just takes a bit of planning if you’re going to make your own dough (which I would greatly encourage). Your homemade pizza (even with store bought dough) is going to taste much better and be much cheaper than anything you can get at a chain pizza place. I usually start making the dough about two hours before we eat. It only takes about fifteen minutes to put together, but then it has to rise unsupervised for about an hour. I only need to start to put together the pizzas in earnest and heat up the oven about an hour before we plan on eating. We usually make a more traditional one with tomato sauce, cheese, veggies and pepperonis and a more experimental one. Jacob asked for a spinach, artichoke and feta pizza for his good-bye dinner. It is a tomato free pie I had made for one of our regulars who’s allergic to tomatoes and is wonderful.
Most of us like to put as much as possible on our pizzas, but there’s also something to be said for simplicity. Having just three toppings allows you to savor each one. And savor it we did. Our fellow interns and housemates joined us for pizza and a banana cake (that’s a whole ‘nother post) on the night before Jake went. We didn’t rush; we enjoyed each others company and we began to say good-bye. It felt a bit like a ritual of good-bye, a liturgy of leaving. We most pause and eat with each other one last time before we go our separate ways and life resumes.