Wednesday, 22 September 2010

One man's advice for surviving in a high-cost pizza world

I live in Whistler now and pizza prices here are completely absurd. They have inspired empty wallets on more drunken occasions than most of us would have liked. I find myself three dollars short for cab fare. I'm slapping the morning-after coffee on Visa. It's a frustrating situation that can't be rectified unless I drive to Vancouver to pay for, what I feel is, an acceptable price for a slice of pizza. But that wouldn't make any sense.

The pizza companies get away with it because in Whistler, a town brimming with 20-somethings with no discernable cooking skills beyond boiling Ramen noodles, pizza is the fail-safe for a quick and filling bite.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid unloading a quarter of your paycheque. Dominos Pizza offers walk-in/take-away deals for large ($13.50) and medium ($11.50) pepperoni pizzas. It's hardly the best pizza in town, takes on the taste and texture of synthetic rubber following refrigeration but it will fill your belly, if not bloat it eternally.

Ramen-noodle connoisseurs are likely familiar with the assortment of frozen pizzas sold at their favourite grocery store. Of these, Delissio pies are the best deal for size and taste ($9.99 at all grocery stores in Whistler), although they are rife with preservatives and a high fat content that will add pudge to your midsection almost immediately and may take years off your life somewhere down the line.

Ultimately, your safest bet is to make it from scratch. That's right, kids, it's time to learn how to bake your own pizza. It's easy! and good for you for myriad reasons, not least of all for learning the complex and capricious nature of pizza dough. If it's not manipulated the right way, this dough will curl up on you like a frightened baby and sit stubbornly in a gooey lump until you learn the correct way to deal with it. Mastering pizza dough will teach you important life skills that will reveal themselves to you once the mastering is complete. I can't let you in on them - they're secrets.

Pasta Lupino sells such a lump for $3.25 that can make two-three medium pizzas. It also freezes and defrosts like you'd hope dough would: without incident.

Step 1: lightly flour your counter so... wait, no. Step 1 is to free your counter of beer bottles, noodle packages, apple cores, assorted crumbs and, yes, pizza boxes. Then lightly flour the counter top to keep the dough from sticking. Lightly flour your rolling pin and spread the dough out as flat as possible. If you're lacking a rolling pin, a wine bottle will do as well. A beer bottle might work but this is pure speculation.

Once the dough is flattened, you can try the Italian chef flip trick to stretch out the dough but at this beginner stage it's really not necessary. We're aiming for edible food here, nothing fancy.

It should be noted here that the first job I was hired for and subsequently fired from was a Little Caesar's. During my time as a pizza maker, there was a coincidental but dramatic increase in customer complaints over diminished crust-to-topping ratio and/or general absence of mozzarella cheese. I may not be the most qualified person for this particular topic, but since we've come this far I guess there's no turning back...

So anyway, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, or something. Lightly grease your baking pan and push the dough to the ends. A square baking pan will work just as well as a round pan, so long as you can deal with quadrangle pizza slices.

From there, lay on whatever toppings you fancy. Remember the mozzarella cheese. Oil the crust to make it golden-crispy and delicious. Handle with care and affection. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Let stand for five. Eat. Enjoy.

Afterward, you can take it out with you to the club, kept snug in your purse or a girlfriend's purse. Hell, leave it in your back pocket to remind you that, at the end of the night, when all the drunks lurch toward the same line outside Fat Tony's, you have something cheaper and much quicker: your two home-made slices, wrapped in tin-foil. They'll be a little mushy, sure, but at least you made them yourself and that's better than anything a plump fellow named Tony can provide.

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