Block after block of mozzarella whirred through the food processor. Son-in-law twirled his homemade pizza dough in the air. Darling daughter smashed roasted garlic with olive oil. It was Sunday pizza night at Cafe Morrison. For weeks now, we've been serving homemade pizza to assorted friends and family. During the summer, the crowd consisted of whichever friends followed our youngest son home from church. Crates of Mountain Dew primed them to devour unnerving numbers of pizzas. With son back at college, we invited a nice young couple and their little daughter, who took a shine to our gorgeous two-year-old grandson.
This week it was family: husband's brother, his wife and two grown daughters, and my mother-in-law, who denies that she has Alzheimer's and took the diagnosis as an insult. She can be difficult. In they streamed and were urged to try darling daughter's invention, a warm fig compote with onion, red wine vinegar, brown sugar and balsamic served with thin wafer crackers. The verdict: "Mmmmm." Similar approval greeted my sangria. I don't make it too fancy. This contained malbec wine, not-from-concentrate orange juice, triple sec, a few lime slices with juice from the remaining lime, a touch of powdered sugar and a sprinkling of cinnamon. A better summer drink I cannot imagine, unless it's the lemonade with homemade basil syrup. Especially if you grow the basil in your own back yard.
So darling daughter seasoned and sauteed chunks of chicken for a barbecue pizza and added bits of bacon that I had fried. This was the first one off the pizza stone. We gave son-in-law a couple of pizza stones and a paddle for his birthday. Now we know how much better a pizza bakes on a stone: beautifully crisp on the bottom, but nicely raised and tender on top. That first pizza vanished before the next one emerged from the oven-- roasted garlic with Italian sausage. Brother-in-law's introduction to roasted garlic. Love at first munch. After the third pizza came and went, I had no room for son-in-law's splendid "garlic knots." He rolled leftover bits of dough into small circles, put roasted garlic, a cube of mozzarella and a bit of sausage in the center and twisted the dough up like a dumpling. Baked to goldenness, they are ambrosial. We ate leftovers for breakfast.
For dessert, I offered mocha shortbread with chocolate glaze, a recipe gleaned from Southern Living a couple of years ago. It's had audiences oohing and aahing ever since. And the whole meal had us all trading jokes and stories, teasing and laughter for a couple of hours. Even difficult mother-in-law seemed at least content. Part of that was due, no doubt, to our having placed gorgeous grandson's booster chair next to her seat.
That face-- you can't look at it and stay crabby.
In the movie Babette's Feast, the general tells of the chef in Paris treating a meal as a sort of love affair. It does work that way when you do the best you can with your skills and materials to give people food you think they will like. It even works with family.