November 2010

Rachel at 16 has an active social life.  Since the beginning of the school year, I believe I can count on one hand how many times she’s joined us for dinner.  It’s not that I don’t invite her, I do; it’s just that she shrugs and says, “Don’t worry, I’ll get something.

That “something” invariably turns out to be fast food.  I’m not happy about her eating out this much, not only because she’s spending money (or one of her friends is spending money since Rachel is still looking for a part-time job) but also because it’s just not healthy. Consequently, every day around 4 p.m., the conversation goes something like this.

Me: “Hey, do you want to have dinner with us tonight?” 

Rachel: ”What are you having?”

Me: “Chicken?”

Rachel: “No thanks.”

So when one day last week she texted me from school to ask if I could make pizza for dinner and macaroni and cheese.  I texted her back.

“Yes,” I wrote.  “But how about meatballs and a salad, too?

“Fine,” she answered.

And it was fine since I had all of the ingredients in the house.  Problem was when I left my office shortly after 5 p.m., I hit an enormous traffic jam on the parkway.  Sitting in traffic I knew there was no way pizza would be able to be made unless someone started the dough, right then and there. Since I knew she was home, I put in a call to her and told her the predicament. 

I actually expected her to say, “Ok, forget the pizza, we can just have garlic bread.”

But instead she said, “What do you want me to do?”

“If you put me on speakerphone I can walk you through the ingredients,” I said.   

“Ok, let me call you back.”

Sure enough she called me back in a few minutes and together (she on speakerphone in the kitchen and me on my bluetooth in the car) we managed to have her make pizza dough from scratch.

“Did you wash your hands?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Get out the big metal bowl and a package of yeast in the fridge.”

“Ok,” she said. 

I heard pots and pans banging as she searched for the bowl.

“Got it.”

“Cut open the package of yeast and dump it in the bowl with one cup of pretty warm water.”

“Warm water?”she asked.

“Yes, you need warm water to make the yeast foam.”


I heard the water running in the sink as she did what I had instructed. There was too much silence though on her end.

“Did you put the yeast in the bowl?” I asked.

“Yeah, but it’s not foaming.”

“Ok, don’t sweat it, it will still work.  Get out the flour from the cupboard,” I continued.

“How much?” she asked.

“Put in a cup and a half to start in the water and yeast mixture and stir it.  Then add some salt and about a tablespoon of olive oil.  It will be loose but mix it around.”

I heard her stirring.

“What’s it look like?” I asked.

“It’s like batter,” she said.

“Ok, add some more flour, about another cup and a half a little bit at a time. Then start mixing the whole thing with your hands until it comes together and resembles pizza dough.”

I heard her struggling a bit with this part.

“It’s too loose,” she said. “Then keep adding flour until you get it right.”

“Wow, it’s sticking to my hands,” she said.

“This is really hard,” she said.

I laughed.  “After you make your 28th crust,” I countered, “it’ll be easier.”

“Yeah, right.”

I heard more mixing on her end.

“Is it coming along?” I asked.

“I’ll just add more flour.”


“You got it?” I asked again. 

“Yes,” she answered. “I’ll deal with it.”

“Ok,” I said, still inching my way forward in the traffic. 

“I’ll be home as soon as I can…Just cover the bowl with a towel to let it rise a bit.”


“And please clean up, I know there’s probably flour all over the place.”

When I got home nearly an hour later, the kitchen was fairly clean.  I went over to the mixing bowl and lifted up the towel.  Peeking inside was a really nice first try at pizza dough.  I added a tad more flour, punched the whole thing down and left it for her father to roll out when he came home a few minutes later.

Not only is she becoming a great cook, but she’s confident enough to handle blow-by-blow cooking instructions over the phone.  That’s so cool!   I know any other Mom would have just picked up a pizza on the way home, but that’s not me, or her.  Oh and by the way, the pizza was really good, too.

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