09.15.2001 (Saturday), 11:59 PM

Chicago-style

It's the cheese!

After working from 8:30 am Friday morning until 1:00 am Saturday morning, I found myself trudging back for another thrilling 5 hours starting at 10:00 am this morning.

The saving grace in all of this was that when I got home last nigh...er, this morning, there was one message on the answering machine. It was Tom asking if we'd like to join him and Carol on Saturday night for dinner. There was no hesitation with the answer although the emphatic response was saved for normal human hours. And when I called, Tom said that we'd better "balance out" the meat and cheese fest that would be the two Chicago-style pizzas he was making from scratch and would I bring a salad? Greens and procuitto were headed home with me post-work purgatory...

It turns out that Tom and Carol had similar experiences on the morning of the 11th so we chatted about that for a while. Although I had had conversations with others during the week, this one was different. Sometimes, when you are talking with friends, especially about tragedy, there is a kind of bond that becomes even stronger. It's difficult to explain and there's probably some fancy psychoanalyst's term for it (likely a phase of mourning...) but it just finally felt good to just talk about the common experience of that day.

Tom's Chicago-style pizza (one sausage and cheese, one salami and cheese) is quite literally a cheese and meat pie. He used a cake pan: patted freshly risen yeast dough into it and proceeded to fill it with massive quantities of cheese, meat and sautéed tomatoes. I told him at one point about a place in Chicago (can't remember the name right now...) that literally serves a Chicago-style pizza in a crust bowl. They take a soufflé dish, jam pack it with meats, cheeses and sauce. They then take the dough and form a dome over the rim of the soufflé dish, sealing in all of the meaty, cheesy goodness. When it's done, they invert the dish, the crust dome stands on it's own and voila, a bowl of pizza. Tom hinted that he was a bit inspired by that food tale.

"OK, OK, enough", you say, "but was it good?" To simply say it was good would be a gross understatement. It was one of the most delicious pizzas I have ever had. It needed nothing at all: no extra parmesan cheese, no red pepper flakes, nothing. It was just perfect. To top off the dinner, we sat around and watched Iron Chef and planned future meals some involving fois gras and pomegranate.

This was the evening I *really* needed. I could have holed up in the living room and watched the rescue efforts and war analysis until my eyes fell out and I probably wouldn't have cared. And I'd be in the same all-engulfing funk that prompted my darkest thoughts. But something magical happened tonight. Something that doesn't happen quite enough, I am now realizing: we chose to hang out with two of the best friends that we are extremely fortunate to have. We ate, laughed, commiserated, drank red wine, talked about food and hugged each other when the night was over. It was simple, effective and if I could bottle the feeling I had tonight, I would give it away to whoever needed it. I think I'll finally sleep in peace tonight...

Posted by wjc