This afternoon Morrison asked if we could go to Pizza Hut for lunch. I said, “No. That kind of food is bad for you.”
“But Aunt Stefani takes James and Maya there,” he said.
“Of course she does.”
My sister-in-law is always putting me in these situations. She doesn’t seem to care that her kids eat over-processed crap made with corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and chemical preservatives. She thinks it’s just fine. One time, when Mo came home with a Happy Meal toy, I called her up and explained that I didn’t want my son eating at McDonald’s. Said I thought it was irresponsible of her to take the kids there. She was dismissive as usual.
“We only eat out at those places every once in a while,” she said. “It’s a treat. They like it.”
“Of course they like it,” I said. “It’s crack for kids.”
She told me to stop being so melodramatic, then accused me of making a big deal out of nothing. Sometimes I don’t understand her at all.
“How about we make our own pizzas,” I said. Mo grimaced. “It’ll be fun. We’ll go to Berkeley Bowl and get all the ingredients. Then we’ll make the dough and the sauce. Shred the cheese. You can have any toppings you want.”
This piqued his interest. “Anything?”
“Anything you want,” I said.
“Sure I do.”
We got to Berkeley Bowl and Morrison wanted to push the cart. He always wants to push the cart. When the store is packed with wall-to-wall customers, as it frequently is, this can be a problem. Today was one of those days. Before we had even made it past the deli section, I had to apologize to one of the many bohemian bourgeois housewives after Mo ran into her. He banged her ankle pretty good. She wasn’t happy about it. Suggested that I not let my kid push the cart, as if it were reckless parenting. I almost told her to take the bottle of aged balsamic in her basket and shove it up her ass.
When we got to the produce, I took out my list. The recipes I planned on using were both Caroline’s. She’s the one who first showed me how to make homemade pizza. Before that, if I was motivated, I would’ve bought a pre-made cornmeal crust, a bottle of organic tomato sauce, cheese and veggies. Thrown it on a baking sheet and, Voila! Otherwise, I would have just ordered a pie from Rotten City.
When we got to the produce section I asked Morrison what he wanted on his pizza. The list started off without any surprises. Marinara sauce, which we’d make ourselves. Mozzarella cheese. Then he threw me a curveball. For toppings, he wanted kimchi and mandarin oranges.
“I don’t think that’s going to taste good,” I said. “Why don’t you pick something else. Like eggplant – or green peppers.”
“I want kimchi pizza. With oranges,” he insisted.
“But kimchi and oranges don’t go on pizza.” As soon as I said this, I corrected myself. “I mean, they probably won’t taste good together.”
“But you promised!”
That I did. And instead of reneging, like I should have, I decided to go with it. Figured that if he ended up liking his creation, that was great. If he didn’t, he’d learn a lesson about food parings. Win: Win.
We got home and made the dough. Morrison thought it was gross and sticky. He giggled when I said we were making snot pies. While the dough was setting, I chopped mushrooms and vegetables, made the marinara. Mo shredded the cheese. Then he set up shop in the living room and made a collage out of pictures he had cut from a National Geographic magazine.
When it came time to make the pizzas, I tried once more to talk him out of his decision to use pickled cabbage and citrus fruit but he was steadfast. We split the dough into two balls, pressed and stretched them. Mo needed help, but still thought it was fun. He took pride in his work. We brushed each of them with olive oil and placed them on a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal. Next, we layered on our toppings. Morrison’s pie had tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, kimchi and mandarine orange slices cut into halves. I used caramelized onions, a mix of wild crimini and oyster mushrooms, fontina, garlic and rosemary. We placed them both in the oven on an inverted baking sheet (per Caroline’s recipe instructions) and waited. When Mo took his first bite, I could see that he was trying to hide his disgust. He kept chewing out of pride.
“How’s it taste?” I asked. He made a face. “You don’t like it, do you?” He shook his head. “I told you it wouldn’t taste good.”
I hate when I do that. My father was an “I told you so” parent. It drove me crazy.
“Would you like some of my pizza?” I said.
“I don’t like mushrooms.”
“Just try it,” I said. “Maybe you’ll like these ones.”
He took a bite and said the mushrooms were squishy. I asked him what he wanted to do about lunch.
“I want to go to Pizza Hut.”
I told him that wasn’t an option. He started to cry. I offered to make him quinoa; pasta; a veggie burger. He just kept bawling. In the end, he had a bowl of cereal and a hard boiled egg. For dinner I took Mo to his favorite restaurant, Tacubaya. We shared a bowl of chips and guacamole. He had a butternut squash quesadilla. For dessert he wanted churros. How could I say no?