Thursday, October 25, 2012

no little plans

"Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized."
     -- Daniel Burnham

Through a series of events too lengthy to detail here, one night in late July of last year I found myself seated with my family for dinner at The Original Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, Connecticut. (How come no one ever pronounces that second "C" in Connecticut?) It was possibly the best pizza I've ever had.

Now, I've always been handy in the kitchen. I remember baking cookies, cakes, and brownies with my mother and grandmother at a young age. As a teenager, every week I was responsible for our Sunday dinner dessert. I started small with cake mixes and simple chocolate chip cookie recipes. Over the past few years I've expanded my repertoire to include more complex desserts like baklava. My current go-to chocolate chip cookies recipe is much more subtle than the cookies I used to make. And I've even tried my hand at cake decorating.

About a year ago I decided I wanted to start making pizza. I can't detail exactly how this desire developed, I just know that this serendipitous visit to Pepe's in New Haven was the initial catalyst. I set the ambiguous goal of being able to make really good pizza.

For the past year I've worked on that goal quite passively. And today I can make a pretty good pizza. Earlier this week I remembered that quote above by Daniel Burnham. It's worth repeating: "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized" (emphasis added). So after a year -- a reasonable amount of time for someone with my home kitchen experience to come up with a really good pizza -- why haven't I been able to realize this goal? Because "really good pizza" is what Daniel Burnham would call a "little plan."

So this week I decided to upgrade my pizza goal to something that stirs my blood and hopefully stirs the blood of those around me. I don't want to make really good pizza. I want to make the best pizza in the world.

This isn't one of those bullcrap, shoot-for-the-moon-land-among-the-stars goals. When I say in the world, I mean in the world.

Of course, I have no idea how I'm going to do this. I'll begin by sampling the finer local pizza joints. And travel to the pizza capitals of the world will be necessary. More than once I've looked into building a backyard pizza oven (I should probably buy a home first, eh?). As Helen Keller put it, "Life is either a daring adventure or it's nothing." I look forward to the adventure that will come in creating a perfect pizza.

To Frank Pepe I say thank you for best pizza I've ever had. One day mine will be even better.

== == == == ==

It seems counter-productive to put a disclaimer on your dreams, but I do have to say this: While I will no doubt have to sacrifice in the pursuit of this lofty goal, one area where I will not compromise is in the relationships I have (or will have) with my family, loved ones, and friends. I love pizza but I love people more. The cool thing about pizza is that it's easy to share with people.


  1. Start with your crust. Once you get the crust right, then move to the sauce. Then, find the cheese. I would recommend a homemade mozzarella, but one that is a bit dryer than store-bought fresh mozzarella. The wetter the mozzarella is, the less likely it is to melt nicely. However, you can find, or even make, a fresh mozzarella that is an amazing cross between fresh tasting, and great melting. Once you get that, decide on toppings. You can go multiple routes on toppings, but as with all aspects, simpler is better. I'm always available to act as a sounding board, or even better, a tasting master.

    -- Chris Bingham

  2. Stamp of approval on the new blog. Love that quote. Love pizza. You should look into pizza crust recipes that involve molasses in the dough. Just a thought. Also, artichoke is a most fantastic topping.

  3. Feel free to share pizza with me! Hurray for blogs!

  4. Love it, Myke. You are awesome!!!!

  5. If you need someone to join you in "sampling the finer local pizza joints. And travel to the pizza capitals of the world" let me know! I may not be a good at making pizza like you, but I'm great at eating them!

  6. Thanks for the notice about the blog change. I just read all of your posts (thankfully you didn't keep your new cyber address secret for ten+ posts), and I must admit to laughing audibly at the pizza cutter as a weapon. That I would like to see, but unfortunately the household I share with children under the age of 10 who would never be able to resist such weaponry precludes me from purchasing one in the next ten years. Cut an awesome crust for me and think of Hyrum and Micah with that blade . . .