On Marital Bliss and Ritual Pizza

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 48 comments


A slice of happiness

Just a few weeks after our wedding, Mr. Noodle and I faced the first serious test of our fledgling marriage: who would run the kitchen? Like presidential foes, we each felt better qualified than the other to be the Cook-in-Chief - me, by virtue of being my mother's kitchen understudy and he, by dint of a few years of self-sufficient bachelorhood. Lines were drawn across the linoleum and a few tense moments flared when neither of us would relinquish the spatula. In the end, I emerged triumphant, backed by a slightly larger repertoire of dishes and the power of socially prescribed gender roles. 

As the victor, I assumed full control of food preparation, including all of our meal choices. Given our limited financial resources from my job as a library clerk and his as a graduate teaching assistant, those choices often depended on my ability to create a dish using an egg, one limp scallion and a packet of Nissin Top Ramen noodles. As for my husband, he wasn't completely persona non grata in the kitchen; after all, I needed someone to open jars and reach high shelves. That was the extent of his culinary participation until the day he made a seemingly simple yet ultimately fateful suggestion: to incorporate his favorite frozen pizza into our dinner rotation. 

Fifteen years later, I can honestly say that we owe a large part of our still-happy union to the resulting ritual: Pizza Night Thursdays. It wasn't a conscious effort - stocking our freezer with Tombstone's Original Supreme Pizza provided a budget-friendly meal which we both enjoyed immensely. If there were a deeper meaning to our choice, it might have been as a symbolic break from the food control exercised by our parents (i.e. we were finally adults who could eat whatever we wanted). 

Pizza Night was born out of convenience with Thursday as the chosen day because, well, it was a jumpstart to the weekend. On these evenings, we each have our roles - I pop the pie in the oven and get the plates ready; when it's done, Mr. Noodle takes it out and wields the pizza cutter as I hover anxiously by his elbow to see if the portions are equal. Then, after he slides two slices onto the plates I'm holding, I close my eyes and tell him to take the biggest pieces. Repeat once a week, indefinitely.

Why has it lasted so long, this innocuous little ritual? At some indeterminate point, Pizza Night Thursdays became so much more than just an easy weekly dinner. 

In my last post, Of Sunday Mass and Family Meals, I noted how sharing restaurant meals with my parents and siblings was actually a first step toward individuality and independence from the family unit. In this case, establishing new eating habits with my husband served to bring me back into a commensal group, albeit a very small one. In a 2002 report, "Proper Meals in Transition: Young Married Couples on the Nature of Eating Together" (Appetite 39: 193-206), researchers D.W. Marshall and A.S. Anderson observed:
"[T]he idea of eating properly [defined in the study as consuming a hot, cooked meal in the company of one's partner] continues to exist as a metaphor for family life, signifying the departure from single status . . . [P]articipation at the evening meal plays a central role for many of these couples in the creation and formation of their own family unit and their identity as a couple."


A properly delicious meal

Eating together undoubtedly creates strong bonds between people but apparently, so does cooking together. In recent year, anecdotal surveys have shown that most couples who shared time in the kitchen described their relationships as 'excellent' and reported feeling more playful, relaxed and conversational. An added bonus: cooking was second only to a massage as a prelude to a kiss and so much more, making the kitchen the hottest room in the house. 

Although it's a stretch to call it cooking, Pizza Night Thursdays has been our shared kitchen time and I can attest to the positive effects revealed by the surveys. But even more, our weekly ritual has proven to be a comforting constant in our lives as we've changed homes and jobs, said goodbye to old friends and made new ones, celebrated births and grieved deaths in the family, and wondered how the years could have passed so quickly. Each Thursday, we're reminded that in the midst of even the most tumultuous changes, some things will always remain soothingly the same. As I watch my husband enjoy his pizza, I look past the little dab of sauce at the corner of his mouth where the laugh lines are deeper now, and the glint of silver showing through the gold-brown strands at his temples, and I see the handsome young man who, in his fearless youth, agreed to share a life and a kitchen with me.


Almost Homemade Pizza



Although Tombstone Original Supreme is still our mainstay for Pizza Night Thursdays, we occasionally like to mix things up by putting together a semi-homemade pizza using a fully baked Rustic Crust, found at Whole Foods Market. 
  • Brush the top with olive oil, place on a pizza stone or pan, and heat in a 350 degree (F) oven for about 10 minutes;
  • Remove, add some pizza sauce (check out this homemade recipe from Delicious Meliscious) and your choice of toppings; 
  • Return to oven, increasing the temperature to 400 degrees, and bake until cheese is melted, bubbling and beginning to brown, about 10-15 minutes;
  • Slice and serve.
Note: Noodle Family ritual steps optional. 

Try some of our personal favorites:

Salame e Funghi



- Fresh mozzarella
- Baby portabella mushrooms
- Italian salame, such as sopressata
- Fresh or dried basil and oregano, or Italian seasonings such as Penzey's Tuscan Sunset




Ham and Blue


- Fresh mozzarella
- Thinly sliced ham (even better: prosciutto)
- Crumbled gorgonzola cheese
- Diced yellow bell peppers
- Baby portabella mushrooms
- Fresh or dried herbs, or Italian seasoning


48 comments:

  • oysterculture said...

    Your pizza nights are legendary, mom speaks of them in a hushed voice. So, reading your post begs the question, which Tomestone pizza is the flavor of choice for this endeavor. I mean, if you're in it for the long haul, which one is the trusty taste companion?

    Now that you two have moved to a different financial status, I suspect your beverage of choice exceeds the cost of your dinner fare.

  • ChefBliss.com said...

    What a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing and giving me the inspiration to write the post I have had in my head for months!! It's always wonderful to hear the story behind the chef and how we shape our worlds!

  • 5 Star Foodie said...

    Such a great story of a wonderful ritual. Eating together is so important. Since our weekdays are usually unpredictable with my husband travels, our regular dining rituals are on Saturdays and Sundays (such as Saturday family breakfast and lunch cheese tastings).

  • Bob said...

    My girlfriend often helps me cook, usually by standing around looking cute and asking if there is anything she can do. There almost never is (she can't cook to save her life, heh.) but it's fun to have her there. Nice post. :)

  • Chef E said...

    That is beautiful poetic words of wisdom no matter how you slice it!

    I too share the same sentiment...no one enters my space unless you can help slice and dice...

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Daily Spud - Thank you! We look forward to it, even when we have to start gumming the crust!

    Duo Dishes - It was love at first sight with my husband and love at first bite with the ham and blue combo!

    Guiltless Glutton - Thank you! I'm usually in study mode so the formal research wiggles its way into my posts. I wouldn't be surprised if you already have a ritual in place that you just haven't considered as such . . . until now!

    OysterCulture - Original Supreme still rules! And you've got it right - gone are the days when we paired it with a can of soda. Your brother is in charge of the wine pairing and he hasn't gone wrong yet!

    Robin - I'm hoping to become more ambitious and actually try to make dough from scratch but I'm not there yet. I should try Pillsbury - it might inspire to go all fresh!

    ChefBliss - I'm still a world behind the wonderful variety of content on your blog. Congratulations again on your 100th post!

    5 Star - That constancy is comforting, isn't it? And it's something to look forward to each week. Now that I think of it, you're really the first to post about family rituals - your fantastic cheese tastings!

    Bob - Thanks! During regular evenings, if my husband is home early, he sits at the counter and keeps me company. Then, cooking dinner feels like fun rather than a chore.

    Selba - Pizza is pretty much the perfect meal: all your major food groups in one! Given all the topping combinations, I think it may actually be possible to live on pizza alone.

    Hornsfan - Thanks! I should have asked everyone to share their favorite toppings - there might be some new combos out there worth trying out!

    ChefE - Thank you! My hubby can turn me into mush. After that first power struggle, we've reached a happy equilibrium in the kitchen: I'm in charge of the food and he's in charge of the drink.

  • Mediterranean kiwi said...

    this is a very sweet story
    cooking in my home has become somewhat ritualistic - i have to cook, therefore i cook, and i cook according to a routine, which could be called a ritual ealsewhere, and can even be interpreted as a weekly food plan (which it is).
    while others look forward to their once-a-week ritual, i am looking forward to breaking it!! :-)

  • gastroanthropologist said...

    As a trained chef and a husband who had three older sisters I have been the king of the kitchen, from cooking to cleaning. I prefer it that way too and he is so appreciative. There are some nights when I don't know what to make or don't feel like cooking of course...I found these lovely frozen pizzas at my local grocers with great ingredients and sometimes I'll dress them up with a few other things. You feel so much better about serving a pre-made pizza if you grate a little garlic or chop a little basil!

    I've realized after reading your post that the roles the women and men play are the same in our respective parents homes as well - that may have something to do with how easily we succumb to these gender roles and don't try to push it another way.

    My husband is in charge of the drinks too...he looks like a stunned mouse in a grocery store but definitely knows his way around the nooks and crannies of a wine store.

  • pigpigscorner said...

    My fiance's role is to receive orders from me to chop up stuff in the kitchen and washing up. What a nice ritual, it's something to look forward to. Maybe I should have a pasta night!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    MedKiwi - There's a fine line between routine and ritual, isn't there? We kept up with our pizza ritual because it is so simple and we try to limit it to the one day so that it didn't become commonplace. But come to think of it, an important aspect is that there's very little labor involved - it's always the frozen pizza or the semi-homemade or, on occasion, take-out! So aside from the other feel-good benefits, it's a welcome break from trying to come up with something interesting and tasty for dinner every night.

    Gastroanthropologist - I didn't think twice about falling into the traditional gender role of cook. I suppose it was because I saw it as a kind of power position. And that may have been cued by the fact that my husband seemed to want that position!

    I agree that a little personal touch, that bit of effort when you just don't feel like doing anything else, makes a premade dinner more special but I dare not mess with his Tombstone - he likes it just the way it is. I get to express myself w/semi-homemade instead.

    And we must have married doppelgangers - Mr. Noodle is twitchy and jumpy in the grocery store but is almost zen among bottles of wine. I think he channels his frustrated chef-self into his mixed drinks and wine pairings. A perfect complement!

    Neha - Thank you! Pizza is one of those universal dishes and it lends itself well to so many variations and flavors.

    PigPigsCorner - You should have Pasta Night but then you'll have to invite me over! 8-)

    Andrea - Thanks, thanks! 8-) Some people might wonder why we've stuck to this highly processed, frozen pizza since we could still have our ritual with something more fresh. I suppose it's because it does remind us of those early years when our lives and tastes seemed so much simpler. We didn't have much back then but we still managed to have so much fun!

  • CaptnRachel aka Tha Pizza Cutta said...

    Hey Noodle - these last two posts really hit home for me. Besides your wonderfully engaging writing, growing up my mother was hard-nosed about eating dinner together (I usually was the cook since she worked) and after Sunday mass we all headed to our Great Grandmother's house for the best Italian food I've ever had to this day. So here's to you for keeping traditions alive in our morally deprived society!!!!

  • The Beancounter said...

    I love reading this! Is it your anniversary or something? It's very apt for valetine's too...which is coming up shortly.

    I agree, sitting down together for a meal (regardless of what it is) is so important for me...

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Mariana - Thank you! My husband and I look forward to every bite.

    Pizza Cutta - Many thanks; I'm so glad that you enjoyed them! Traditions can fall by the wayside but they can be revived or new ones created and be as important to us at different points in our lives.

  • Jennifer said...

    Hi Noodles! Take a peek at my marinara from the other day-we love to use it on the premade whole wheat pizza shells.
    http://savorthethyme.blogspot.com/2009/02/vegetable-flax-seed-marinara-sauce.html

  • phanitha said...

    BESAN- is a south asian word for gluten-free flour made from chickpeas also known as gram flour.

    It is used widely to make a lot of Indian sweets. I am not too sure if you can use it to bake cookies en biscuits.

    MAIDA- is just Indian word for all-purpose flour, it is made from wheat but is bleached.

    I hope I helped.

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Beancounter - We celebrated our 15th in December. 8-) Eating together as a family is so important because we end up being so busy, we don't have too many quiet opportunities to just talk. Of course, if it's pizza, not much talking goes on - just a lot of chewing!

    Jennifer - How did I miss this in the first place? I love the use of spinach and flax seeds. An all-around healthy sauce that will hopefully negate the tons of mozzarella that will go with it on a pizza soon!

    Phanitha - Thanks for the info! Ever since I started using alternative flours, I've been curious to find out what else is out there and how they're used. I'll keep checking your site for more great recipes!

  • Sapuche said...

    Ah, this was such a pleasure to read. I really enjoyed hearing about the food history of your marriage and how your kitchen has become a place where you can safely and happily come together. Feeding a loved one’s hunger is a wonderful responsibility to have, and nurturing that hunger – as you do with your ritual of Pizza Night Thursdays – allows for more growth together than if you were never to bother doing it. Rituals give us something to look forward to, something to count on, week after week and year after year. It’s wonderful how PNT imbues your lives with special meaning. Thanks for sharing this. And enjoy your pizza tonight!

  • Scate said...

    If you like blue cheese - try it with carmelized onions and toasted walnuts - and skip the mozz. It's fantastic as a 'white pizza' and really blends well. My husband and I hate to admit our frozen pizza dinners - but they are fantastic: easy, tasty and always shared.

  • Manang said...

    Love this post! That's a wonderful idea to have a ritual. I just wish my hubby is actively sharing the kitchen with me. Maybe I can let him run the kitchen once a week as our ritual!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Sapuche - Thank you very much! It is indeed a special time for us, even if it's something as simple as a pizza. I'm planning the ham and blue for tonight - maybe I'll be daring and add roasted red pepper!

    Scate - That sounds wonderful! I've been meaning to try a 'white' pizza and the toasted nuts are something we haven't had on a pie before. No shame in frozen pizza!

    Manang - Thank you! Perhaps he can do what my husband does now: be in charge of the drinks! I haven't forgotten the Lemonade Award you pass one to me a few weeks ago - it's going in my next post! Many thanks again!

  • Joie de vivre said...

    I love the idea of Tombstone Pizza Thursday. Thanks, as always, for your comments on my blog. Don't worry Tangled, I won't out you! :) I just noticed today that your dog has a bone on his/her nose. I always just thought it was a white spot. That is so cute! (and that is high praise coming from a non-dog lover)

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Joie - It's such a treat to look forward to every week although tonight I made the semi-homemade version w/prosciutto and blue cheese and Mr. Noodle picked out an awesome Zinfandel to pair with it.

    I love what you're doing with your blog and I already have a few ideas about some chapters for our collaboration. As for Cruise, he's such a sweetie. That cookie treat is one of his favorites but he posed as requested instead of trying to scarf it down!

  • Lori said...

    This post is so beautiful! Who knew a frozen pizza could have so much meaning. Tombstone should be looking at your story as a commercial idea. :)

    My husband gladly handed me the kitchen when we got married. I enjoy his help now and again, but truthfully I like the kitchen to myself. Cooking is my stress relief and my quiet time. He knows to let me have it to myself. However, the eating together part couldn't be better. Whether we are talking or watching our favorite show, it is time that means a lot to me.

    I'm trying to think back and our meal when we were dating in college was Hamburger Helper without fail. I wouldn't touch the stuff now, but it got us through a lot of interesting times together. Ha, ha!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Lori - Thank you! I'm glad we got attached to the pizza rather than the ramen noodles, which are dietary blackholes. Still, they kept us fed when money was tight and every once in a while, when I pass those little colorfully-packaged bricks, I'm almost tempted . .

    Now, if Tombstone calls with an offer, I'll be sure to send you a cut as a 'finder's fee'!

  • - bcgw. said...

    Yes Mam! My husband and I have established Friday Night Pizza nights! They are so helpful.. by the end of the week, when we are dragging, will dial up take out and settle into the couch, no clean up.. what better way to end a hectic week right? =)

  • Spryte said...

    I have some awards for you!!

    You can pick them up here...

    I gave you an award!! You can pick it up here

    http://sprytesplace.blogspot.com/2009/02/strip-awards.html

  • Chitra said...

    Hello noodles,FIrst time in ur blog...Very much impressed :)Will be a regular visitor from now on..Pizza looks simply awesome..Its definitely a full meal..DO check out my blog for yummy south indian recipes..Hope u'll like it:)

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    BCGW - You said it! Although Thursday is not the end of the week yet, I'm usually ready to hang up the apron by then. Still, it gives us the option of putting together something ourselves with a minimum of fuss and muss. There are the occasional PNTs when I don't even fire up the oven - Mr. Noodle drives by our favorite take-out instead.

    Spryte - Thank you so much for then double-triple set!! I'll post as soon as possible.

    Chitra - Thanks for reading! I've already spotted some chutney recipes on your blog that I want to give a try.

  • Cris said...

    Stories and recipe make a great combination! I think we got married on the same year... Congratulations Mr. Tangled and Mrs. Noodle :-), you must be the cutest couple in town.

  • onlinepastrychef said...

    I love this! My husband and I share pizza Fridays, and while it's delivery from a local place, not Tombstone, the idea is the same. I found you through The Daily Spud, and I'm so glad that I did. I'll be back, most certainly:)

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Chitra - I look forward to trying them out!

    Cris - Ola amiga! We were married in 1993 - I sometimes quiz my husband to make sure he remembers this incredibly important year!

    Jenni - Thank you for visiting and for your kind comments. I just stopped in at your site and I will most definitely be back. I'm so glad we connected through Spud - she's a great blogger and I hope she wins an Irish Blog Award.

  • zerrin said...

    Great post! I really enjoyed reading. And I love your description of your husband's enjoyinh his pizza.And I also believe that spending time together in the kitchen adds our relationship, he's my best assistant!

 

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