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Food Studies: Grow-Your-Own Pizza in New Haven

Despite the culinary delights of Switzerland, Josh hurries back from break to make the first pizza of spring. Bonus photo of a cute asparagus tip!

Food Studies features the voices of volunteer student bloggers from a variety of different food- and agriculture-related programs at universities around the world. Don't miss Josh's first post, in which he described making lunch for Carlo Petrini, writing a paper on the oldest cookbook in the world, and blogging about his homemade vanilla extract.

I recently got back from exploring Switzerland and Italy with my a cappella group for our two-week spring break. It was a tour replete with food adventures of all kinds, though I have to admit I was still looking forward to coming back to New Haven, if only for one thing: the first pizza of spring.

Among the many things I get to do for my work with the Yale Sustainable Food Project, one of the most gratifying is making pizza from scratch for our volunteers and special events. Every Friday of the school year (except for the winter period between Thanksgiving at the end of November and spring break in March), it's my job, along with a few other student interns, to fire up our wood-burning oven, make dough, harvest and prepare vegetables from the farm, and bake pizzas after our end-of-the-week volunteer workdays.

For me, it represents why I love sustainable food and its tremendous importance. Transforming the fruits of our labor into something delicious to eat together, and then sharing this pleasure that strengthens both the earth itself and our connection with it, is what this movement is all about. Sustainability is not about austerity; rather, more often than not, it leads us towards greater pleasure, health, and conviviality.

With these ideas in mind, you can see why I was itching to get back to the farm and get my hands floured for the first time since November. Even though it was a long, cold winter in the Northeast, we had a bounty of produce to harvest for pizza: overwintered carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, and leeks (certain vegetables left in the ground over the winter gain an incredible intensity and sweetness of flavor), garlic, butternut squash harvested in the fall, tomato sauce made from last summer's tomatoes, mixed microgreens, the first sprigs of rosemary and sage, as well as ricotta and mozzarella from our favorite local cheesemaker, Liuzzi. The pizzas all featured a beautiful palette of oranges, greens, and whites, and they heralded the coming spring while celebrating the last that winter had to offer.

Meanwhile, the first asparagus has poked its head above ground, and I cannot wait for their spears to grow and stretch skyward towards the harvest table and pizza oven. In a few weeks, we'll be topping our pizzas with these beautiful spring vegetables, as well as pea tendrils, green onions, and any other bounty the season yields.

The toppings on our pizza are always changing as new produce ripens, and it is always an exciting and creative challenge to combine them in new ways to satisfy our volunteers. Often they help us stretch dough, arrange the toppings, and load pizzas into the oven. Sometimes we get pretty interesting combinations; they are almost always exceedingly delicious. It is an afternoon filled with play after a day of hard work. And as far as I’m concerned, if kids are eating vegetables and enjoying them, then our project is already a success.

To be continued...

Josh is a student blogger for the Food Studies feature on GOOD's Food hub. If you enjoyed this, you can read more of his writing at his blog, Hearthstrung, and you should check out the rest of the Food Studies blogger gang, and their musings on land-grant universities, meat substitutes, iodine, and more.

Photos courtesy of the author.

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