Monday, June 13, 2011

Sunday Pizza: Geddes at the helm of a quiet afternoon

Sunday rolls around again, and as Annie's out for her niece's birthday, Geddes takes the helm at the wood-fired pizza. As he rolls out rounds of dough and chops herbs pulled straight from the garden, he's working at an almost meditative pace. It's not surprising that our early afternoon diners are drawn to watching him work. I'm nursing a slight headache from the wedding crashing the night before, so it's nice to be moving at a slower pace, and I'm as hypnotized as the kid.
Geddes lays out a fresh option for our vegetarian pizza--asparagus, sweet onions, sweet herbs, and mozzarella--and adds a few options to the menu: red and white wine, a batch of strawberry lemonade, and a beautiful batch of chocolate chip cookies, baked up from the last of the lard-baking experiment. (A little extra vanilla and brown sugar and the lard taste mellows out quite a bit.)
But it's a slow day, and even in the early afternoon, we're itching for more to do. Chris stops by for a few take-away pizzas, and after the celebration last night at the wedding, I'm surprised he's not suffering from a bigger headache. But he seems boisterous enough to chat, and to sample cookies, and to take in the sunshine.
Chris is around to hear Geddes tell his story of Franny's outrage for the umpteenth time since I've arrived: apparently when Geddes visited New York last year for the Gastronauts dinner, he went out for pizza at Franny's, a gourmet pizza place in Brooklyn that's been one of the hottest places in the borough for the last year. He and his family were seated at the bar, and when they were handed their gourmet pizzas (made with a dense, crispy crust), beautifully cooked but unsliced, he asked for a knife. The waiter informed him that they deliberately leave their pizzas uncut ("we don't want to hide any imperfections"), and that that's the way they serve it in Naples. "I just couldn't believe it," Geddes splutters as he rolls out another crust. He knows the rules behind any pizza that deigns to call itself "Naples-style," and nowhere on that list is slicing forbidden.

He gets almost as incensed when talking with Jay about Wal-Mart...a location in Seattle recently moved to an adjacent lot on the opposite side of a highway. The first location had displaced a field for growing squash and tomatoes, and now it's just an eyesore. It's a blessing that no location could ever open on Orcas--there's not an audience to sustain it--but every day it seems more and more likely that big business will threaten the local community. A new parking rule is about to go into effect for all Washington state parks that would require $10-per-day parking permits (or $30 for the year). It may not seem like a major expense, but for locals that go hiking on a regular basis, it means an additional expense for something they've been enjoying for free for years. And they can't buy permits without going to major sporting goods stores to do it--formalizing a process that's been homegrown for years.

It's a day for debates about where Washington might be headed, but it's also a good day to just watch the locals...I'm starting to soak up the little ways the Orcas regulars interact with each other. A couple starts chatting with two old buddies, and they chat for over a half hour before introducing themselves. Dave, John, Nancy, Rick--names get swapped long after pizza slices are shared. A ridiculously photogenic family spreads themselves out on a nearby blanket. Their baby coos and crawls about, and though a bee sting momentarily disrupts their peace, it's a mostly peaceful day. They eventually trudge away, bellies full of pizzas and slightly drowsy from the hot sun.
 And the locals do more than just linger--they look you straight in the eye when they order. They tip generously. They come from neighboring businesses, and make plans to gather with each other in spontaneous, hilarious ways. A few bring fold-out chairs and and tables, and you can see that they've been planning this all week.
A table of middle-aged women order up at least 6 pizzas, and they start chirping and laughing as we send more food and wine their way. I only hope I have this much energy when I'm older, to gather with my girlfriends on a Sunday afternoon.
Jay's friends, a large bunch of rowdy 20-somethings, start the 5:30 rush--ordering almost 10 pizzas back to back, with lots of beer to boot. (I make a few runs to fill up the cooler.) Given that this is the first rush of the day, we don't mind too much.
I can't place how old they are, but they look impossibly cool...I have a hard time imagining what it must be like growing up on Orcas, but I've yet to meet a single person who speaks ill of it. I've yet to hear the words "boring" or "suffocating," and I haven't met anyone expressing an urge to run off the Island. Jay tells us that these are his friends working at the nearby summer camp, and I can see the appeal of grabbing pizzas and beer after a long afternoon of work. They're smart, cool, and happy--I feel like bringing them another batch of beers.

But then the day starts to quiet down again--we make a pizza for Clare and Avery to share (half just cheese, half margherita), but that's one of the last pizzas we make all day.
The day gets too slow for us to stay open--and we start to pack things up. Melissa slides a cobbler into the oven for us to share. It's one of the few cobblers we've portioned out all day, and so we savor every bite. It feels like we've been eating more food than the customers have, but the spoils may be on us for the day. We clean off the tables, brush out the oven, and dig into our hot cobbler. I can't believe it's been a week since my arrival--the Inn is starting to seep into my bones, and I'm hungry to explore those locations just beyond the orchard.

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