Here, in this fond record, I triangulate food, writing, and remembering. But for most of my life, I’ve been a terrible keeper of memories. I’m the mom who forgets her camera. My photo album is years out of date. I can’t even recall my own office number. (But really, when do I need to call myself?) To tell the truth, I’ve misplaced whole years of my life. It’s a survival technique—a selective memory is cheaper than Prozac. And like everyone, I keep running lists—outsourcing my memory to the computer or notepad. Surprisingly, the extended or prosthetic memory is not a modern phenomenon. What else were those cave drawings for? When Hamlet’s dad says, “Remember me,” his son equates the process with making inscriptions in an erasable Renaissance writing tablet.
I identify with my son’s Aspergian memory. In third grade the students began practicing for the NC fourth grade writing test. DS had to write personal narratives under pressure. A typical prompt for the practice tests: “Write about at time you were sad.” (The underlying assumptions were that we should write about what we know and that kids know their feelings). DS has an endless capacity to catalog facts and concepts (go ahead, ask him what kind of guitar Randy Rhoads played), but conjuring up an experience by its emotional label is a challenge. And why should feelings function as our memory’s primary organizing principle? To prepare for the test (and for life), we kept a memory journal, writing down events, and then listing the possible emotions we could attach to them. When he won tickets to a Durham Bulls Game and competed in a three-legged race on the field, we penned the story and then listed the emotions: happy, excited, proud, and confident. Writing the experience down, and giving it a narrative arc, turned it into a memory.
It’s nothing new to say that food helps to create and prompt memories. Our senses generate memories that our thinking minds forget. And while the impressions in our brains fade and warp, the written memory achieves a form and structure. Here is my memory journal, contoured to fit recipes but jagged as cognition itself.
So why am I writing about memories? Because I put rosemary on our pizza. In Hamlet’s day, rosemary commemorated the dead, comforted the heart, and helped the memory. As mad Ophelia says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance."
But as I always say, forgetting can also keep you sane.
This recipe, of course, invokes Italy, but mostly it calls up a mental picture of DS and DD hand-in-hand, walking up the hill of our front yard to pick sprigs of rosemary from the rosemary bush. It’s my memory, but by recording it here, I hope it will be their memory, too.
Pizza with potatoes, mozzarella, rosemary, thyme, and tomatoes (adapted from Jamie’s Italy)
Use a pizza stone. Set oven to highest setting (550 degrees on mine).
Pizza Dough: Combine 3 cups of flour and a teaspoon of salt. Put in food processor on dough setting. Combine 1 and 1/3 cups of warm water with a package of yeast. Add to flour mixture. Mix until the dough looks elastic (about 3 minutes). Place dough in a well-oiled bowl and cover. Let dough rise for at least an hour.
Tomato Sauce: Sauté gently a finely sliced clove of garlic in olive oil. Add a small bunch of fresh basil, 1 14 oz. can of good quality plum tomatoes, sea salt, pepper, and a little sugar. Cook gently for 20 minutes, mashing the tomatoes until smooth.
6 Tablespoons of tomato sauce
4 cooked new potatoes
A small handful of fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon of thyme leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 oz. of mozzarella
When the pizza dough is ready, divide it into two balls (freeze one). Put some corn meal on your pizza peel, then pat out the dough into a circle and place it on the peel. Brush some olive oil on the edges. Smear the tomato sauce evenly over the pizza base. Slice the potatoes into ¼ inch thick slices and toss in a bowl with rosemary, thyme, olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and some salt and pepper. Scatter over the pizza base and put small torn-up pieces of mozzarella in the gaps. Cook for 7-10 minutes.