24 August 2009

On Faux Calzones and the Start of a New Semester

They're back. It seems like it was just yesterday that the howling from the campus hill died down to reveal the more peaceful whisper of wind blowing in the trees and the faint sound of deer munching on foliage behind my house. I still remember sitting on my front porch in my little valley in Pullman with a cup of coffee (still in my pajamas because I don't have neighbors and hell, I love PJs), waving to the long line of U-Hauls headed out of town toward Colfax, Seattle, Bellevue and beyond. From that day for a few months, I parked anywhere I wanted, enjoyed shopping at grocery stores without being hit by errant carts driven by young adults too busy to look up from texting their friends in the next aisle to notice the human being bent over the produce, I even enjoyed long walks down my road with no sidewalks without jumping into the bushes to avoid SUVs barreling down the roadway well over the speed limit.

Ahhhh. Those were the days.

They started arriving in small groups, really only venturing out during the daytime to purchase ice cream cones from Licks during the heat wave or scour the campus looking for their assigned fall classrooms, but one day last week, as my dogs did their final business of the evening, I heard them. At first a howl that sounded like the coyote that plagued the valley for most of the summer, and then suddenly increasing into a cacophony of voices screaming "Go Cougs."

The students are back.

I've been a bit of an online and real-life ghost since they appeared, struggling to meet some important deadlines for writing the dissertation, tweaking the syllabus I created over the course of the summer and getting ready for the academic job market this fall, but part of me needed a little comfort food once I realized they were here to stay in my final year at WSU. There's no escaping them--the police blotters alone can attest to the sharp spike in DUIs and alcohol offense arrests.

With all the sadness of a little kid headed back to elementary school, I picked up a loaf of Salted French bread from the Moscow Co-Op like it was my lunch box and decided to use it for a most unorthodox meal: the faux calzone. The meal was less well thought out and put together than it was third grader-with-rubber-cement-and-confetti caliber, but it hit the spot of my soul that cried out for salty, cheesy comfort in the face of losing a prime parking spot at the local Safeway.

After scooping out the insides of the bread and freezing the breadcrumbs, I layered a quick pizza sauce made from tomato paste, water, fresh basil and oregano, garlic and olive oil inside the bread, along with freshly cooked and crumbled Italian sausage removed from its casing, and a mountain of provolone and fresh mozzarella. After a half hour in the oven, I drowned my back to school sorrows in the sweet and savory warmth of pizza bread.

Stuffed and feeling better about the state of my lost summer, I took solace in the finished syllabus before me: it's the best I've ever engineered. I have missed teaching, despite what this post may have indicated, and I can't wait to get back into a classroom to talk about books.

I mean really, who wouldn't give up a front row parking space to discuss books for a living?

Naked bread

No longer naked, just saucy

Some crave chocolate. Not I. Bring on the cheese!

Eat a slab. Just don't tell your cardiologist.

Once you're fully stuffed, grab a kitteh and cuddle off the calories.


Jessica@FoodMayhem said...

I love it and we all know that hits the spot because everyone has had themselves a faux calzone before whether they want to admit it or not.

The Cooking Photographer said...

Kitty hugs make everything better. Sighhh the students really are back. I can see how this comfort food might take away some of the sting for awhile!

Pam said...

I wish cuddling burned off calories. Your calzone looks tasty.

Betty Black said...

I felt the same way when the studends got back. A feeling of compression, not exactly dislike but deffinatly dislocation from the comfort I had grown acustomed to.
I just found your blog and really enjoyed this post. Hope your first classes are fabulous.