Friday, July 8, 2011

When in FaRome...

So, they built a pizza oven.

The project was the brainchild of Captain Adventure, who was determined to recreate the real-deal Sicilian pizza oven built lovingly by the Italian Special Forces guys on their chink of the compound. Adventure was the visionary behind the oven, but architect of the project was Chief Hammersmith, the PRT's Seabee and all-purpose handyman, who provided the vast majority of design input.

My primary role was moral support, which I provided by heckling the team as construction was underway. I consistently described the project as "Wiley Coyote-esque," a description I'll stand by: the oven in the initial phases was a heap of jersey cement and lopsided Afghan bricks, balanced on a sheet of plywood that was likewise balanced on four wobbly two-by-twos. The lip of the plywood bowed under the weight of the oven and had to be reinforced by an equally bowed stick, and the whole thing looked likely to collapse at any moment.

I'm not sure this photo captures the chaos.

Other stakeholders in the project included mostly Engineer Lovesalot (who seemed to be in charge of wedging in sturdy chunks of wood to brace less sturdy chunks of wood), Warrant Exasperated (constantly stirring concrete), Lieutenant Dracula (shovel operations), Captain Tomcat from over in Operations (Hammersmith's Assistant), Lieutenant ______ from Intel (role unclear), and Senior Chief Intimidating, the Senior Enlisted Leader whom I resisted nicknaming in part because I could find nothing fitting and in part because I feared he'd take offense and use me to practice his sniper skills.

("You can run," he said at one point, "but you'll only die tired.")

Hammersmith up top; Lt. Drac stirring concrete.
Note the haphazard plywood and random wires: Wiley Coyote-esque.

I did little for the actual construction of the oven -- I am the opposite of handy and generally cannot be trusted with tools -- though there is a single picture of me hoisting a bag of concrete. "I love that picture," Captain Adventure said. "It's the only time you've ever been photographed actually doing some work."

I left for my last R&R with the oven still in pieces and Killjoy questioning if the Pizza Collective had conspired not so much to build something as to just leave a huge mess for the incoming team. ("That is honestly the ugliest construction project I have ever seen," he said).

But I returned to a completely finished oven, complete with smooth walls (made, it seems, by bracing oiled boards against still-wet concrete) and brick and concrete pillars to brace the bottom. I declared it the single greatest construction project I had ever seen. "Honestly guys," I gushed somewhat embarrassingly, "it's kind of beautiful."

Chief Hammersmith; completed pizza oven.

They had worked out an assembly line process, assigning one person to roll the dough, another to top it, a third to toss it in the oven, manage the baking process and remove it when done, and a fourth to remove the pizza from the metal trays they bake on. (Senior Chief Intimidating, who primarily spearheaded the process of boiling canned tomatoes down to paste to use for sauce, also declared himself "quality control," slicing the pizzas and helping himself to a piece to ensure it was suitable for serving).

The oven is wood-fired and the PRT has a preference for cracker-thin crusts, rolled out with an old-school rolling pin on a glass cutting board that was obtained from god knows where. The ingredients were gifted by the Italians, who have an overabundance of cheese and cured meats and were willing to set up a little trade in exchange for the cheap, military-issue energy drinks (brand name: "Rip it!") that, under certain circumstances, can be smuggled out of the back of the chow hall by the case.


SCS said...

All those words, and not a single picture of a finished pizza?

Dakota said...

Yeah, I combed through all my pictures and found not a single photo of a complete pizza. It'll have to wait till the next pizza night (which will likely be my Farewell Pizza).

JordanBaker said...

This is AMAZING. I may have to outsource some of the Paltrow pizza recipes to you (since they're obviously never going to shape up in my unreliable oven-of-undetermined-age in DC).

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