“Each of us starts out as a watertight vessel. And these things happen – these people leave us, or don’t love us, or don’t get us, or we don’t get them, and we lose and fail and hurt one another. And the vessel starts to crack open in places….But there is all this time between when the cracks start to open up and when we finally fall apart. And it’s only in that time that we can see one another, because we see out of ourselves through our cracks and into others through theirs. When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my ideas and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other.” ~John Green, Paper Towns
Despite having a great memory, for whatever reason I have a hard time connecting to memories of my past. As a constant dreamer, I live mainly in the future, harboring a strong embarrassment for the naivete of my former self. But today I had a fleeting memory of what it felt like to be the childhood me, fresh-faced and certain that I had life figured out. It was clean and formulaic. If I followed the rules, I could bypass disappointment and tragedy. I could be a watertight vessel.
As I soon found out, life is messy, and mine was not unlike any other. Heartbreak struck in various places: in love (too many times to count), in vocation and avocation, in health, in family. My vessel became cracked, and while I still clung to the fleeting idea of watertight perfection, I began to see the light that is between the cracks, the humanness of people who’ve been cracked and aren’t too scared to admit it and know your cracks too.
I’m far from the first person to bring up the idea of online perfection, that those stylized photographs of quinoa bowls and waffle stacks and bright-white clean kitchens are an idealized version of reality. Yes, these images can present a myth of perfection. But behind each of them are real people, people with cracks and blemishes and insecurities. People who are simply seeking to capture beauty among the imperfectness of this life. I know from experience, behind each gorgeous image are at least 127 terrible ones of the same shot. And I’m certain the lives of the people behind the images are littered with cracks, just like mine.
The recipe and photos in this post are no different. There were several naan pizza test run failures, with wimpy crust and too raw garlic and overly chunky tomatoes. When the flavors were finally finalized and it was time to shoot, the day was cloudy and the lighting difficult, and Alex and I argued about the best way to capture the “mood” of Thai pizza. I reheated the pizza frequently to keep the cheese looking oven fresh, and when we finally got to eat it was lukewarm.
We’ve been at this long enough, though, to see the beauty in the process and the imperfection. The satisfaction in the knowledge that though our kitchen looks like a train wreck, the flavors of Thai curry and fire-roasted tomatoes and cilantro and cashews actually work together. And despite the gray light, my hand picking up that pizza at the exact moment I was going to eat it (instead of pretending to) actually was our best shot. So I say, bring on the cracks and the reality and the imperfections! And in doing so, let us embrace the messiness that is cooking and life and love.
Recipe notes: Asian-style pizza isn’t common, but the combination of Thai curry paste with tomatoes, cilantro and cashews worked wonderfully for us here. We ended up pre-baking the naan to keep for a crispy crust. One pizza per person works well if served with a large salad; if cooking for big appetites you may want to plan for 1 ½ to 2 per serving.
- 4 pieces naan bread
- 15 ounces Muir Glen crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 ½ tablespoons red curry paste
- 2 teaspoons sriracha
- 1 red pepper
- 2 green onions
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup cashews
- Handful fresh cilantro
- Kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 450F. Place naan on the oven grate and pre-bake 3 to 4 minutes per side until crisp.
- Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine Muir Glen crushed fire-roasted tomatoes with 1½ tablespoons red curry paste, 2 teaspoons sriracha, and a few pinches of kosher salt. Thinly slice the red pepper and green onions.
- When the naan is ready, spread each with tomatoes, then top with mozzarella cheese, pepper, onion, cashews, and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Bake for 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and garnish with a few cilantro leaves. Slice and enjoy.
This recipe was developed for Muir Glen Tomatoes.