The Alchemy of Pizza

If this ends up reading like an
excerpt from Eat Pray Love, it can’t be helped…
When my long marriage to Alex ended in an unexpected, messy, dramatic, and public way, I was devastated. Consequently, although I loved my work as a steward and event host at a dynamic Portland wine store, I simply could not remain in the same environment where everything had broken down, since all players, participants, friends, and even family also had employment there.
Down the street from my house in Montavilla was a fairly wonderful pizza lounge. The place had a great neighborhood vibe, a charismatic crew, and spot-on food and drink. When news came to me through a friend that they might be needing another experienced person out front, I decided to take the plunge, and to at least temporarily make a drastic break from the environment I’d been in, and from the deeply personal, excruciating emotional charge that went with it. My choice may not have looked good on paper in contrast to previous pursuits or endeavors, but I needed the shift, and loved the freedom the place represented at the time.
Trusting internal guidance, I took the leap.
I got to know some amazing people, several of whom are still good friends, and enjoyed some delicious pizza ( in my opinion, one of the world’s great comforts…especially when balanced with other magic like lots of clean water and exercise, art, love, travel, and good wine).
Returning to the story…and speaking of great pizza, this is where I met Kyle Munroe. He was Chef there at the time…a ( relatively) benevolent yet formidable presence, with an authoritative voice that could cut through the din like nobody’s business. It was clear to me from the outset that he was awake at the wheel, capable, gifted, perhaps a bit more tender than appearances let on, and definitely not at his first rodeo. Over the course of time and a lot of hard work, we became friends. I gladly acclimated to his dry, sometimes harsh wit, learned of his abiding love for dogs( always a good sign) his gypsy lineage, his astuteness in regard to global politics and history, his propensity for travel, and his serious pizza cred.
There are times in life when we enter willingly or not, into what feels like The Void Space…a free-fall. The blindfold is tied, and we are left to wield the lightsaber in the dark, seeking and eventually finding our True North that can only be accessed within, and learn how to trust that we will hit our mark, and prevail over our most profound fears.
Kyle was a welcome character in that deepest chapter of my journey, and our friendship continues.
I know not why the plot turns were so freaking wacky and difficult…so downright agonizing,
two and a half years ago, but I do know that all of them led me to this exact place and situation, in a community on the cusp of a paradigm shift, in a stunning part of Oregon, a morning’s drive from Eugene, a half day from Portland, and a day from San Francisco.
I do know that after nearly a lifetime of internal push-and-pull about whether or not to live here given the choice, I have surprised myself by embracing the notion of staying, and by noticing a deepening sense of appreciation and inspiration in doing so.
I know that I am preparing to open a multi-faceted, community-driven business with my best friend…a gifted, gorgeous, crazy-competent, funny-as-hell woman with the best laugh and The Most Tenacity Ever, who I met as a girl in 5th grade. We understood each other from Day One, and then proceeded to laugh, cry, struggle, survive, succeed and paradigm-bust our way through high school in pre-internet Coos County…where being a creative, joyful, boisterous female with critical thinking mechanisms fully intact and big splashy aspirations was not the most comfortable role to take.
Upon graduating, she went East to Providence and New York, I went North to Seattle, then back to my original home, L.A. She excelled in fashion and retail, and made fabulous friends & acquaintances, in which she mentored and was mentored( of course she did!).
I rocked out, the singer I was born to be, in the center of a scene that became an era, where I made fabulous friends and acquaintances, in which I mentored and was mentored( of course I did!).
We each had one child, now grown…each of them loved beyond measure.
For various reasons we each returned. With much family and deep generational founding roots here, D2’s been back for nearly 20 years. After 6 months at East Glisan Pizza Lounge, wrapping up my affairs in Portland, in late 2016, I came back to town, and to the 5th generation family homestead passed down from my father’s side.

An alchemy had begun to take place. The lead of the shock and pain, the sense of deep betrayal, had begun to warm and soften. Just a little, but enough. And then it became soft enough for movement, and so I moved…home.
Soon after, I went to Paris, to Beaune, to Roen, and finally to Naples, where my friend’s accommodating, funny, and gracious uncle Francesco had driven down from Emilia-Romana, picked us up at the airport, and toured us around the city for 3 days like a brilliant, cursing, handsome, proud madman with broken English and a spectacular smile. We had pizza. Famous pizza on the waterfront, moderately famous pizza, almost famous pizza, not-famous-at-all pizza, pizza standing in an alley, pizza tucked away in a little corner, pizza with scissors. None of it was not thoroughly delicious.
The lead shifted. It started to resemble mercury: little sparkling droplets that would separate and conjoin at the speed of thought, of sunshine, of travel, of new friends and loves, of New Year’s Eve in the Latin Quarter in Paris.
It has occurred to me more than once that pizza, and certainly pizza in the authentic Neapolitan tradition, is alchemy. It is alchemy in a literal sense, and as a worthy allegory for this life. It takes 90-120 seconds at very high heat for the perfect transformation to take place. Upon entering the fire, at nearly 1000 degrees, basic raw ingredients are changed to aromatic gold in the blink of a wood fired oven’s eye. Yet only the time, attention, labor, process, and care that spans generations of knowledge and tradition can enable the sought-after magic. It is in the years and the hours before, that the seemingly instant divine transfiguration is facilitated.

Are we not The Pie/ Pi ? Is Life not The Fire? If we keep putting the best quality ingredients together that we can muster…if we trust the process, and build the flame with intent, alchemy can happen in a hot minute.
We are most grateful and pleased that Kyle will join us and guide us at Front Street Provisioners in our opening endeavors…beginning with Sunday dinner service December 16, 2018.

~ Kaisa Bourgidu

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