Retrograde planets, self analysis, fresh produce, proper fare - a pizza that will make everything better

I know there's a lot of folks who don't really care for astrology and whatnot, they don't believe there's any sort of influence from the skies in our lives. I beg to differ everytime, because if the moon influences the tides, then how can it not influence us? And when we say the moon, we have to say every other star, constelation and planet up above. I know I do believe these things influence us a bit, to a certain point alright. I also know when to recognize the signs that give away a not so good astrological confluence above for me. There are a few, the worst being Venus retrograde, because, well, I'm a Libra, and Venus is kind of my planet. If Venus goes retrograde, instead of finding a million things to love, instead of finding beauty everywhere, in the smallest of things, I begin hating everything and finding everything ugly.

But, contrary to most people who tend to suffer a lot, I usually thrive when Mercury is retrograde. My creativity and my imagination are always at their highest during Mercury retrogrades, which is really weird. Maybe because I'm a writer, and that requires quietude, solitude, introspection, which in the end is what Mercury retrograde should bring up. My writing is always peaking during these times. I do go back into my shell a lot, I do get very introspective, but normally it is all about the story I am trying to tell, the book I am trying to write. I think about it all the time, I analyze every single aspect of it, I am always writing in my head, building up the characters, the narrative, the dialogues. It's like I'm not even outside in the real world, and I tend to get a lot dreamier and lost in my head during this time. Like I said, my writing soars in Mercury retrogrades.

Yesterday, Mercury stopped its retrograde, and frankly, I couldn't have been happier. Because, and contrary to the norm, this time I was not thriving in any aspect of my life. There was no creativity so to speak, no imagination, no creative bursts. I really did not want to create anything, I was depleted and devoid of the thriving "will to make" that usually has me on the go, be it in writing, blogging, cooking or shooting photos of whatever. The moment I realised I was under a dry spell where it came to my need to create art, I decided to ride along with it and not force it. I took the opportunity to revise my already published novel, "Unnatural", and get a second edition of it out. I also started working on my final draft for the second book in that series, and am currently revising and editing it for the last time before it's due for publishing. I knew I wasn't going to get any writing done, nor much blogging, or good cooking, so I rode the wave instead of fighting it. It's something I have learned to do with age, I guess. Ride that wave, baby, ride that wave.

But the thing is that Venus was also retrograde during part of this process. Now, that does get me going! Going into the very personal and very introspective mode, I mean. I tend to start analysing every bit and piece of my self and my life, and I tend to find ugliness everywhere, and no self worth whatsoever. It's not about lack of self esteem, quite honestly, it's not about lack of self confidence either. It's about going deep into yourself and analysing everything. Not just your own person, with the good and the bad and the ugly, but also those who surround you, those you open yourself too, the bridges you build and the rapport you give and get. I tend to pull apart every single type of relationship I have going, during Venus retrograde, and I usually do a huge clean up, in my self and those who I let in. I close doors and shut windows, but because I have really thought about what those open doors and ajar windows are actually doing to me, to my well being. I went through a huge process, this time. 

Have I become better, a better person for it? Probably not. Did I close the right doors, I wonder, have I opened windows which weren't there, am I making the same old, same old mistakes over and over again? I'm not sure. But I did do a Spring cleaning in my life, my head, my outlook of the world. What I expect, and what is possible to get. The way I open myself up and give, against the way others take and never give back. I don't think I will ever reach a point in my life where I am not making this same old mistake that so defines me: I tend to let in people who will only take, and take all the good I can give, but who never give back and only deplete me. I have looked at that ghost in the eyes, and I don't know how to change this. The tendency is always to shut myself off again, and run away from everyone, never letting anyone in, just in case I might end up making the very same mistake.

The same with my expectations of others. I know I need to dwindle them down to nothings, but because I'm a perfectionist and so demanding on myself, I tend to expect of others what I work so hard into giving them. I must not. I need to rein in my thought processess whenever I see myself entering that particularly dangerous zone of expectations rising. Expect nothing, is what I must force myself to understand. No one will give anything, and quite frankly, if I don't get handed out the bad, I can count myself lucky! I've let in far too many people who made it a career out of handing me the very bad - bad vibes, bad wishes, bad mojo, you name it. I must learn to shield myself, from others, yeah, but mostly from my own person. This was supposed to be about pizza, and it turned out to be about self analysis! But I am of the firm belief that, just like pizza, self analysis, a mental and emotional clean up is somenthing that is quite necessary, from time to time. Going into introspective mode can do wonders for you, if you're willing to face the dark, lonely spaces of your mind. I always am. Because in the end there's pizza! Well, the emotional equivalent at least.

Pizza can be so very nourishing. And satisfying, as well. We all know by now that I don't do the gluten free thing, I need gluten - I have a condition! - and I need my carbs as well. We also know I don't do vegan, although I do cook alot of meat and fish free dishes, but only because I like the taste of them, it's not for the "cruelty free",  the "clean eating" or the "healthy" aspect of it. I'm a hedonist, so it's down to pleasure. I'm a venusian, so it's down to self indulgence as well. I'm a horrid human being, but we have ascertained that already, and I'm ok with it. What I do try is to have the best, the freshest of ingredients to cook with. It's not always possible, you know? I wish it were as easy for everyone to get their hands on fresh produce that has not been kept inside ginormous refrigerators for a year or so, to free range meat and eggs and dairy, to wild fish and wild game. It is not possible, not all the time. There, I've said it. I do go to the market more often than not and try to buy directly from the producer, but living in the suburbs of a big town, even the local markets are not all that squeaky clean. Better than the supermarket chain stores, where I have found free range chicken being sold and when I got home the chuck was spoiled and had to be binned, or where you see rotting fruit and rotting veg being sold at half price - and still expensive as hell! - because they have gone off. Yeah, the market beats that alright, anytime, so to the market I go.

But even there, I realize I am not always buying from the farmer per se, not in my local area. Some folks would now suggest I go to this and that market because it's organic and what not and it's in my area, but I can't afford their prices. Come on, what I am asked for a couple of organic carrots would buy me the milk to feed my son a whole month. I can't afford that. Organic or not, I simply don't have the money to buy and not go hungry. And like me, a lot of people feel the same. So, it's not always possible to only get my hands on the freshest, bestest of ingredients. We make do, like everyone makes do, and if you can afford to splash on those price ranges, kudos to you, and please, do that. I do what I can, and that means that once in a while I get to go to markets far off from my area, real and proper farmer's markets where you know you're buying your produce from the folks who tended to it, and you know they only just picked those apples, those carrots, those runner beans earlier that morning, and you know the eggs they're selling you, their chicken had just laid them a few hours ago and they're fresh as can be, and you buy two dozens of them because they're proper eggs and you don't get to eat proper eggs all that often.

That's what I did last weekend, we took off to a proper farmer's market and we brought home the best wild oregano and the best artisanal cheeses, and the freshest eggs we could get our hands on. And those eggs and that oregano were the basis for this pizza. Care to know how we made it?

  • 350 gr strong bread flour
  • 7 gr baker's yeast
  • 200 ml lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1,5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • a handful of wild oregano
  • about ten cherry tomatoes
  • enough prosciutto slices to cover the whole of the dough
  • 1 egg per person
  • two bufallo mozzarella cheese balls 
  • salt, pepper, olive oil to taste
Start by truning on your oven at 50º. On a stand up mixer bowl pour the water and the olive oil. Mix the salt and oregano into the flour, crumble the yeast between your fingers and add to the flour, mixing together. Pour into the stand up mixer bowl and using the hook implement, mix for five to ten minutes until the dough is smooth and silky. Transfer onto a floured bowl, mold into a ball and place in the oven to rise, until it has doubled the size. Spread a sheet of baking parchement over an ove tray and start spreading the dough - we kind of like the square pizzas around here, you know. Be carefull as not to break or make too thin of a crust. Once your dough covers the whole tray, using a brush, cover it with olive oil, scatter some more oregano over it, season well and start mounting up your pizza: first lay the prosciutto slices side by side, making sure they cover the dough but leave about a centimetre on the outer edge. Then scatter the tomatoes around as you prefer along with the mozzarella - just rip the cheese with your hands and place around the tray, over the prosciutto. Finally, crack the eggs and pour them anywhere you want, but try to keep them well enough apart from each other so the whites don't stick together. Place in the oven, rise the temp to 190º and use the fan if you have it. The pizza will be ready as soon as the outer edge dough looks gold and crusty and the cheese has melted and the eggs have cooked. It is to die for, I tell you. Pair it up with a red Lambrusco, chilled to perfection and there you have your Friday night pizza all happy and delicious!